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Top 10 Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in Email, Mobile and Social Marketing

Discover the top trends, challenges and opportunities facing digital marketers over the next 12 months. This article discusses developments in technology, such as social media, mobile usage and cloud services and offers practical advice on how to take advantage of these upcoming trends and ensure marketers are at the forefront of multi-channel strategic marketing planning.

Top 10 Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in Email, Mobile and Social Marketing. Source: Shutterstock

Top 10 Trends, Challenges and Opportunities in Email, Mobile and Social Marketing. Source: Shutterstock

Content Summary

Trend 1: Using Customer Intelligence to send the right marketing to the right customers
Trend 2: The people on your email list want to be treated like people
Trend 3: Relevance and content will drive a company’s reputation, relationships and results
Trend 4: The social media ecosystem will be intertwined with email
Trend 5: One plus one equals three with email and social marketing
Trend 6: Businesses are going global through online marketing
Trend 7: More people are receiving their email on smart phones and mobile devices
Trend 8: ISP filters will impact your email marketing
Trend 9: The growing importance of cloud services and APIs
Trend 10: Email will be the engine in the online marketing plan


2012 promises to be an exciting year for marketers, despite the continuing difficult economic climate across the developed world. This paper looks at the top 10 trends facing marketing professionals working in the email marketing field over the coming months.

Developments in technology, such as social media, mobile and cloud services, continue to present new opportunities and challenges for marketers. This paper will offer practical advice on how to take advantage of these upcoming trends and ensure they’re at the forefront of your strategic marketing planning. However, it isn’t just technology that is driving change. The growing importance of more intelligent targeting and relevancy of content are also set to become increasingly vital to the continuing drive to maximise ROI.

Trend 1: Using Customer Intelligence to send the right marketing to the right customers

For its low cost and high return on investment, email marketing continues to be an essential part of the online marketing plan. Marketers understand the importance of relevance in email marketing, yet many campaigns are created with little or no segmentation simply because marketers lack the resources needed for proper data analysis. Customer intelligence technology is solving this long standing challenge by enabling marketers to easily and rapidly cross reference large amounts of customer data based on purchase behavior, spend amount, product preference, recent purchases and digital engagement. With this information, marketers are creating highly targeted segments so they can send the right messages with the right offers to the customers who are most likely to respond. The results are compelling. Those who use customer intelligence report upwards of 30% increases to their campaign open rates. Not only does this increase campaign success and profitability, but it also creates stronger customer relationships and brand loyalty. Leveraging customer intelligence technology is one of the most powerful ways for marketers to deliver truly relevant and successful email marketing.

Trend 2: The people on your email list want to be treated like people

The internet and social media have ushered in an era of consumer empowerment. As sensitivity to marketing noise increases, a one-size-fits-all approach to online marketing is less and less effective. It is increasingly important for online marketers to recognise customers as individuals and build one-to-one relationships with them. Marketers need to leverage all of the available tools to ensure they are offering personalised, relevant content to the right segment of their customer base. Frequent emails are not the main issue for customers; the main issue is emails that provide low value. These messages cause fatigue, frustration and reflect negatively on a brand. The right segmentation strategies will enable online marketers to maintain their volume of email communication and improve the value in each communication. Here are some examples of segmentation strategies that work:

Who needs a “nudge?”
The best use of marketing spend is to focus on the customers with the highest potential value. It’s inefficient to email a base of consistent purchasers with significant discount offers. However, there are customers who made a single purchase and haven’t bought again within the expected time frame. Identify this group and give them a “nudge” with a special discount offer.

Who buys high and who buys low?
It’s rare that an economy car owner would suddenly run out and buy a top-of-the-line luxury sedan, and vice-versa. That general theme remains true throughout consumer behavior. Marketers should identify which of their customers make purchases at all points of the spectrum. To market a lowend product to a high-end buyer might actually encourage a lucrative customer to spend less. To market a high-end item to a lower-end buyer might be alienate them all together. Identify your low and high buyers and deliver them offers that are just right.

