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Email marketing’s future

The debate over whether or not email is dead/dying is long over.

46 years after the first email was sent by computer engineering legend Ray Tomlinson, email is just reaching its prime.

For email marketing, the outlook is much the same.

In 1978, Gary Thuerk sent an email promoting Digital Equipment Corp machines to 400 users via Arpanet (the same system that Tomlinson used to send the first email seven years prior). The campaign raked in $13 million of sales. Not bad for email marketing’s first go.

While there have been many ebbs and flows in email marketing’s popularity and approach since then, it has always been a digital marketing stalwart due to its fantastic ROI numbers and easy accessibility for brands.

Yes, email is far from dead. In fact, the field has been undergoing something of a renaissance for the better part of a decade.

Today’s email marketers, designers and developers are smarter and more strategic than ever before and are still always looking for new ways to grow and improve.

Email marketing continues to be one of the best weapons in the marketer’s arsenal. It is only getting stronger in enabling more consistent, higher performing campaigns. The amazing people developing email as a marketing channel continue to enhance email’s ability to resonate with target audiences through personalisation, automation and relevance by the day.

Exactly where email as a channel and email marketing as a medium are headed remains somewhat cloudy, but current trends and developments can give us some strong hints as to what developments we can expect to see in this awesome industry in the years to come.

With that in mind, we turn our eyes toward the future…

Email marketing’s future



Email marketing automation can be expected to become much smarter and slicker over the next 2-3 years. Marketers are already cleverly crafting targeted email campaigns using advanced segmentation based on consumer/subscriber behaviour. We expect to see these tactics put into practice more regularly and thoroughly in the years to come. Such advancements will not only allow brands better reach audiences but also improve subscriber experience and build more robust customer relationships.

In addition, improved email marketing automation will cut down on the time and guesswork needed to create effective campaigns and strategies that convert. It is not inconceivable that entire templated campaigns will soon be developed, scheduled and sent with almost no human input at all.

Artificial intelligence


Artificial intelligence is already changing many aspects of the marketing game. The troves of online data being collected and AI tech advancements are helping create useful tools that are streamlining the relationship between brands, their marketing efforts, and consumers.

AI will soon be a ubiquitous presence in the email marketing world, and its slow creep into the field has begun with copywriting.

Phrasee’s machine learning language generation technology has already proven that AI optimised marketing language can outperform marketing language written by humans in 90% of cases across several key performance metrics. While this technology has thus far been widely used only in the arena of email subject lines, it appears inevitable that similar technologies will soon be used to optimise other forms of marketing email copy.

It is not a stretch to expect that email body copy, sub headers, behaviour-triggers, and even calls-to-action will soon be AI optimised as well.

Big data-driven campaigns

Image credit: Dreamworks Pictures


Through better measuring metrics and data analysis, email marketers will be able to more effectively create, automate and personalise email marketing campaigns. As marketers delve deeper into customer behaviour data and subscriber insights, their ability to strategically profile and target individual customers will become more accurate with each passing year.

Split testing

While split testing is nothing new, it will continue to be a highly useful tactic for determining how to best reach a brand’s audience. As the importance of testing different email methods, timing and messages to clearly see which strategies produce the best results become more widely understood, email marketers can be expected to adopt split testing as a core best practice for developing any email campaign.

Stale A/B split testing methods will be increasingly viewed as antiquated as vastly more effective multivariate split testing becomes more widely adopted in the industry.  

The rise of video


Email may initially have been strictly text-based, but today it doesn’t have to be. The way marketers design their emails, and what type of rich content they include, is going to become more engaging and interactive.

This includes video marketing. Though some may still think online videos are the domain of YouTube fail and cat clips, the potential for using video in email marketing is massive. Video provides a more visually engaging way to present brands to consumers.

Companies using video marketing recently ranked the effectiveness of different types of videos for a report by Ascend2 and came up with the following list (starting with the most successful):

  • Customer testimonials
  • Product demonstrations
  • Explainer and tutorial videos
  • Thought leader interviews
  • Reviews and case studies
  • Webinars
  • Vlogs
  • Videos of events

As consumer attention spans continue to shrink and the never ending battle for the world’s eyeballs moves toward a new zenith, video should be expected to play an ever more important role in email marketing in the days to come.

From personal to hyper-personal


One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to marketing messages. Marketers who blast out the same emails to different segments of their audience are wasting opportunities to connect. Sure, it takes more time, effort and planning to tailor messages to different segments, but such tactics have already been definitively proven to be more effective and simply smarter than traditional “batch and blast” strategies.

As brands become more aware of the wasted time, effort and money sending out emails that don’t resonate with recipients, email marketing personalisation will grow more focused and effective. Looking at customer behaviours, data, preferences, buying history and more, marketers will be expected to fine tune and target email content at each individual customer with growing accuracy.

Available subscriber data is becoming deeper at a rapid pace, and email marketing personalisation should be expected to follow suit sooner rather than later.

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