The email marketing landscape is evolving at a rapid pace – and with it comes challenges like differentiating yourself, scaling gracefully, maintaining trust, and achieving a positive ROI.
While businesses of all sizes are doing a better job of measuring what works and what doesn’t, every year brings new difficulties – and new opportunities. If you don’t want to get left behind as the email marketing landscape shifts, you’ll need to allocate the proper amount of attention and resources to making sure you’re fully equipped to manage these changes as they happen.
Here’s what you need to know about email marketing best practices for 2019.
Personalization Still Reigns Supreme
Personalization is no longer an option – it’s a must. While those sending a lower volume of emails have the luxury of personally tailoring each one, many marketers must incorporate personalization in other ways, such as segmentation. Just over half of marketers (51%) cite segmentation as the most effective email personalization strategy, topping all other tactics. So how can you take advantage of it?
Before you do anything else, decide how you’ll segment your audience. For example, you could segment by:
- Demographics, such as age, gender, income, marital status, income, and ethnicity.
- Geographics, such as local, regional, national, and international.
- Psychographics, such as attitudes, personality traits, interests, values, and activities.
- Behaviors, such as usage rates, brand loyalty, buyer readiness, and benefits sought.
Once you have your audience segmented into specific buckets, you can then leverage email marketing to send more targeted messages that will greatly increase the odds recipients will click through and take the action you desire. Consider hyper-segmenting your emails by having your audience self-select what content they want to receive.
Email Automation Will Continue to Rise
Sure, we all receive automated transactional emails like shipping and order confirmations, but with email automation being so affordable and easy to use, you’ll start to see more and more emails that look and feel like a person is sending them directly to you. They’ll likely feel relevant and personally tailored.
How is that possible?
Tools such as Mailshake can send out drip feed and automated email cadences based on your audience’s activity (or non-activity). These campaigns are meant to inform, nurture, and gather data about their preferences. You can even see if someone opens your emails and what they click on to give you more insight into what’s working and what interests them.
Increased Emphasis on Transparency and Authenticity
With all the noise in people’s inboxes these days, it can be hard to stand out with your marketing emails. Companies are being forced to get creative to break through that noise. One way to do this is through cross-collaboration, where you promote other companies’ products and vice versa, which allows you to tap into other audiences. With the FTC updating its endorsement guidelines and cracking down on influencers, email marketers are taking notice and becoming more transparent about sponsored posts.
Along with a greater emphasis on transparency is also a call for more authenticity and trust. One way to do this is by sending emails from people instead of companies. Seeing the smiling face of Ashley in Marketing instead of a logo or the CEO’s headshot gives an email more authenticity and makes it stand out in the inbox.
It’s also essential that your emails focus primarily on providing value instead of only selling or marketing products. Publish 10x content that’s relevant and useful to the end reader. If you keep hitting them with value week after week and throw in the occasional pitch or sponsored post, you’ll find a more engaged audience – and one subsequently more likely to convert.
An Even Greater Focus on Mobile
You’ll also notice an increase in plain-text emails this year. HTML-fueled email templates, tons of images, and graphics-heavy, overly-designed emails are losing steam, and old-school plain text emails are becoming the standard. This is partly because some email providers don’t show images from unknown senders, and partly because filters set by email providers are diverting HTML and image-based emails from users’ main inboxes into promotional folders.
One of the biggest reasons, though, is that plain-text emails are simply easier to read on mobile. In 2019, mobile phone users are expected to pass the five billion mark, and more than half of all emails are opened on mobile devices. Yet somehow 1 in 5 email campaigns are still not optimized for mobile. To ensure your emails don’t end up unread or in the trash, try following these mobile-friendly best practices:
- Keep subject lines short and personal to increase open rates by 50% and attain a higher response rate.
- Utilize a single-column template. Multi-column formats on mobile devices appear condensed and can be confusing to navigate.
- Eliminate all but one call-to-action within an email to deliver an increase in clicks.
- Use a larger font size of at least 13 or 14 pixels to make your content more readable.
Lastly, don’t forget that each and every email provider handles their email display standards differently. An email might render in Gmail one way and in a completely different way in Yahoo or Outlook. Be sure to test it across multiple providers and devices before sending it out.
Growing a Clean and Engaged Email List as a Top Priority
In life, your reputation is everything – and email marketing is no different. Whether you know it or not, your emails are being judged by your behavior, i.e. your sender score. Your sender score is a gauge of how email providers view your IP address. Factors like spam complaints, emailing to unknown users, and excessive bouncing can put you in hot water and lower your score.
Therefore, it’s best to not focus on growth for growth’s sake. Instead, focus on growing real subscribers who are invested in receiving your content. A best practice here is to deploy a double opt-in to increase security and grow your list the smart way. The single opt-in option ends up leaving your website vulnerable to hackers or competitors who can easily infiltrate your subscriber list with invalid emails or spam traps.
It’s also a good practice to regularly clean up your email list. A tool like Voila Norbert can help combat email list decay and prevent bounces by verifying the email addresses you’re sending to are correct and up to date.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Will Become More Accessible
Email marketing is yet another industry that will be disrupted by machine learning. Artificial intelligence suggesting ways to better segment your email list, sprinkling in specific product recommendations, and even designing a more personal experience when targeting a specific segment of customers are all in the realm of possibility.
Sound too good to be true?
It’s not – and there are several tools at your disposal right now that can leverage AI to enhance your email marketing results:
Phrasee, an AI tool that specializes in language generation for marketing copy, uses complex algorithms to create subject lines, email body copy, and calls-to-action that facilitate more engagement and higher click-through rates. The app doesn’t just follow best practices either. It also uses language found by analyzing your company’s content and determining what your audience responds to so it can deploy more of it.
Persado Pro Email takes the guesswork out of email marketing by analyzing emails through its machine learning and natural language processing tools to maximize responses. It does this by using intuitive style filters to change the tone of your emails to better match your message or brand voice. Like Phrasee, it also leverages powerful algorithms to generate better-performing subject lines, body copy, and calls-to-action.
Some best practices stay consistent year to year, such as personalizing emails and ensuring your content is mobile-friendly. Others are coming to the forefront, such as advancements in artificial intelligence that are becoming more mainstream day by day. Challenges over transparency with sponsorships and ads are shifting the landscape, and the increasing need to ward off email list decay is more important than ever.
A new year is upon us, and with it, a new sea of possibilities. Make sure you stay on top of all the changes, challenges, and opportunities, now and into the future.
What’s consistent and what’s new about your 2019 email marketing strategy? Tell us in the comments below!