9 email marketing trends to watch in 2019

Email marketing blends old-school tactics and new digital techniques. Here’s how the channel is poised to change this year.

2019 email trends

Though it doesn’t tend to get the same buzz as channels such as social media, email quietly delivers extraordinarily impressive results for marketers year after year.

Just how impressive?

  • Email has a median ROI of 122 percent, more than four times higher than any other digital marketing format.
  • Email is nearly 40 times more effective than social channels in helping brands acquire new customers.
  • Marketers rank email as the channel that has the best combination of effectiveness and ease.

Email marketing has been steadily effective for so long that an important fact about it is often overlooked: it’s still evolving.

From the platforms that power campaigns to the ways consumers consume messages, email is undergoing profound changes. Which innovations and changes in behavior could have a big impact on the field in the next 12 months?

Here are nine key email marketing trends every marketers and PR pro should keep a close eye on in 2019:

1. Design is more important than ever.

Email began as a purely text-based channel and that has often continued to be the primary focus. Traditionally, marketers have paid some attention to things like headers and images, but the bulk effort has gone towards developing good copy.

That’s starting to change. Brands have begun to realize that effective campaigns are as much about the visuals as the words, and they are starting to focus on design elements such as icons, illustrations and button colors.

Expect to see even more of this in the year ahead as marketers witness increased engagement from their design efforts.

 2. Mobile devices should take the focus.

What’s behind the increased focus on design? In part, the same thing that’s driving many of the current changes in email marketing: the shift from desktop/laptop computers to mobile devices.

Some 55 percent of emails are already opened on mobile devices, up from just 29 percent in 2012. That share is expected to steadily grow in the coming years. Email is now mobile-first and every decision that marketers make in the next 12 months (the length of messages, how they are displayed, etc.) should take that into account.

3. Video content will increase.

Video is expected to make up 80 percent of all Internet traffic by the end of 2019.

Fifty-four percent of consumers want to see more video content from marketers, and audiences say they are more likely to retain marketing messages delivered via video. Combine all that with the fact that email platforms are making it easier to deliver visual pieces in campaigns, and this could be the year that more video makes it into email campaigns.

 4. Personalization is more important than ever.

Before, email personalization was mainly superficial. Marketers would “individualize” messages by simply including something like the recipient’s name.

Thanks to more powerful marketing platforms and richer data, brands are increasingly targeting highly specific content and offers to individuals based on past and predicted behavior.

This approach already yields impressive results. Some 82 percent of marketers report increased open rates with rich email personalization, which will only become even more effective in the year ahead as tools become more sophisticated.

5. Artificial intelligence is changing the game.

Why are email marketing platforms expected to become more sophisticated in 2019? Largely because of artificial intelligence.

Concerning email specifically, AI can already help marketers develop effective content (topics, subject lines, etc), optimize send times/frequency and predict audience actions.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI is evolving rapidly and there should be many more real-world applications coming for email marketers in the year ahead.

6. Marketers will use more “triggered emails.”

Triggered emails—messages delivered only when an individual has taken a certain action such as subscribing or abandoning a shopping cart—have a 71 percent higher average open rate and 102 percent higher average click-through rate compared to general newsletters.

Those numbers are driven by the fact that marketers tend to have greater insight into intent when it comes to triggered emails and can deliver more relevant messaging. That effectiveness, and the fact that audiences tend to be less annoyed by triggered emails, is a strong argument for their increased use in 2019.

7. Interactive content wins.

All too often, campaigns are thought of as being static rather than dynamic. Today, though, marketing platforms make it possible to add a host of interactive elements to emails, such as image carousels, hamburger menus, clickable hotspots and navigational anchor tags.

There are other more simple tactics marketers can utilize to enable audiences to engage with messages, such as including a “reply to us” option for recipients. At minimum, brands should consider experimenting with this sort of basic interactivity to boost engagement in 2019.

8. Privacy looms large for email marketers.

The biggest email story of the past year was the EU’s GDPR law. The regulations adopted by the EU put in place strict controls on how marketers can collect and use data and gave consumers much more control over their personal information. Suddenly, many of the approaches brands had taken for years, such as buying email lists, became questionable.

While the GDPR concerned European citizens, it was by no means an isolated event. Consumers across the world are deeply concerned about how brands are using their data and the issue is certain to remain at the forefront for years to come.

As an example, the California Consumer Privacy Act goes into effect in 2020 and will impact US email marketers in similar ways to the GDPR.

9. Your unique voice is paramount.

Every day individuals and businesses send more than 293 billion emails, and that number is expected to increase to more than 333 billion by 2022.

How do you break through that noise to get your campaigns opened and read?

Developing a distinct tone gives marketers a big advantage when it comes to email. It makes messages different and instantly recognizable to audiences.

How are you planning to use email marketing in 2019?

Michael Del Gigante is the founder of MDG Advertising. A version of this article originally appeared on the MDG blog.

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