With the new year comes the irresistible opportunity to predict what’s ahead. These are my predictions for email and multi-channel marketing in 2014:
1 – Email will truly become the relationship channel
I have personally described email as a relationship channel since 2006, and 2013 saw some great examples of brands using the data they have at their fingertips, in ways that are most useful and have the greatest impact possible. In 2014, email will position itself as a more valuable channel for consumers to stay in touch with the brands they love, through improved relevance and content value.
2 – Brands will understand and use their data better than ever before
One interesting area that is often not correctly considered is the shelf life of engagement and preference data. For example, if you are a fashion retailer and ‘Prospect A’ signs up to your email programme and states his interest in men’s accessories and men’s shoes, brands need to know for how long that preference data will be useful and relevant. When website engagement and purchase behaviour becomes available for ‘Prospect A,’ some of the initial preference data will arguably expire or at least become less likely to be useful to us as marketers, in favour of more recent interactional and transactional data.
In 2014, the key is to build your marketing strategy so it is flexible enough to incorporate implicit and explicit customer data, in real time. This data will also need to be immediately available and actionable for other channels, such as direct mail.
3 – Designing for ‘mobile-first’ will become ‘the norm’
A study by Litmus in December 2013 showed that for the first time ever, mobile is the single leading platform for consuming marketing emails, worldwide. I believe 2014 is the year where email marketers will begin to design for mobile-first, even before we design for desktop and Webmail scenarios.
For those companies that are yet to dip their toes in the water with mobile design, 2014 will be the year that they go responsive/scalable or skinny, simply because that’s where their prospects and customers are most likely to be opening and reading their emails.
4 – There will be more integration with other channels
Integrating social and email campaigns is relatively straightforward, but very much underused. Adding social sharing links for Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook to individual email products takes just seconds.
Marketers are yet to truly harness this power, and often this is because of an understandable fear of directing potential website traffic off to social networks. However, tactical use of this capability could really benefit your marketing strategy. Think about editorial features, new product launches, brand messaging – all of these are perfect for email, and by amplifying your marketing messages across the social pages of your subscribers, you empower your email database to become evangelists for your brand and specifically the content or product you want to push at the time.
5 – The start of sequential messaging
As consumers struggle to manage their lives across multiple devices in multiple locations, marketers are also finding it difficult to get the right message to their prospects and customers, at the right time and through the right channel.
Perhaps 2014 is a little too soon for sequential messaging, but when it’s here it will enable marketers to send messages across multiple devices, in a defined sequence using the right channel at the right time. That could utilise a selection of channels such as email, SMS, in-app, in-product messaging, and more. I think 2014 will see a desire from marketers to solve this messaging challenge through some smart use of data and integration of messaging channels.
What are your predictions for email marketing this year? Share them in the Comments sections below.