Updated: Feb 12, 2020
It's time to explore five key email marketing trends set to shape your strategy in 2020, from mobile optimization and simplified content, to AI and email's continued position as one of the most trusted communication channels available to marketers
As 2019 draws to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead to what 2020 may bring with our annual series of blogs dedicated to the biggest marketing trends for the year ahead.
Outside the world of marketing, things are increasingly unpredictable. Rewind back to 2010 and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody capable of predicting the decade that was about to unfold.
Luckily for us, however, marketing trends - and digital trends, in particular - are slightly more predictable. With the amount of data we have at our fingertips, it’s now easier to know which tools, tactics and technologies are working and which are becoming less effective.
For this blog, we’re joined by a selection of the world's leading email marketers who have identified their key email marketing trends to stay on top of in 2020 and beyond.
Email marketing has defied its critics in continuing to provide an array of benefits to marketers, from building trust to providing some of the greatest ROIs of any digital channel.
What's more, this year's DMA Email Benchmarking Report highlighted how email marketing has been reinvigorated following the introduction of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Faced with the booming popularity of social media and search, email still serves up a distinct set of benefits that other media streams struggle to match, but there are developments on the horizon that you need to be prepared for...
It's Time to Think Mobile
Across your digital marketing channels, you’ll be noticing changes that are designed not just to optimize for mobile, but to even prioritize mobile as we move into 2020.
Mobile browsing has now surpassed desktop browsing in terms of percentage traffic:
This percentage share of traffic for mobile is not, for now, being matched in terms of where the majority of purchases are being made. Crucially, however, mobile’s percentage revenue has increased by 23% year-on-year, resulting in an acceleration of mobile optimization across almost every digital marketing channel.
Research of this kind, exploring how consumers are surfing the web and purchasing in the digital space, has been the driver behind an array of mobile-focused changes:
Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs)
Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging
The steady increase in SMS marketing’s popularity
Mobile-first web design
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All of these developments are, quite simply, responses to changes in the way we're using technology and the internet. With this in mind, as email marketers, you cannot rest on your laurels when it comes to mobile optimization.
The majority of research carried out into email open rates has now concluded that mobile is providing a greater number of email opens than desktop, mirroring mobile shifts across the digital marketing spectrum.
Mobile optimization is not a simple process since the coding behind your emails is important in allowing them to collapse down into a mobile-viewable format. For most email marketers though, the area where you can make instant improvements to optimize for mobile is in your copy, images and overall design and layout.
You want your email copy to do enough to encourage a click-through, but you should also ask yourself what information you can withhold in order to make the copy concise enough for mobile viewing.
After all, most emails are essentially link sources for landing pages, blogs or product pages. Do you really need to include all of the information at this stage or could you save some for the next step of the journey?
In a recent partner email of ours, you can see how short copy can provide both a cleanly presented email on desktop and an optimized experience for subscribers opening the email on mobile:
This report is concisely described in the copy, meaning there is sufficient white space to create an easy reading experience on desktop.
The benefits of this kind of copy are even clearer when you view the email on mobile:
The image appears on the first fold to encourage further scrolling.
Concise copy means the first CTA is seen early, on the second fold, so the recipient doesn’t have to scroll through fold-after-fold of heavy copy before they reach a CTA button (copy that could be held back and used on the landing page instead).
For mobile viewers, who are often on the go when scrolling through emails, the shorter copy can be scanned in no time whatsoever.
The image dimensions are small enough to render successfully in the email version. Large images often appear correctly on desktop but cause major issues on mobiles with their restricted, and highly varied, viewports.
The process of rendering has always been important when sending mass email communications. For reviewing the mobile viewing experience, however, rendering is now of even greater importance.
Most email service providers give you the ability to render emails across a range of devices, so it’s worth checking that your emails are providing a suitable user experience across all devices (and not just desktop when sending test emails to your work computer).
Testing has always been an indispensable step in the sending process. Now that emails can be viewed across so many different devices, however, you should be taking the time to guarantee that your emails are rendering across every device type.
Joolz Joseph FCIM MIDM is an Email Consultant and Trainer with over 25 years of sales and marketing experience. Visit www.joolzjoseph.com for more information.
“When testing emails now, it is important to test on a mobile and really put yourself in your recipient's shoes – they’ll probably be glancing through things on their phone with very little time to truly read it, unless something grabs their attention quickly! Are you making an impact quickly enough?”
This doesn’t just apply to email testing - across your digital marketing, you should consider exactly how the changes you are making will affect your users.
Whichever channel is being used to interact with your business, you need to be certain that the user experience for that channel has been tested across different devices, email clients and browsers.
As for grabbing attention quickly, Joolz also makes a very important point, tying right back into the argument for simple, mobile-optimized copy. Make your point quickly and concisely and you can benefit from higher engagement rates right across your email marketing campaigns.
Less Is More in Email Copy and Design
Superfluous copy is a bugbear of all copywriters. With the shift towards mobile usability and readability, concise copy and clear design are now paramount.
The examples above, courtesy of Reader’s Digest, are exactly the types of copy that will lead to readers switching off midway through an email.
It's understandable that not all companies have dedicated copywriters or UX design experts in-house. If you’re getting by on limited resources though, then you can start improving the returns you achieve from email marketing through the simple process of simplification.
Building on her previous comment, Joolz adds:
“With recipients leading increasingly busy lives and a tendency to read emails on the go, there is a trend towards simpler email design, often minimalistic in style. Our attention spans are reducing and it makes sense that email design addresses this. We consume more email on our mobiles than ever, so a simpler design can be more effective as it is easier to scan quickly.
"Simpler email design is about easy to consume, scannable content that can be digested fast. A single focus message combining copy, layout and colour that is skimmable and enables the reader to act easily. This kind of design enables organisations to deliver timely, fresh and punchy content on a frequent basis. Think lots of white space, simpler images (better for small screens) and blocks of colour to draw the eye.”
What's more, with the surge in wearable technologies, the space that we as digital marketers have to work with is becoming increasingly limited (and, thus, more competitive).
Media is being consumed in ways that we could never have envisaged back at the inception of email. It's our job as email marketers to evolve with these changes by providing content that fits seamlessly into increasingly busy schedules and onto an increasingly varied number of devices. In turn, we can reap the rewards by successfully encouraging higher levels of engagement with the emails we're sending.
Artificial Intelligence in Email Marketing
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a term that seems to scare a lot of marketers, particularly if you’ve spent most of your career in traditional forms of marketing and advertising.
In truth, most of the AI that is discussed in the marketing world concerns the automation of processes. Marketing automation is centred around providing the most relevant content at the most suitable time to a specific individual or group, be they existing or potential customers. The intelligent part comes from how AI systems learn from past behaviours to shape future actions.
AI should be seen as the solution to a large number of your processes, rather than another terrifying technological advance to get your head around! It strives not only to replace the traditional (and somewhat arduous) segmentation processes currently in action but to completely transform the levels of relevancy that we, as marketers, are capable of providing to consumers.