Email Marketing Trends for 2024: Proven Essentials

March 1, 2024 | 14 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 Proven Essentials, which are in the high adoption–high impact quadrant. The technologies and tactics in this quadrant are mature, but are still improving and delivering tremendous results.

We organization email trends into four adoption-impact quadrants.

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—that is, 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 experts about, 16 of them were rated as being in the high adoption–high impact quadrant for 2024. Let’s talk about each of them in turn.

The email trends in our Proven Essentials quadrant have both high adoption and high impact.

K. Omnichannel Orchestration

In the early ’00s, the average consumer typically used two touchpoints when buying an item, according to research by Aberdeen, Oracle, and Relationship One. Today, consumers typically use several times that many touchpoints. More than ever, consumers don’t engage with channels; they engage with brands. 

Brands know they’ve badly lagged consumers’ expectations. However, challenges around customer data storage and availability have plagued efforts to react to consumers across channels in real-time with the latest cross-channel data and insights. Customer data platforms are finally overcoming these technological barriers, says Jeannine Pine, Senior Director of Agency Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency.

“Leveraging CDP data will allow for the execution of omnichannel orchestration with ease,” she says, “granting customers a holistic experience across touchpoints—from in-store point of sale and ecommerce checkout to customer care and email recommendations.”

Learn how to transform your customer experience with a CDP.

L. Live or Real-Time Content

Most email content is determined at the time of send, but live content is determined at the time that an individual subscriber opens the email—or when their inbox provider prefetches the email content. It can increase the relevance of your emails by keeping your content up to date.

The best use cases for live content involve content that changes rapidly, such as:

  • Live countdown timers
  • Account dashboards
  • Real-time inventory
  • Live poll results
  • Live sports scores
  • Local weather
  • Social media feeds

Pre-fetching done by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has dampened many of our clients’ enthusiasm for live content. However, those who have stuck with it continue to see significant benefits. It turns out, as research from Movable Ink shows, that “for the vast majority of Apple Mail users, ‘recent-time’ is far closer to ‘real-time’ than expected.” So, while MPP has diminished the value of live content, it hasn’t fatally undercut its value.

Explore the best use cases for live content.

M. Account-Based Marketing

Rather than focusing on industries or markets, account-based marketing (ABM) focuses on, well, accounts. It helps businesses focus on building and maintaining opportunities at select high-value accounts, rather than a huge number of small-value accounts. For the B2B organizations that it’s appropriate for, it can have a big impact.

Knocked into the Competitive Differentiators quadrant quadrant by the pandemic, ABM has been back in the Proven Essentials quadrant for two years now. “The return of in-person events and a partial return to office—where people can be reached via direct mail—have put two critical components of ABM back on the table,” says Cristal Foster, Manager of Expert Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.

Among our clients, we’re seeing increased efforts on building out account details, says Patrick Maxwell, CXM Solution Architect, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Our B2B customers are continuing to focus on account-based marketing tactics,” he says, “while removing friction from the selection of potential individual contacts at qualified accounts by building fuller profiles of these individuals over time.”

N. Customer Data Platform (CDP)

CDPs like Oracle Unity are not only a central repository of customer data, but they keep it clean, control access to it, overlay analytic capabilities, and make it available for activation via marketing and other systems in real-time.

“Data integrity will continue to be the key conversation in 2024,” says Jen Healey, Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting. “Data disparity continues to be a struggle with even the biggest brands. Marketers need to right their ship, connect the dots with customers, and figure out how they leverage zero- and first-party data.”

As brands clean up their data management, they’re also rationalizing their tech stack, says Katie Baril, Client Partner, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “In this economy, clients are focused on cost-savings,” she says. “That not only means automating, streamlining, and finding efficiencies where they can, but also removing data silos and reducing redundant technologies to reduce their overhead and management costs.”

In addition to being an important trend in its own right, we see CDPs as underpinning several other major email marketing trends, including omnichannel orchestration, generative AI and machine learning applications, personalization, segmentation, and automation.  

Learn how to transform your customer experience with a CDP.

O. Universal Control Groups

How can you be sure that your emails are driving positive behavior? How can you be sure that your email program isn’t incentivizing behavior that would have happened anyway? Universal control groups are the answer.

You create a universal control group by taking a small percentage of your subscribers and suppressing emails to them for a period of time. You can then compare the level of engagement, revenue, and profits for your subscribers to this suppressed group. Doing this gives you a clear view of the lift generated by your email program. However, those insights may come at a significant cost, says JT Capps, Strategic Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting. 

“Universal control groups continue to be a challenging tactic not only because they require operational discipline to run effectively,” he says, “but they also require executives to buy into the belief that the learnings will help drive optimizations are a greater benefit than the revenue loss from withholding campaigns from a small percentage of subscribers.”

This is a trend that’s volatile from year to year. When many leaders were concerned about the possibility of a recession last year, we saw fewer of our clients willing to trade short-term financial results for greater insights into customer behaviors, attribution, and return on investment. But with recession fears easing this year, our experts are seeing more interest.

