Incorporate these innovations to help your emails stand out in the inbox.
It’s time to stop forecasting what might be and talk about what will be. As in, what will you be doing in 2017 to push your email marketing performance higher than ever before? It’s not easy with today’s overcrowded inboxes. But new innovations can help. So don’t wait to begin testing at least one (and hopefully more) of these four hot email marketing trends in your campaigns. One of them might just boost your email marketing performance over a new bar.
Email Marketing Trend #1: Interactive Content
This is one of the first examples of how today’s email marketing trends are making emails much more like web pages. With interactive content, your customers can take actions within the email that once were reserved for your website. Animated GIFs are probably the most basic form of interactive content, activating into motion when an email is opened. They’re not new, but they’ll now play in most email clients. And they work, potentially increasing click-thru rates by 26 percent and conversion rates by 103 percent.1
More advanced features include the ability to click through image slide shows or carousels, “scratch off” special offers (also known as scratch and flip), fill in integrated forms, and take quizzes and surveys.
Perhaps most exciting for retailers, interactive content can also allow customers to enter search terms within the email and then see results directly on your website, and even add items to their shopping cart without leaving the email itself.
Litmus notes that, “Interactivity isn’t supported by all email clients, but more than two-thirds of the average email sender’s subscribers will be able to experience interactive emails. Fallbacks will need to be used to properly serve those subscribers using less sophisticated email clients.”2
For example, says Becky O’Brien, CCG’s VP, digital interactive director, “Outlook is probably the only email that still won’t recognize an animated GIF. So you put in a static frame — what we call a base image — that is what someone will see if the animation isn’t supported.”
In addition, as customers can take more actions within your emails, click-thru rates will be less important as a measure of email performance. Instead, you’ll need to begin measuring customers’ interaction with the email itself.
Email Marketing Trend #2: Live Content
You understand dynamic content, where pieces of your email are programmed to automatically change based on information in your database. A best customer may get 20 percent off, while a regular customer gets 10 percent. Customers in Colorado may see an image of the Rocky Mountains, while those in New York may see the downtown skyline. Live content takes this concept one step further.
With live content, components in the email change in real time based on data that isn’t even available until the customer opens the email. (In simple terms, when the email is opened, a request gets sent to the live content-provider’s server, which updates the email.) Common data bits leveraged include location, time and device used to view the email.
“Imagine you open an email,” say O’Brien. “The technology determines the current weather where you are, and then displays specific content based on that information. If it’s rainy, you might see a raincoat promotion, and if it’s sunny, you might see a promotion for Bermuda shorts.”
Similarly, live content could be a countdown timer showing the actual time left to enter a contest or take advantage of a sale; a map of the customer’s current location, showing your closest stores; or an inventory showing exactly how many of a specific sale item or still available right now.
Email Marketing Trend #3: Hyper-Personalization
We all know personalization is an email best practice that can increase relevance and, by extension, improve other email marketing performance metrics, like engagement and conversions. Live content is one way to take email personalization to a higher level than simply dropping a customer’s name into the subject line and body copy. Hyper-personalization goes even deeper.
With hyper-personalization, you leverage Big Data to develop a comprehensive view of individual customers. Then machine intelligence (or artificial intelligence) lets you act on that information to deliver true 1:1 email messaging.
For example, wedding website The Knot sent emails encouraging existing customers to purchase wedding invitations. They upped the relevance of the messages by matching the color schemes and themes of each email to items the customer had already purchased. In a simpler form, you could use artificial intelligence to create individualized subject lines based on known behaviors or preferences for each specific recipient.
Email Marketing Trend #4: Embedded HTML5 Video
How often have you wanted to put a video directly into an email and had your interactive team tell you no? The reason you got the thumbs down was most likely that embedded video wasn’t supported by Apple operating systems. And since more than 53 percent of emails are typically opened by Apple email apps,2 it simply made sense to link out to a video on your web page.
