In the ever-changing world of email marketing, it can be difficult to know where to invest your time and energy. To help you prioritize your email marketing efforts this year, we surveyed Oracle CX Marketing Consulting’s more than 500 digital marketing experts, asking them to rate the current adoption of a range of email marketing technologies and tactics as well as their predicted impact during 2020. We then mapped the results into adoption-impact quadrants.
Today, we’re going to look at the Proven Essentials, which are those tactics and technologies in the high adoption–high impact quadrant. The technologies and tactics in this quadrant are mature, but still deliver tremendous results.
Our Proven Essentials stand in stark contrast to our Unproven Opportunities, which still have significant risks associated with them and benefits that haven’t fully materialized. Our Proven Essentials also have a risk profile that’s the inverse of our Competitive Differentiators: Where our Competitive Differentiators offer a competitive advantage to early adopters, our Proven Essentials put late adopters at a competitive disadvantage.
Of the 26 trends we surveyed our digital marketing consultants about, they put 8 of them in the high adoption–high impact quadrant for 2020. Let’s talk about each of them in turn…
It’s not enough to have subscribers that tolerate receiving your marketing emails. If you want to avoid serious deliverability problems, they have to engage with those emails.
“Sophisticated mailbox providers—hello, Gmail—will increasingly prioritize inbox placement based on engagement,” says Brian V. Sullivan, Strategic Director of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle CX Marketing.
On the simplest level, that means that marketers have to stop mailing subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked in a long time. However, smart marketers are using reengagement and re-permission campaigns to reduce the number of chronically inactive subscribers that they have to suppress mailings to.
“Reengagement and re-permission programs are a great way to get more out of the subscribers you already have,” says Monica McClure, Senior Copywriter for Creative Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Compared to trying to capture new audiences, working with those who are already on your list produces more certain outcomes with a smaller investment of effort.”
Along with their more technical CSS-based cousins, animated gifs are surging in usage for three main reasons:
First, video is huge, and animation is a natural way to promote video and to show snippets of video.
Second, more B2B brands are realizing that animation has serious business use cases and isn’t just for B2C brands to have fun with. B2B brands can use animation to efficiently demonstrate products, show how their app works, and help customers navigate multi-step processes.
And third, social media’s love of the gif has spurred their popularity among Millennials and Gen Z. “Younger generations love using gifs for everything,” says Nick Rozell, Senior Account Manager at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Animated gifs will be a large trend in 2020.”
Like several other of our Proven Essentials, dynamic content within emails isn’t remotely new. However, the ability to personalize email messages has progressively become more sophisticated and easier to execute and manage.
“Personalization has always been a hot and savvy way to engage customers,” says Cathie Richter, Designer at Creative Services, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “With even more creative and interesting ways to integrate personalization technology, the trend will only continue.”
Along with segmentation and automation, personalization is one of the key ways that marketers can create relevant messages, getting the right content to the right subscribers at the right time.
One of the key reasons that email personalization has become easier is the adoption of modular email architectures. Rather than having a bunch of different templates for different situations, modular build systems allow you to create a variety of content blocks that you then stack to create a particular email. It speeds up email build times and supports personalization through its modularity.
“Setting up an agile modular email architecture is key to delivering persona-based personalized messages,” says Jason Witt, Senior Director of Creative Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “The modular system helps to drive personalized and real-time content customers care about and allows for one-to-one storytelling.”
Personalization has replaced some instances where you might have traditionally used segmentation to do a full-file send—for example, sending to your full-file by sending a segmented email to your customers and another to your non-customers. However, there are an increasing number of instances where companies are sending segmented messages to get more emails in front of particular personas or their more-engaged subscribers while avoiding sending additional email to their less-engaged subscribers.
“Using data to target and message individuals will always be the most effective way to create a positive experience for the customer,” says Helen Lillard, Principal B2C Consultant at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting.
The groundswell of stronger privacy regulations is undeniable and likely to continue as lawmakers struggle to catch up how their constituents feel about the effect that technology is having on them. First it was CASL in 2014, then GDPR in 2018, and now it’s the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
“CCPA went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and other US legislation will follow,” says Daniel Deneweth, Head of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Many brands are not prepared. Thankfully, California has indicated that they won’t pursue enforcements of the law until July 1, so companies have some additional time to comply. This will be a major focus during 2020.”
The CCPA brings many of GDPR’s requirements to the US, including informed consent on data collection, the ability to opt out of having your personal data sold, and the right to be forgotten. Other states are also considering passing stricter privacy laws, which may prompt a new federal law to simplify legal compliance.
Responsive design is the status quo in email design. While not universally supported, it is widely supported and a graceful way of creating experiences that are appropriate for widely different sized screens. It’s the gold standard for both email and web, where Google penalizes the search authority of companies whose websites aren’t responsive.
That said, responsive design is more work, both in terms of coding and troubleshooting. Some brands who are seeing the vast majority of their emails opened on mobile devices are starting to consider mobile-only email design. In a way, it’s a return to simpler times when marketers design a single email rendering—but this time it’s optimized for mobile devices, not desktops.
Responsive will continue to dominate, but as the mobile internet becomes the only internet for more people and as mobile screen sizes continue to increase—hello, folding screens—then we’ll likely see fringe adoption of mobile-only email design grow.
Whether they’re triggered by an action, inaction, date, or internet-connected IoT machine, automated emails deliver just the right messages to customers and subscribers at just the right times. And they’re only becoming more powerful.
“Triggered and automated campaigns should already be a staple of any email program,” says Reed Pankratz, Senior Strategic Consultant for Strategic Services at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “However, more understanding at the customer level will lead to more complex customer journeys. This will also lead to the further incorporation of AI, personalization, RFM, and analytics.”
Automation and personalization continue to be a power combination that most brands want to improve upon, says Jennifer Lancaster Dana, VP of Oracle CX Marketing and Customer Experience Consulting. “Personalization improves the customer experience,” she says, “and automation decreases manual effort to free up time to drive strategy.”
These are just a few of the email marketing trends to watch for in 2020. For a look at more technologies and tactics, check out our posts that examine our...
Unproven Opportunities, which are low-impact trends with low adoption
Competitive Differentiators, with are high-impact trends with low adoption
Need help exploring these email marketing trends? Oracle CX Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including teams dedicated to Strategic Services, Email Deliverability Services, and Creative Services.
For more insights into email marketing, visit us at Oracle CX Marketing.
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.