Understand how to set up a universal control group and its benefits.

P. Preference Centers & Progressive Profiling

Both of these tactics allow brands to better understand the needs and desires of their subscribers through the collection of zero-party data. The need for information directly from consumers has grown as platform privacy has tightened with the advent of App Tracking Transparency, Mail Privacy Protection, Link Tracking Protection, the sunsetting of third-party cookies, and more. 

Generally promoted during onboarding and during the unsubscribe process to reduce opt-outs, preference centers typically focus on core, long-term preferences, like content, contact frequency, and delivery preferences. On the other hand, progressive profiling happens periodically throughout a subscriber’s time on list. Sometimes its goal is to discover enduring preferences, but often it’s to learn about a short-term interest, such as gardening and lawn plans for this spring or most likely vacation destinations for this summer.

While preference centers and progressive profiling are great zero party data sources, don’t ignore first party data, says Kaiti Gary, Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Data gleaned from customer behaviors over time is typically much more actionable and impactful than preference centers and profiling, which tend to be sporadically provided by users at very specific points in time, like early post-signup or upon intent to opt out. It is likely that as data unification and modeling improves, preference centers and progressive profiling will be used more strategically and sparingly.”

Options to include in your preference center.

Q. Dark Mode–Optimized Email Designs

Instead of the usual dark text on a light background, dark mode features the reverse: light text and a dark background. For many years now, it’s been a major trend in user interface experiences across a wide range of apps, including email clients, and many consumers like it. Around 35% of emails are viewed in dark mode, according to Litmus.

Unfortunately, like so many other aspects of email rendering, dark mode is implemented differently across the inboxes where it is supported. That means, marketers need to use a range of email client–specific fixes to have their emails look good in dark mode everywhere.

Despite those challenges, dark mode optimization has become fairly standard across marketing campaigns. However, there’s been one noticeable exception, says Scott Lederer, Senior Account Manager at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.

“Dark mode optimization will become even more prominent this year as some legacy automated and transactional emails get brought into the present,” he says. “Many of these have remained untouched for years, and aren’t performing as well as they could because their designs haven’t kept up with today’s inboxes.”

How marketers can adapt to dark mode for email.

R. Inclusive Design & Email Accessibility

Accessibility is mostly about after-the-fact accommodations for people with disabilities, while inclusive design is about designing with the full spectrum of human abilities in mind from the beginning. It’s the difference between adding wheelchair ramps to a building and designing buildings that don’t need ramps so that people in wheelchairs, injured people using crutches, delivery workers, and parents with strollers all have easy access. 

“Accessibility and inclusive design have been coming up more and more for our clients,” says Elizabeth Thomas, Senior Art Director for Creative Services, Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “They want all of their customers to be able to access information, interact with their brand, and become lifelong customers. Thinking more broadly, this trend also includes dark mode optimization, voice to text, and responsive design.” 

Understand your legal responsibilities with accessibility.

S. Modular Email Architectures

Rather than having a bunch of different traditional templates for each of the types of emails you send, modular build systems allow you to create a variety of content blocks that you then stack to create a particular email. In addition to allowing for easier A/B testing and personalization, as well as easier maintenance, modular email architecture reduces build times. When we’ve built them for our clients, their email build times were reduced by about 25% on average.

“Email teams remain lean, but still face demands to increase production and performance,” says Kelly Moran, Senior Art Director for Copy for Creative Services at Oracle Marketing Consulting. “So, time-saving, task-reducing tactics like modular architectures—along with finely tuned automations and content modules populated by machine learning—will continue to be adopted more widely this year.”

See why modular email architecture is the next-gen template.

T. Send Time Optimization

When is the best time to send email? This is one of the most popular email marketing questions of all time. It has also become a rather dated question. The better question is: When is the best time to send email to each of my subscribers?

To answer that question, you need sent time optimization (STO), which uses machine learning to examine each of your subscriber’s open and click time histories to come up with the best individual answer for each day of the week. As each of your subscribers engage with subsequent sends, the optimal send time for them is adjusted, so it’s always adapting to your customers’ changing behaviors.

However, STO has limits, says Peter Briggs, Senior Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “With more brands emailing multiple times a day and Mail Privacy Protection obscuring opens for many subscribers, the impact of STO has become somewhat limited,” he says. “While it still provides value, we rarely see the big lift we previously did. Thankfully, STO is very easy to implement.”

How to determine the best time to send email.

U. Inactivity Management

It’s not enough to have subscribers that tolerate receiving your marketing emails. If you want to avoid serious deliverability problems, they also have to engage with those emails. That means that marketers should send fewer emails to subscribers who haven’t engaged in a while, and even eventually stop mailing chronically inactive subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked in a long time.