Who wants to read about bikinis when they’re shopping for winter coats?
80% or more of all marketing emails go unopened. Why? Most online marketers send the same offer to 100% of their customers. Marketers should customise their offer based on the previous click, open and purchase behavior of each individual. Identify the offer that customers will likely respond to and deliver a message that statistically has a better chance of success. This kind of segmentation enables clearer campaign subject lines that are much more appealing for the customer. The result will be higher open, click-through and purchase rates.

Trend 3: Relevance and content will drive a company’s reputation, relationships and results

In past years email deliverability was primarily based on having quality customer data, relationships with the internet service providers (ISPs), good HTML coding, and the right email service provider. Relevant engagement in email marketing has always been important for campaign success, but relevant engagement is now essential for email deliverability as well. ISPs will determine both the deliverability rates and email reputation on the relevance of email campaigns. The golden rules for building your email reputation should be:

Rule #1: Targeted opt-in
Subscribers are receiving increasing levels of emails so it has become a challenge for marketers to differentiate themselves. Gaining consent from a user is a starting point in building a solid relationship between you and the subscriber. Choose a strategy with a confirmed opt-in when you collect details for a new subscriber. Additionally, marketers need to deliver a very clear message on what they will send once someone is on your list. Many companies send a variety of messages that are not targeted to a user’s interests. This can result in poor response rates to campaigns, potential complaints of spam from the end user, and poor deliverability. The best practice is to provide multiple opt-in selections to the end user to ensure they are subscribing only to content that is of interest to them.

Rule #2: Relevant content
It’s important to look at email marketing from the subscriber’s point of view and not just from the marketer’s point of view. Companies often send generic content to a wide array of users resulting in a lack of useful information for the subscriber. Segmentation strategies and customer intelligence can solve this challenge by providing consistently useful content. This strategy is of particular importance in B2B email marketing where subscribers will quickly lose interest if they are receiving messages that are not relevant to their business area. Sending content that a subscriber views as low value is a very quick way of landing in the complaint box of ISPs so it’s very important that emails be consistently relevant in all campaigns.

Trend 4: The social media ecosystem will be intertwined with email

Social media networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ have given online marketers greater opportunities to communicate with their customers and evaluators. Social media has emerged and vastly expanded online communities, but email remains a critical component in the social media ecosystem. Email is being used to drive communication and engagement onto social media networks. Every social network is leveraging email to promote offers and information that makes their network more compelling. As an administrative utility, email provides the basic infrastructure for account creation and account management. At a strategic level, email serves as the conduit that brings users back to preferred social media channels and sites. Examples include emails with daily digests and alerts that notify users about recent network activities and quickly reconnects to them to the network. Social deal based websites also have email at the heart of their business model. These two digital channels will remain intertwined with email acting as the glue between the offer, the update and the social network.

Trend 5: One plus one equals three with email and social marketing

When marketers take the best elements from email and social marketing, they have the opportunity to dramatically increase the effectiveness of both channels. Strategies that merge email and social marketing seamlessly transition consumers across relevant campaigns, events and messages. Here are some best practices for combining these channels:

Leverage email marketing to build an engaged community on your social networks
Launch a dedicated email marketing campaign encouraging existing customers to join your Facebook page. Provide clear benefits and incentives that will be available to fans of your page. This type of campaign will produce an increased number of fans who see value in engaging with your brand and it will help you to start building social profiles of your customers.

Adopt social sharing in your email campaigns
Social sharing enables email recipients to share content on popular social networks and media sites. The move to make email more “shareable” is part of an industry trend to incorporate more social media characteristics into all aspects of marketing communications.

Build momentum on social networks for an email campaign
Provide teasers and reminders through your social network for a big event that is coming up by email, and encourage fans to subscribe to the email list to unlock more details. Plan the continuity of your messages and other user touch points like email templates and web landing pages with a consistent approach, to keep building interest and momentum.

Use Facebook apps or tabs to enable social fans to become subscribers
You can learn essential information about social fans with a short opt-in process on Facebook pages.

