Email-based marketing is alive and well in 2019 — and thanks to the application of technologies, both new and old, it’s thriving in new ways, too. From AI to video, let’s talk about some of the most recent trends in email marketing so you can take your outreach efforts to the next level.
What Does AI Have to Do With Email?
Judging by the Salesforce “State of Marketing” report from 2017, the average marketer will have access to, and be actively using, 15 different sources of data by the end of 2019. Here’s the tricky part: Even though it’s incredibly useful to have all these rich insights into customer trends and behaviors right at our fingertips, sorting through all that data to arrive at actionable conclusions is a complex and time-intensive endeavor. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in.
The future of email marketing is deep personalization powered by AI. Here’s why:
- When marketers have data coming in from multiple channels, AI can help sort through the noise and understand trends in customer behaviors across a brand’s whole digital presence: website, social, mobile, apps and more. These amount to potentially substantial time savings.
- These AI-driven insights will fuel more personalized and curated product and service recommendations, all without the “traditional” approach marketers are more familiar with, such as setting up rules and triggers for email campaigns. AI can do it all, with increasingly limited input from human marketing experts.
You can think of this as somewhat akin to the way music streaming services come up with playlists: AI algorithms are working in the background to create a “taste profile” for everybody using the service. Using touchpoints like listens and skips, the algorithm gets smarter over time at recommending songs and artists it thinks the customer will enjoy. There’s still a place for human-curated playlists, of course, but AI can generate uncannily accurate predictions and recommendations in the moment.
There are several “triggers” AI-powered marketing can use to streamline the sales funnel and ensure greater customer engagement through email campaigns. These include abandoned merchandise in shopping carts, individual navigational journeys across e-commerce sites, clickthroughs from social media, user reviews and more. Marketers will be able to outsource a larger and larger portion of their email communications to AI, such as customer outreach for new products and services, upselling, relationship management and conversion for customers who left their e-commerce transactions unfinished.
The Benefits of Video in Email Marketing
Research and reporting from all over indicate using video as the CTA for your marketing emails can deliver some impressive results:
- Click-through rates improve by as much as 50%
- Customers spend up to 44% more time reading the email
- Forwarding of emails climbs by 41% when video is involved
- Your rate of unsubscribes could fall by 26%
Clearly, video is here to stay as part of the email marketer’s tool kit. But what’s the best way to go about including it?
Feel free to start simple — GIFs can be just as compelling as proper videos if you choose them wisely. When you do decide to take the plunge and include a video in your next marketing campaign, consider its length very carefully. Some research suggests high engagement with two-minute videos, but also diminishing returns after that point.
There’s another point worth considering, and it involves where, exactly, your marketing recipients end up when they click on a video, or still image with a play button, embedded in your email. The destination, ideally, will be a landing page of your design where viewers can continue watching, rather than a video hosting website like YouTube. That way, your prospects are much more likely to continue browsing your site and make a purchase, instead of getting lost down the YouTube rabbit hole or forgetting to follow the link you want them to click in the video description.
Remember, ad blockers are prevalent among desktop users and an ever-larger portion of mobile users, too — and that the unsubscribe button is just a click away in users’ inboxes. Keeping users engaged with your web properties, and using video to limit the rate of unsubscribes, is vital if you don’t want your audience to mistake your content for spam. Relevant video content and thoughtfully designed landing pages for email campaigns are great ways to communicate value.
Are Interactive Emails the Future?
There’s another element of advanced email marketing worth looking at, and it involves interactivity. Given that one of the key struggles in this area is click-through, what if clicking a link or responding to another call to action wasn’t even necessary to get your email recipients to do whatever you’re asking them to do? Sonos and The Home Depot are two of the biggest names out there pioneering this concept.
It’s remarkably simple: Users receive an email asking for feedback, a rating or another action item, and they can complete that action right in their email inbox — no link or landing page required. Soon, we can expect far more brands and their marketing partners to expand on this idea, including allowing purchases and even hotel bookings right there in the inbox. Other applications of interactive design include games, surveys, quizzes, photo carousels and much more.In some ways, this is the culmination of many years of refinement to the email marketing model: It removes many of the “last mile” pain points and drastically reduces the amount of effort required, by both companies and customers, to close a new sale or revisit an earlier abandoned purchase.
Email marketing is in an exciting place right now. Artificial intelligence is delivering more refined insights than ever before, while tried-and-true concepts like video and interactive design are coming into their own as well.