However, by obscuring opens, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has intentionally made it difficult to tell which subscribers are engaging with your emails. In response, many brands have been increasing their lookback windows on email engagement. However, as we pass the 2-year anniversary of MPP, expanding lookback windows further invites heightened dangers—including legal risks, since both CASL and GDPR have 2-year limits on recognizing customer relationships.

At the same time, new deliverability requirements from Google and Yahoo are causing serious deliverability concerns among smaller senders, says Brian Sullivan, Strategic Director of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. 

“Steps to compliance are complicated for many senders and their ESPs, particularly the new authentication requirements,” he says. “Google and Yahoo have already pushed off some requirements to give brands more time to comply. Until brands are confident their deliverability is safe, this will likely drive anxiety among senders.”

Understand Google and Yahoo’s new deliverability requirements.

V. Loyalty Programs

Brands have had a series of critical reasons to build out loyalty programs and get closer to their customers—from the pandemic and supply chain problems to the impending sunset of third-party cookies to economic uncertainty. But brands aren’t building the old school spend-to-get programs.

Loyalty programs have evolved into engagement-based programs that:

  • Allow brands to better understand and target their customers, in aggregate and on an individual basis, through polls, surveys, quizzes, and other progressive profiling efforts, as well as through click and browse behavior driven by loyalty messaging
  • Keep customers engaged and retained between purchases, especially when financial strains lengthen the time between purchases
  • Build buzz, increase share of voice, spur evangelism, and otherwise strengthen the brand

Of course, that’s in addition to their traditional role of increasing purchase frequencies and average order sizes.

Learn about Oracle’s loyalty platform, CrowdTwist.

W. Legal Compliance

The groundswell of stronger privacy regulations is undeniable and likely to continue as lawmakers struggle to catch up with how their constituents feel about the effect that technology is having on them. While Canada and Europe have passed strong national laws in CASL and GDPR, the US hasn’t replaced its antiquated CAN-SPAM law.

The policy vacuum at the national level has led to more than a dozen states signing their own privacy legislation into law, according to the International Association of Privacy Professionals. While the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has already gone into effect, the majority of those laws are set to go into effect this year or in the next year or two. And more than a dozen other states have introduced privacy legislation, so privacy compliance is set to become much more complex going forward.

X. Email Personalization

The ability to personalize email messages using dynamic content has become progressively more sophisticated, while at the same time becoming easier to execute and manage. But we still have a long way to go before achieving the 1:1 messaging paradigm.

“The next big hurdle that marketers need to clear to dramatically improve their personalization is connecting disconnected data and sources,” says Lauren Kimball, Vice President of Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Putting in place CDPs and better integration is how brands will meet the demands of consumers for more personally relevant messaging.”

Y. Email Segmentation

Segmentation and personalization are two sides of the same coin. Both help you get the right message in front of the right customer. However, while both can help with content strategy, segmentation is essential to an effective contact strategy, helping marketers send the right number of emails to individual subscribers to maximize conversions and minimize fatigue and opt-outs.

In particular, segmentation and suppression are a key way to reduce subscriber churn and to maintain good email engagement rates, which are one of the seven key factors affecting email deliverability. With the vast majority of brands’ subscribers having now passed the 2-year anniversary of enabling Mail Privacy Protection, email segmentation for managing engagement levels is even more critical this year.

Another factor that will boost segmentation this year is customer data platforms, says David Chang, Senior Director of Agency Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “Many clients have adopted CDPs in recent years and there’s immense pressure to realize returns on those investments with better identity resolution and segmentation,” he says. “CDPs should enable much more complex and robust segmentation, in addition to better personalization and stronger orchestration of campaigns across channels.”

Explore more than 170 Segmentation & Personalization Criteria.

Z. Automated or Triggered Emails

Whether they’re triggered by action, inaction, date, operations, or internet-connected device, automated emails deliver just the right messages to customers and subscribers at just the right times. And just like personalization and segmentation, automation is only becoming more powerful thanks to AI, machine learning, and the increased customer visibility delivered by customer data platforms and other systems.

“Of course, many brands are already using triggered emails,” says Laura Marty, Technical Implementation Consulting Manager at Oracle Digital Experience Agency, “but what’s new is that more clients are bringing in prospect and customer data from other platforms to streamline and trigger email campaigns. They're realizing it can save a lot of time and effort to automatically import data into Eloqua and Responsys and have internal triggers manage ongoing campaigns.”

For these high-ROI campaigns, just make sure that you don’t set it and forget it. These living campaigns need ongoing maintenance and optimization to reach their full potential.

Get inspired by this checklist of more than 110 automated campaign ideas.

Trends on the Move

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

Also, universal holdout groups are back in this quadrant after falling into the Unproven Opportunities quadrant. Holdout groups have bounced around over the five years of our survey, hovering right around the point where all four of our quadrants meet.

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.

Want to better understand your email marketing risks and opportunities, take advantage of our free Email Program Assessment. Our experts will check your deliverability, review your email creative, audit your signup process, do a partial competitive analysis, and more. If interested in this free assessment, reach out to 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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