But Apple’s iOS 10 supports HTML5 video, which means more than half your recipients can likely view your video within their email. That makes it worth trying, with this caveat, says O’Brien: “Remember that you run the risk of maybe 50 percent of your recipients having a bad user experience with embedded video, so always have a backup plan. It’s also really important that you know your audience, know what email clients they’re using and then do a lot of testing before running something like this in a live email. Really, that pertains to anything you send out, especially when you’re trying new techniques.”
The Next Big Things in Email Marketing Trends
These innovations in email technology are just beginning to make noise as email marketing disruptors aimed at boosting customer interest and engagement:
- Live backgrounds, which change as you watch or run a looped video
- Cinemagraphs, which essentially combine a static image with a moving GIF in one graphic
- Keyframe animation, which provides a smoother, more sophisticated animation experience compared to GIFs
Don’t Forget These Email Marketing Best Practices
These are just a few of the cool and creative techniques and technologies we expect to disrupt email marketing this year and in the near future. But before you tackle them, make sure you have the basics covered. Here are some essential email marketing best practices you simply cannot neglect:
- Have a strategy. Don’t just send an email to send an email or try an innovative feature because it’s new. “There are a lot of quirky things people are doing right now in emails,” says O’Brien. “But you have to ask if they’re cool simply for the cool factor — or if they’re actually effective and make sense for your campaign and company.”
- Have the skills. “So many people are still learning how to code for email,” O’Brien adds. “It’s not the same as coding for a web page.” Brush up not just on email coding, but also on today’s must-have: responsive email coding, with a mobile-first approach.
- Test subject lines. You can use online tools to check for red flags and get a general effectiveness review, says O’Brien. But this is also one of the primary email components that you need to continually test.
- Write preheaders. “They’re huge, because that’s what shows up in your mobile device,” reminds O’Brien. And with more than half the population checking their emails on smartphones, it’s imperative to take advantage of that snippet of text to hook people and get them into your email.
- Control your calls to action. First, don’t over-do it. “It’s a case of diminishing returns, really,” says O’Brien. “If you have one button, there’s a much higher chance people will click on it than if you have eight or 10 different calls to action.” Consumers easily get overwhelmed by the options, your primary message and action can get lost, and your email doesn’t perform up to par.
- And make them work. “Click here” is a non-starter. Make sure your calls to action mean something. Use action-oriented copy that relates to the copy around it — from a simple “Shop Now” to “See More Jeans.”
- Segment. This lets you target specific messaging to specific audiences, increasing relevancy of your emails and, in turn, their performance.
See how segmentation and customer scoring helped this retailer redefine its approach to customer communication.
- Offer subscription options. If a consumer’s only choices are to keep getting emails that aren’t relevant, come too frequently or don’t render well on their preferred device, or to unsubscribe, you increase the chance of unsubs. Offering a preference center can save the day, allowing customers to choose the type and frequency of emails they receive. You can ask what device they typically use to read their emails — and, for that matter, whether they prefer to hear from you via email or texting.
Email Is Still Worth the Time and Effort to Do Right
Despite the ongoing explosion of and fascination with social media, email remains one of the most effective and cost-efficient methods for reaching your customers and prospects. But there’s no question that inboxes are flooded and many consumers are quick to pull the spam trigger or simply tap delete. Leveraging email marketing trends and email design best practices to keep your communications fresh, creative and relevant is the best way to ensure you reach your audience, get them to interact and, ultimately, meet your marketing goals.
CCG’s retail marketing team is dedicated to making sure your emails continue to perform at and above expectations. Our email marketing capabilities and services include strategy, content, design, development and deployment, as well as leveraging data analytics for personalization and relevancy. How can we help you achieve your email marketing objectives? Email us today or call 800.525.0313.
1. “5 Interactive Email Design Elements That Increase Click-Through Rates,” Douglas Karr, MarTech Zone, posted Oct. 13, 2015, https://martech.zone/5-interactive-email-design-elements-that-increase-click-through-rates/, accessed March 30, 2017
2. “The Biggest Email Marketing Trends in 2017 Will Be …” Chad White, posted Jan. 5, 2017, https://litmus.com/blog/the-biggest-email-marketing-trends-in-2017-will-be, accessed March 30, 2017