Looking forward to what’s next in email marketing

Projecting the future is one of the easiest things to do, yet the hardest to get right. The email marketing industry is morphing faster than most people think, yet may not seem so if you just look at industry growth rates hovering at the same rate it did 10 years ago. Email marketing budgets as a % of overall marketing spend is flat and depending on how you look at engagement rate declines, it could be a glass half empty or half full scenario. Yet, the only real 1:1 personalization channel at scale, will remain a key driver of business impact and there are ample opportunities to infuse disruptive thinking into your business.

Here are a few on my radar.

  1. Experience Management is arguably the biggest time and expense drain for any direct marketer. In the email space, we call it creative. In the web and ecommerce world it’s content management or WCM. Many companies are fragmented in how they create content for the various channels (email, social, mobile web, apps, site). Now add a recommendation layer and web personalization layer to that and you can literally have 3 or 4 groups driving disparate personalization initiatives that are disjointed and operating from multiple sources of truth, some driven by events, some by algorithms. I believe marketers will think about content differently in the near future. Design for the interaction, not for the image. Design for programmatic inserts of content, vs. perpetual creative productions runs. This will move past using a template with dynamic (and/if) personalization to logic-driven personalization that is fed from many sources at send time or after send time. I believe personalization will be portable and more real-time and many groups will be able to leverage personalization in smart, agile ways. Many can connect email and web, but few have front of funnel content informing back of the funnel experiences or vice versa. All major innovations driven by mankind were related to the compression of time and space. I believe innovations in content management, personalization and Artificial Intelligence will be the catalyst for compressing time to market for the masses.
  2. Portability of decisioning. I’ve been using this phrase for about 8 years now. The key to great marketing, is not great content, not the right timing, right customer or right channel; it’s making smart decisions, faster. If you are slow, you’ll only get to a portion of what you want to accomplish. I’ve seen so many programs that are just terrible, but they outperform the best simply because they are efficient and agile. We are already seeing dramatic advancements in machine learning, recommendation engines, personalization platforms that are algorithmic, self-learning (yes, that can be scary to think about). Many scoff at this thinking that you must dump tons of data, let the algorithms learn and then something magical and predictive will come out the other end. If you are thinking this way, you need to get out more. Machine learning helps you apply insights to programmatic things (imagine a welcome stream that self optimizes as it learns). Imagine product recommendations that are both behavior and profile driven. Imagine using both behavioral and adaptive methods (explicit behavior combined with implicit interest data) to inform. An industry that prides itself on reaching maybe 40-50% of its target audience, has plenty of room to think about how content, timing and personalization pay off. The sky’s the limit, if you plan bigger and act smaller. Embrace smart ways to take risks.
  3. Key to the customer will be the household, not the individual. Your audience is comprised of an aging Boomer population, the rise of Gen X who are in leadership positions and likely to inherit great wealth from the Boomer generation and Gen Y/Millenials. Gen X has tremendous influence, are leaders of the household and while very different from Gen Y/Millennials, they are the purse strings and predominately women-ruled. While Gen Y and Millennials are reshaping the workforce, Internet, and the sharing economy, the household is still the connective fabric to how the world spends. The Internet of Things, (yes, another big buzzword that few can clearly articulate), is just that. It’s a movement to smart, connected worlds that will revolutionize the industrial and consumer world. The Internet brought the world together and IoT will bring the household together and make the household portable. Brands are already building immersive product experiences that while catered to an individual, serve a household of convenience. The key, I believe is the TV/Entertainment sectors. In the 1950’s, the families sat together in front of the TV, today we are point solutions with our own entertainment in our disparate rooms. The future will offer convenience to make your living room anywhere in the house and offer versatility to the consumer that will bring it together in unique and personalized ways. Alexa is a great example of what is possible, now imagine immersive VR for shopping and exercise. This will make technology fun and a hub to the connected family. Key to this will be building advertising experiences that are a part of the experience, not a disruption.

This new world we are in, will require new thinking and transformational risks both personally and professionally. As we all struggle to keep up, just try not to dig your trench too deep that you can’t crawl out of it. Bend lasers, and think differently, and you’ll find ample opportunities to stretch and grow.

David Baker
COO-Founder of Cordial
2016 eec Email Marketer Thought Leader of the Year Award Winner
@social_c_r_m