Email Marketing Trends for 2024: Competitive Differentiators

February 16, 2024 | 8 minute read
Chad S. White
Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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Email marketing is constantly evolving, so it can be difficult to know where to invest your time and energy from year to year. Just a few of the recent changes and challenges that email marketers have had to deal with include:

To help you prioritize your email marketing efforts this year, we surveyed some of Oracle Digital Experience Agency’s hundreds of digital marketing experts, asking them to rate the current adoption of a range of email marketing technologies and tactics, as well as the impact they predict each of them will have in 2024. We then mapped the results into adoption-impact quadrants.

In this post, we’re looking at the Competitive Differentiators, which are in the low adoption–high impact quadrant. The technologies and tactics in this quadrant are not completely proven, but some companies are already seeing great results from using them. They offer a significant competitive advantage with considerably less risk than our Unproven Opportunities

We organize email marketing trends into four adoption-impact quadrants.

But, there are still risks, including the acquisition of smaller providers, frequent process and feature changes as the technology stabilizes, frequent changes in best practices as knowledge grows, changing cost structures, scarcity of needed skills, and other issues. These hassles and expenses are easier to accept, however, because many adopters are already seeing sizable returns on their investments. Their willingness to accept some uncertainty in exchange for good returns gives them a distinct advantage over their competitors, most of whom have yet to embrace these tactics and technologies.

Of the 26 trends we surveyed our digital marketing experts about, seven of them were rated as being in the low adoption–high impact quadrant for 2024. Let’s talk about each of them in turn.

These are the email marketing trends in our Competitive Differentiators quadrant.

D. Generative AI for Personalizing Individual Emails

Generative AI has captured the popular imagination and dominated news coverage for the past year and a half. We’ve shared what we see as the concerns and opportunities around GenAI for creating text, images, and code—and I’ve shared my trepidations around using GenAI to craft individual marketing emails.

Some of my colleagues share my skepticism. For instance, Lauren Gannon, Vice President of Agency Services at Oracle Digital Marketing Agency, says, “I don’t think we are ready for this yet. I expect the next couple years will be more focused on testing generative AI for content creation to scale content available for personalization efforts rather than having GenAI actually do the personalizing directly.”

Calculating a return on investment with GenAI will be a major hurdle, says Alex Stegall, Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. "Beyond the added costs of GenAI, none of it was built to be able to track what content was served so it can be tied back to performance,” he says. “So, it's impossible to calculate an ROI, or to glean any insights at all that could be used in future campaigns."

And Joslin Shannon, Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Marketing Agency, points out that highly regulated industries will steer clear of GenAI until they can be 100% sure about security. “Companies in the financial, legal, and government sectors will be taking a wait-and-see approach to GenAI capabilities for marketing campaigns.”

However, we’re in the minority. While acknowledging very low usage of GenAI for personalizing individual emails, most of our digital marketing experts see a lot of potential here in 2024 for pioneering brands.

E. Generative AI for General Email Content Creation 

Using GenAI to assist copywriters as they craft content for different campaigns, different content blocks, and different personas and industry segments is the less risky way of using this new tool for marketing emails. But even here, our experts are of two minds on the technology.

On the one hand, they see the opportunities for GenAI to be used throughout organizations, and for smaller brands in particular to leverage it in their marketing efforts. But on the other hand, they see tepid use of it for marketing among our clients, which tend to be national brands that are way more focused on increasing message effectiveness and controlling their brand voice than on saving a little time on content creation.

“Generative AI is going to transform the way in which organizations develop and deliver customer experiences,” says Kaiti Gary, Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “But there’s much work to be done to make sure AI matches the strategic intent, so I predict 2024 will be a year of education and experimentation.” 

Anna Pfeiffer, Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency, adds, “I believe a lot of email marketers will try out AI generative content tools,” says, “but ultimately I don’t think all-in adoption will be high.”

Explore the concerns and opportunities we see around GenAI for creating text, images, and code.

F. ML-Powered Subject Line and Copywriting Tools

While GenAI-powered subject line writing tools have become increasingly common, they have little to nothing in common with the machine learning subject line and copywriting tools that have been around for many years. These ML tools use your brand’s historical email performance to recommend words and phrases that generate better results from your audience. While they may save you a bit of time, the primary benefit of ML tools is higher performance.

Like GenAI copywriting tools, ML ones have their drawbacks. For example, while accuracy is less of an issue, off-brand suggestions are common. But more importantly, the return on investment just isn’t very compelling currently.

However, with ML copywriting tools set to slowly incorporate GenAI functionality (and vice versa), there’s little doubt that brands that experiment with these tools now should have a distinct advantage in the years ahead

How to use AI subject line and copywriting tools successfully.

