I hear you -- it's tough to think about next year's marketing campaigns when you're wading hip-deep through the flurry of emails you're sending (and receiving!) for the holiday season. But the end of the year is also the beginning of a new one. It's a time to take stock of your email program and take a fresh look at the trends that have been building in email marketing. Here are five I've seen building in momentum, and how savvy marketers are going beyond baseline lip service to what everyone is talking about to making real improvements to their email marketing programs.
1. More social media
For those who dove into social media from the get-go, it's hard to believe there could be more to be done. After all the hoopla, who isn't using social media in conjunction with email to build stronger relationships with customers?
A lot of marketers in a wide range of organizations, that's who.
Many heard about Twitter or Facebook, and maybe even opened an account for their business, but they just didn't get it right away. So they delayed adding social to their marketing mix in the hopes it would just go away. But the pressure from others who do get it is rising, so we'll be seeing more of those little Twitter and Facebook icons littering the bottoms of email messages.
As for those email marketers who have more social media experience, they will need to start analyzing how social and email are feeding into one another, and how they can prompt social action in their email messages. Instead of merely including icons, they will have specific social media calls-to-action in their email messages explaining what exactly will happen when recipients click on those icons, and what the benefit will be when they do so. They'll also work harder to ensure that their social and email strategies are complementary, not the same old stuff from different sources.
Conversely, they'll be working to add apps or tabs to their social sites so they can capture the email addresses of their fans who may not want Facebook to mediate their relationships with their favorite brands.
2. More consideration of mobile
It used to be that email on a cellphone was about business. Give them enough info in the subject line so they don't delete it immediately, and you're good. Increasingly, though, the phone isn't just the place where people sort through email to be read later, but the place where they actually read and react to it.
Some email marketers would like to ignore mobile rendering altogether, thinking that the "read web version" link they put at the top of their emails takes care of that problem. Others are beginning to recognize the issue but do only limited testing. By "limited testing," I mean they look at the message on their own iPhone, see that it actually renders with itty bitty images, and decide it's even better on the iPhone, while ignoring the fact that the call-to-action is so tiny it's unreadable.
Smart marketers will not only test how their emails look on smartphones, but how usable they are. Can a mobile user actually see the "wow images" or smart copy? If they do decide to take action, what then? And is it better to send everyone the computer version, the mobile version, or to ask recipients if they want a mobile-optimized version? There are no canonical best practices for email in the mobile space just yet; I'll be looking for the results from marketers in multiple verticals.
3. More welcome and triggered campaigns
Most senders know recent subscribers are more active and engaged with their email marketing lists than those who have been around a while. Yet despite this knowledge, they still tend to treat them equally, sending the same content and offers to brand-new subscribers or recent purchasers as they do to recipients who haven't acted on an email in two years.
I'm already seeing more marketers take steps, sometimes small, toward understanding and serving that new cohort of addresses differently. As email triggering capabilities become easier to use and available in lower-cost platforms, more marketers will try at least one message that targets new subscribers or recent customers differently.
The more advanced email marketers will take what they know about those new customers and dazzle them with their very best, employing a series of messages that will vary based on how engaged each subscriber has been and encouraging them to even stronger interaction. These welcome programs will wring every cent of ROI from these newbies while everything still looks fresh and new, and minimize the pain of a spam complaint.