Epic theories and prediction aside, creating emails that satisfy an audience AND deliver on business goals remains one of the thorniest problems facing the modern marketer.
Marketing automation platforms and email service providers strive mightily to streamline the process, charging a premium for any feature that might save time or get better results.
Marketers, meanwhile, spend countless hours trying to simply make sure the majority of their recipients can read and understand their emails. They know they should be segmenting based on demographics and buying history and more, but when creating a single email is a Herculean effort, few are rushing to repeat the process.
Fortunately for email creators everywhere, there appear to be two converging trends in email marketing that may simplify all of our lives: less complicated email design and email personalization that’s more sophisticated while being easier to implement.
Email Trend #1: Simplified Design and Consistent Inbox Behavior
I do have good news on this point, but first we need to take a look at why inbox appearance and behavior are problems in the first place.
The Worst Email Marketing Feeling. Ever.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever created and sent an email that you’re immensely proud of, only to have multiple recipients report random inbox problems that ruined their whole email experience?
Worst. Email. Day. Ever.
Gmail has been one of the worst offenders in this arena, as Treadline’s Alex Williams points out:
80% of Gmail users access their accounts via mobile and desktop email clients, but the remaining 20% open emails in the webmail, which offers little to no support for CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which can result in broken emails in Gmail.
For a beautiful (or perhaps not so beautiful) illustration of this problem, I submit exhibit A:
And, to be fair, it’s not just marketers who are having problems getting their emails to render correctly.
Developer Justin Khoo skewered Gmail on TechCrunch, declaring that:
Gmail and its plethora of rendering quirks is a big reason why developers avoid working on email. Developers like well-defined and documented environments, and email is anything but. Although many email clients suffer from rendering issues, getting an email to display nicely in the various Gmail desktop and mobile clients gives developers the most angst.
In case that wasn’t clear enough, Justin wonders whether Google’s innovative zeal “inadvertently broke email itself.”
That makes a few inbox compatibility problems seem like less of a big deal.
A Brighter Email Design Future
Although it hasn’t yet materialized, Alex predicts that 2016 will be the year that Gmail finally gets its act together, sparking global celebrations.
Then, of course, we can all go back to complaining about Outlook.
Getting back to the optimistic perspective, the great thing about more standardization is that it will allow us to devote our creativity to email design, instead of troubleshooting esoteric inbox quirks.
Elliot Ross of Action Rocket predicts that our near future will contain what he calls, “modular email design,” the drag-and-drop email templates that we should have been issued along with our flying cars at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Check it out:
Some pieces of software offer a version of this now, but their coolness tends to break down when you do any type of cross-browser testing.
All the most interesting pieces don’t work in one email client or another, forcing marketers and email designers to revert to the least complicated (and most boring) common denominator.
But no more!
2016 and beyond couldn’t look brighter. Campaign Monitor’s Kevin Swensrud goes so far as to declare this:
[I]s the year coding emails becomes a thing of the past and email design becomes drop dead simple. Powerful drag-and-drop technology will unleash the email designer in everyone and enable marketers around the world to create professional email marketing campaigns that deliver results.
I’m going to be sitting at my desk with all of my fingers crossed that he is 100% right.
Email Trend #2: Email Personalization and Segmentation for the Win
Not only does drag-and-drop email creation software mean far fewer hours wasted yelling at our computer screens, it also means a larger part of our day can be devoted to creating emails that people actually want to read.
When we don’t have to spend all of our allotted email marketing time on a death march through CSS and HTML errors, we can use it to customize, personalize, and glamorize our emails.
Targeted, Personalized Emails Are on the Way
Daniel Codella of Zurb refers to the coming era as one of hyper-targeted messages. He sees marketing automation integration more effectively with other apps, letting marketers trigger emails based on a huge variety of factors.
He’s quick to remind us that this power comes with responsibility.
The, “goal of all of this is not to bombard people with more emails. The goal is to send them the right message at the right time; the most valuable content right when they need and want it.”
Enchant’s Philip Storey tells us to get ready for insane personalization.
In the future of email marketing, prepare to spend more time on automation and less time on “schedule campaigns and email broadcasts.”
Segmentation Holds the Key
Of course, in order to deliver these beautifully unique emails to our audience we have to know what they’re interested in receiving.
EmailMonday.com reminds us that even in the present emails can be segmented in a variety of ways, including:
- Preferences (the likes and unlikes of a user)
- Demographics and profile (age, location, gender)
- Psychographics (What will they be prone to do and react to?)
- Behaviour (purchases, opens, clicks, website browsing, etc)
These already offer a lot of ways to slice and dice an email list, and when you combine this existing functionality with machine learning, things start to get cool…and a little scary.
Machine Learning and Email
Briefly, machine learning involves the application of algorithms to a data set. The insights that come from that application are then used to make predictions about what content to offer next.
Interactions with that content provide a new set of data, and the cycle begins again.
What you end up with is a system that is acting on data independently, rather than following pre-set instructions given by a marketer.
We couldn’t craft individualized emails for all of our subscribers one at a time, but Kath Pay sees machine learning as a way to deliver:
[E]mails that are personalized to that specific individual, with ease, but also to be continually learning and improving the results. The more data that is available, the more accurate, personalized, and valuable the results are.
Welcome to the Future of Email
Drag and drop email templates that mean I never have to hand-code another email?
Machines that spend literally all of their time learning how to provide my subscribers with exactly the content they want to see?
Who needs flying cars? I’ll take futuristic email marketing any day.
Other Articles You Might Be Interested In:
- Agile Marketing 3 Crucial Agile Marketing Skills You May Already Have
- Email Marketing Benchmark Email Click Through Rates (CTR) by Industry
- Email Marketing Email Marketing: What Day of the Week is Best?
- Email Marketing Email Subject Lines: Should You Be Silly or Serious?
- Email Marketing Using the Psychology of Email Addiction for Marketing
- From SurveyGizmo How To Improve Your Survey Email Invitations