G. ML-Powered Product and Content Recommendations

For businesses with lots of products like retailers, lots of services like travel companies, or lots of content like media companies, AI-powered content recommendations are the only viable way to truly personalize at scale. For many companies, even very sophisticated manual methods of matching content to recipients leaves a ton of money on the table.

“The combination of customer data platforms and AI for personalization is something all of my clients are talking about,” says Maninder Gill, Senior Account Manager at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Many are sending generic content and too many emails—a failing combo.” 

Learn how to transform your customer experience with a CDP.

H. Brand Indicators for Message Identification

As a reward to brands that fully authenticate their marketing emails using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) displays the sender’s logo next to their sender name in the inbox. BIMI has only seen moderate adoption because of its complicated and costly setup process and limited support.

Those costs and the complexity of setup are particularly stymying B2B brands, says Cristal Foster, Manager of B2B Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “For those that had interest,” she says, “the roadblock was their own IT team not willing to implement.”

But brands should keep a close eye on BIMI because support is set to dramatically expand—anytime now. That’s because when Apple announced support for BIMI in late 2022, it asked Gmail and Yahoo to make changes to their email headers so emails to their users could display BIMI-powered logos when viewed in Apple Mail. The two mailbox providers have indicated they’ll be making those changes, but they haven’t yet.

When they do, marketers who adopt BIMI can expect their logo to appear with more than 90% of the emails they send on average, according to Litmus’s Email Client Market Share data. That’s up from the roughly one-third of emails that appear with BIMI support as of this month. This greatly expanded support will turn BIMI from a nice-to-have to a must-have—at least for larger brands that can afford the setup costs.

The other good news is that more senders than ever are in a position to implement BIMI thanks to Google and Yahoo’s new deliverability requirements, which mandate using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

The 6 steps required to implement BIMI.

I. Subscriber Acquisition Source Optimization

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to recognize and cater to their customers because of a long list of platform privacy changes, including the sunsetting of third-party cookies, App Tracking Transparency, Mail Privacy Protection, and Link Tracking Protection

“Every business is racing to build out their first-party audiences,” says James Keating, Client Partner at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “They need to increase their collection of zero- and first-party data to mitigate the loss of scale, reach, and insight caused by these privacy changes.”

In addition to optimizing your email signup forms to maximize appeal and minimize abandonment, try to turn more of your email addresses on file into opt-ins, boost your list growth by reducing list churn, and use our Audience Acquisition Source Ideas checklist to ensure you’re not missing out on any worthwhile ways to safely grow your list.

J. CSS-Based Email Interactivity

Using CSS and HTML, email marketers are able to add interactive components to their emails that consumers are used to seeing on websites, including:

  • Hamburger menus
  • Carousels, accordions, and tabbed content
  • Hot spots and hover effects
  • Radio button selections and form fields

However, there are limitations. “They don’t work in all email platforms and take much more time and effort to create, code, and optimize,” says Katie Anderson, Senior Designer for Creative Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Although we love to use them, I predict carousels and other interactive content might see a decline.”

Indeed, our experts see both the adoption and impact of CSS-based email interactivity dripping slightly this year. But if you have a high percentage of your subscribers using Apple Mail—which has strong support for this kind of interactivity—then it’s worth exploring it.

How to use interactive emails wisely.

Trends on the Move

Readers of our post on 2023’s Competitive Differentiators might recognize that two trends are missing from this year’s group of low adoption–high impact trends: customer data platforms and dark mode–optimized email designs. Both have moved over to our Proven Essentials quadrant.

For a full look at all 26 email marketing trends to watch for in 2024, also check out our posts that examine: 

Also, for a better understanding of how all of these email marketing trends are evolving, check out our Email Marketing Trends posts from last year:

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Need help with your email marketing campaigns? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help Responsys, Eloqua, Unity, and other Oracle customers create stronger connections with their customers and employees—even if they’re not using an Oracle platform as the foundation of that experience. Our award-winning specialists can handle everything from creative and strategy to content planning and project management. For example, our full-service email marketing clients generate 24% higher open rates, 30% higher click rates, and 9% lower unsubscribe rates than Oracle Responsys customers who aren’t.

For help overcoming your challenges or seizing your opportunities, talk to your Oracle account manager, visit us online, or email us at OracleAgency_US@Oracle.com.

Chad S. White

Head of Research, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Chad S. White is the Head of Research at Oracle Digital Experience Agency and the author of four editions of Email Marketing Rules and nearly 4,000 posts about digital and email marketing. A former journalist, he’s been featured in more than 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Advertising Age. Chad was named the ANA's 2018 Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon.


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