Despite chatter about social media usurping it, email remains one of the most effective, and cost-effective, tools available to marketers. We asked several experts for their take on how email will continue to evolve and what it means to you.
Jordan Cohen is vice president, business development at digital advertising firm Pontiflex.
* The top email service providers (ESPs) will ditch the ESP moniker in favor of the more apt DDSPs—direct-digital service providers—or something similar. You’d be hard pressed these days to find an ESP serving Fortune 500 clients that solely deploys email on their behalf. Most already have or are building out mobile, social, and web development offerings in response to marketer demands to manage all messaging that is digital and personalized to individual consumers under one roof.
* Mobile apps will emerge as the next frontier for email acquisition. As Chris Anderson from Wired magazine recently observed, “One of the most important shifts in the digital world has been the move from the wide-open Web to semi-closed platforms,” or apps. With smartphone adoption outpacing the desktop Internet’s adoption by a factor of 10, and the average iPhone user downloading 40 apps, smart marketers will ensure that it’s just as easy for people to opt in to hear from them through mobile apps as they can today on Websites.
* Marketers will adopt a ubiquity strategy when it comes to customer acquisition. In today’s day and age of extreme media fragmentation and widespread “digital attention deficit disorder,” marketers can’t afford to wait and pray for people to find their Websites and then opt in to hear from them. We’ll see a growing number of marketers put signing up for their email newsletters front and center with tactics like “text to opt in” instructions on billboards, sign-up widgets on social networking sites, email registration on mobile apps, and more.
Dennis Dayman is chief privacy and deliverability officer at marketing solutions provider Eloqua.
* Regardless of what you read, email is not dead. Email ad spending will still increase in 2011, as social media adoption will continue to grow at a tremendous rate too. Social media will be used to drive messaging and the user to email as one of the primary channels of ongoing communications. However, social media will be used to support or reinforce the ideas coming in from email, encouraging people to talk openly about products.
* There will a need for marketing tools and platforms to grow up further so that we can offer marketers and consumers the ability to receive multichannel marketing information on a huge number of growing mobile devices.
* With new social media platforms being launched every day, consumers will have more channels via which they can obtain and comment on information about companies and products, thus forcing marketers to play a more integral role in real-time support. Instead of just sending out a message and letting sales deal with the outcome, marketers will have to take a more proactive role in answering consumers directly and publicly.
Chad White is research director at digital marketing solutions provider Responsys.
* Share-with-your-network (SWYN) links will be used by a majority of marketers. SWYN links allow subscribers to share email content with their friends and family members on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, increasing the reach of your messages. As of August, 26% of top online retailers used SWYN in their promotional emails, up from 12% in July 2009. By the end of 2011, the adoption of SWYN links should break the 50% mark.
* Reactivation campaigns will become more important, thanks to ISPs giving weight to engagement metrics when determining whether to deliver to the inbox or the junk folder or to block email. Most marketers still have no plan whatsoever in place to address inactives—the subscribers on their list who haven’t opened or clicked on email in a long time. In some cases, inactives make up 50% or more of a marketer’s list, representing a significant threat to deliverability and a big distraction to focusing on active subscribers. Marketers must start by defining what “inactive” is for them, then progress to segmentation tactics to message inactives differently, and culminate with reactivation campaigns that give subscribers a chance to reaffirm their interest or be dropped from the list.
* Email design will start to be more heavily influenced by iPhones, Android-powered smartphones, and iPads. The distinction between emails and mobile emails is starting to disappear. That will have several effects on email design: 1) Email widths need to narrow. We recommend a width of around 600 pixels; 2) font sizes need to increase so that they’re more legible on small screens; and 3) the space between links and buttons needs to increase to allow fat fingers to hit links accurately. That will also mean navigation bars with fewer links in them.
Rob Wiley is product marketing manager at interactive marketing solutions provider ExactTarget.
With an average of 600 tweets per second, 34,000 Google searches per second, and 700 Facebook posts per second, consumers access infinite amounts of instantaneous information and, as a result, possess a completely new set of expectations. So what does this new era of real-time marketing—and all the statistics that accompany it—mean for email marketers in 2011. It means their brands are already being discussed across the Web, through billions of real-time messages each second. A marketer’s brand becomes the sum of those conversations, and it’s foolish to stand by and watch.
The new era of real-time marketing isn’t about email, print, broadcast, exported data, or interactions alone. It’s about combining and using customer data to gain insight and deliver strategic, targeted messages. So as an email marketer, how can you excel in 2011?
* In the coming year, a strong social media presence will drive increases in brand equity and customer engagement. However, a robust email program is still needed for customer action and sales. Capturing ROI on your social media activity will continue to prove challenging, so pair email with social media and you will receive consistently positive results.
* With all of the data flowing through your systems and the real-time Web, it will be more important than ever to truly understand your customers. Asking the right questions will help you understand the segments of your customer database, but then make sure you have the right tools for exploring those data. Combining data from your email service provider, your CRM and Web analytics database, and the real-time Web, you can identify customer insights that will fuel outstanding email marketing programs. Marketers who ask great questions and identify strategic connections will thrive in 2011.
* Finally, combining your data sources centered on your email subscribers will allow you to drive engaging creative content and messaging. Meaningful dialogue—whether with a friend or a business prospect—is the key to healthy relationships in 2011. That’s exactly why marketers need to combine new and traditional data—from CRM and analytics to social and real-time Web data—to build and maintain positive relationships with customers across channels and over time. Seamless real-time integration will not only eliminate the challenges of multiple providers and disjointed databases, but it will also give marketers a unified view of their customers [with their data and insights]. In 2011, when this singular view of all customers is enhanced by the emerging forms of social and real-time Web data, segmenting audiences, automating programs, and micro-targeting messages will become easier.
* Without a doubt, 2011 will be the year that real-time marketing comes to email. You will deliver outstanding results when the real-time web fuels your email marketing campaigns.
Have predictions of your own you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com.