Learnings from the year that was 2016

Every December, there are two things occupying everyone’s mind. The first is an excitement about year-end celebrations, and the second is the wonder about the incoming New Year.

As we await for the festivities to begin, I would like to share a few trends I spotted throughout 2016 and which are likely to shape marketers’ decisions in the upcoming New Year.2016-17

These predictions are based on the insights I gathered during my interactions with dozens of marketers, and analysts across different geographies and business verticals.

Send, Follow, and Care

Marketers have started appreciating the ‘Send, Follow, and Care’ model versus ‘Fire and Forget’. Communication messages are now planned more as streams or dialogues instead of monolithic files. These dialogues gain popularity with recipients too, as they allow a marketer to bring in the right context and choose an appropriate message for each recipient, at the most opportune time. In every pragmatic meeting I attended last year, one key question on top of a marketer’s mind was “How do you help me plan a better Customer Journey?” Note, it was not a ‘campaign’ but a ‘journey’. It is not to say that large volume campaigns are out of fashion, but it is to highlight the need to personalize and optimize at the same time.

At a social media conference earlier this year, I saw some wonderful case studies that utilized email to improve the effectiveness of social, and vice versa. Many of these cases showcased the best use of cross channel communication that enabled the use of email responses to build a finer target group. It would be safe to say that marketers are now considering all digital channels to be complementary to each other, unlike a few years ago when there were those that predicted the demise of email.

Integrated offering

With scalable architecture and ability to capture events across multiple channels, a marketer is now better equipped to understand his customer’s purpose behind every digital touch point. These events can come from multiple sources — a particular action on the company’s website, a data feed from social channels, a reply to a SMS, or a third-party data source like weather. This has helped marketers become more creative with the power of insights based on true data. In 2016, marketers started making good use of available data in spite of some stress regarding picking the right signal in order to make each communication relevant.

“Do you have an Integrated offering that allows us to capture and leverage insights across channels?” has been the common question asked by many IT teams that I have spoken to, in 2016.

With large organizations trimming their workforce, it is always logical for IT to prefer working with a trusted partner that can offer a truly integrated suite and save the worries between disparate planning, execution and fulfillment systems.

Data Security

Security gains prime importance in email marketing, and we can expect this trend to continue with companies gearing up for GDPR compliance by May 2018. Every organization is trying to get clarity on their legal obligations and how it affects their various business functions as well as ongoing projects. The proposed new EU data protection regime extends the scope of the EU data protection law to all foreign companies who are processing data of EU residents. It helps global companies work with a common data protection regulation across Europe. But the cost of a strict data protection compliance regime with severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover could be a point of concern for global companies.

This is also reflected in the varying degrees of cloud acceptance across European companies. Some are averse to public clouds while others are open to work with select providers who have gone through their audit process, which can be a lengthy process.

Preference Management will be a key focus area for organizations who have not solidified it so far. Choosing the audience based on his or her preference will gain paramount importance especially in the integrated world, where multiple partners need to access the customer’s data, and also wipe it clean as per the Right-to-be-Forgotten.

Intelligent Email

Marketers now have a higher level of awareness, skill set and hunger to use analytics that is beyond simple reporting, to make the campaigns more intelligent. They are using analytics in each step of the email marketing process — from Audience selection, Multi-variate testing, Content optimization, Subject Line prediction, to Execution. There are certainly more areas where analytics would play a key role in the coming year.

These are some of my observations, please share yours as well so we may build a collective pool of insights that can benefit all email marketers to make a fruitful 2017.

Pushkraj Marathe
Sr. Product Manager – SAS Customer Intelligence
SAS R&D India ▪ Magarpatta, Pune, India