Email marketing is constantly evolving, so it can be difficult to know where to invest your time and energy from year to year. It’s extra challenging in turbulent times like these, when the economic environment, consumer behaviors, and business goals are shifting rapidly.
To help you prioritize your email marketing efforts this year, we surveyed Oracle Digital Experience Agency’s hundreds of digital marketing and communications experts, asking them to rate the current adoption of a range of email marketing technologies and tactics, as well as their predicted impact during 2023. We then mapped the results into adoption-impact quadrants.
In this post, we’re looking at the Unproven Opportunities, which are in the low adoption–low impact quadrant. The technologies and tactics here are not fully vetted and may not generate long-term adoption or impact. There are significant risks that could undermine your investment in part or entirely—including rejection by consumers, inadequate inbox provider support, inadequate digital marketing platform support, the passage of legislative impediments, and other issues.
Because of those risks, most brands will find that the best strategy is to wait and let others work out all the details, uncover the best practices, and stress-test the technologies. However, the pioneering companies who embrace these trends at this early stage may seize a sizable advantage over their competitors.
Of the 26 trends we surveyed our digital marketing consultants about, four of them were rated as being in the low adoption–low impact quadrant for 2023. Let’s talk about each of them in turn.
A. AMP for Email
Launched in 2019, AMP for email is a set of open standards created by Google for creating what they call “dynamic emails,” which allow marketers to bring functionality that’s common on the web into their email designs. For example, AMP for email allows live forms, carousels, accordions, and hamburger menus to be used in emails. AMP for email also allows for live content that is populated at the time that the email is opened rather than the time the email is sent.
While it had early buzz, momentum has stalled in the US due to a range of headwinds, including:
And that’s in addition to… The Great Resignation, major social and political unrest, disrupted global supply chains, a generational high for inflation, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine—all of which have brands operating conservatively.
Despite the potential to make email campaigns more compelling, the disinterest by brands has been caused two major roadblocks for AMP for email, the first of which is a lack of support from email service providers (including Oracle), says Daniel Deneweth, Head of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.
“ESPs are waiting for senders to ask for it,” he says, “and senders are waiting for ESPs to implement before investing in creative and development.”
That hesitation to invest in AMP for email by brands is also heavily influenced by the second roadblock, which is the lack of a critical mass of support among inbox providers, says Patrick Colalillo, Creative Director for Creative Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.
“While it’s supported by Gmail and Yahoo, it’s not enough for most brands,” he says. “To break out and become a major trend, Apple would need to support it. And given Apple’s focus on privacy, it’s highly unlikely that they’d want to expand email functionality.”
B. Voice-Friendly Email Design
While email accessibility and inclusive design have been major trends over the past several years, brands haven’t been motivated to make their email designs voice-friendly for screen readers and voice assistants.
This stalled, fledgling trend is held back by three powerful facts:
“With voice assistants, there are no standards for developing emails with this technology besides accessibilities best practices,” says Henry Alva, Email and Web Developer for Creative Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. “And even accessibility varies widely across email clients or operating systems.”
Our advice is to focus on broader accessibility and inclusive design initiatives, and pay extra attention to voice-optimizing your envelope content.
Dive deeper into how voice assistants read emails and how marketers can adapt.
C. Email Annotations and Schema
Powering rich email preview content, Gmail’s Email Annotations and Yahoo Mail’s schema suffer from many of the same issues that plague AMP for email, including limited support and extra coding effort.
An additional problem is that the discounts codes, quick action links, and other functionality these enable often break email attribution, says Heather Goff, Strategic Director of Email Deliverability Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.
“In many cases, clicks on the schema-powered email content placed at the top of the inbox above the email itself, end up coming through as direct website traffic rather than email-attributed,” she says. “For many brands, especially those using last-click attribution models, that can mean credit isn’t properly given to the email channel, which can adversely affect channel budgeting and success metrics. Marketers are being asked to do more with less resources right now, so it’s understandable they’re less than excited to spend operational effort on something that shifts performance from email to their web and media teams.”
Learn more about the opportunities and concerns with Gmail’s Email Annotations.
D. 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 come at a significant cost, says JT Capps, Strategic Director of Analytic & Strategic Services at Oracle Digital Experience Agency.
“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 a revenue loss from withholding campaigns from a small percentage of subscribers.”
With many leaders concerned about the possibility of a recession, our consultants are seeing fewer of our clients wanting to take that financial risk, even if it means sacrificing insights that can help better understand customer behavior, attribution, and return on investment.
Trends on the Move
After jumping from the Unproven Opportunities quadrant all the way to the Proven Essential Quadrant in 2022, universal control groups have slipped back down to where they started. Revenue concerns are just so high right now that fewer brands are willing to invest in this tactic.
AMP for email and schema have been firmly stuck in this quadrant all four years of our survey. While we haven’t reported our survey results on voice-friendly email design since 2020, it has similarly been rooted in this quadrant.
For a full look at all 26 email marketing trends to watch for in 2023, 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:
Need help exploring these marketing trends? Oracle Digital Experience Agency has hundreds of marketing and communication experts ready to help 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.
Want to better understand your email marketing risks and opportunities, take advantage of our free Email Marketing 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 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.