Listen to your customers and understand their preferences when connecting with your brand
Collect customer feedback, measure multi-channel responses or employ other strategies to understand how your customers like to interact with your brand. Use this information to launch custom content that’s based on the channel preferences of your customers.

Trend 6: Businesses are going global through online marketing

As the worldwide rates of internet adoption rapidly increase, many businesses that were previously limited to one or two markets are rapidly expanding into international markets with their online store plus email and social marketing. For online marketers with global plans, two aspects of globalisation are particularly important; customisation to local markets and global email deliverability.

Customisation to local markets
Your email and social marketing should adapt for the needs of local markets. Multi-lingual campaigns are essential, but you should also create email and social marketing that reflects local preferences. The timing of your marketing is important as well because updates need to be posted when communities are most active and emails should arrive at optimal times for each time zone. Schedule and refine the timing of your campaigns based on country-specific response rates from subscribers, followers and fans.

Global deliverability
When your online marketing expands into several regions, you need to be confident that your email will reach subscriber inboxes in each of these markets. ISPs around the world have their own set of evolving rules that rely on regional regulations and end-user feedback. Ensuring successful delivery of email requires relationships and experience with the dominant ISPs in each region. Work with your Email Service Provider (ESP) to establish positive relationships on your behalf with local ISPs. This is very important because the standards, rules and policies from each ISP often change.

Trend 7: More people are receiving their email on smart phones and mobile devices

It comes as no surprise that more people are receiving their emails on smart phones and mobile devices, particularly for online marketing managers. The number of people viewing email marketing on devices has been increasing for several years and for marketers this impacts everything from email creative to deliverability testing. With all of the technical issues linked to successful mobile marketing, marketers frequently overlook one of the most important changes between emails on desktops and emails on devices. The biggest impact is the mindset of the subscriber.

People who receive mobile marketing ‘on the go’ have very different behaviour from people sitting at a desktop. Their level of activity, level of attention and amount of time shortens considerably which should have a direct impact on mobile content. Marketers often see mobile content as something that has to look appealing on the device, but the bigger question is does it look appealing on the device while someone is running to catch the bus? More people receiving email on mobile devices really means that more people are getting email marketing while on the move. Their attention span is probably as small as the screen on their device. Marketers should plan to design email content for mobile brains as well as mobile devices.

Trend 8: ISP filters will impact your email marketing

Today all ISPs are filtering emails into more folders than simply the inbox and junk folder. Depending on the ISP, there may be up to six different folders for email that actively separate person-to-person messages from mass mail. The ISPs consider mass mail, commonly known as graymail, to be anything from newsletters and email offers to daily deals and social network updates. The challenge with this definition of mass mail is that an email that might be “spam” to one person might be very important to another person. So what can email marketers do to reduce the impact of ISP filters?

Tip #1: Engagement
User engagement becomes even more important for email deliverability. If the email appears to have higher value, it’s more likely to reach the inbox. ISPs determine the value of an email by the past engagement between the sender and the recipient. Consider providing more compelling reasons for your customer to click on your messages. For example, have the user click to read the full article contained in your newsletter. Another useful action is to get users to reply-to your email. Of course you need to give them a reason to reply, and actively monitor your reply-to address, but many ISPs will automatically whitelist you for that user account once the subscriber replies to your message. It immediately helps your sender reputation and future emails are more likely to reach the inbox as a “person-to-person” communication.

Tip #2: Targeting and segmentation
Targeting and segmentation are also directly linked to inbox success rates. Create smaller targeted lists with more relevant content for each customer group. The smaller the list and the more engaging the content, the more your recipients will interact with your emails – this has an immediate impact on your deliverability rates.

One of the best segmentation methods is to create customer segments based on behavioural data. If you want to predict future behaviour, try analysing past behaviour in the form of user interests, preferences and interactions.

Trend 9: The growing importance of cloud services and APIs

Marketers have the ability today to create a completely seamless online experience for their customers. The main challenge is connecting the various pieces of technology that sit between the customer and their online experience with a brand. Cloud services and APIs enable marketers to connect digital touch points so they can quickly integrate email marketing with key platforms and applications such as the CRM, CMS, web site, social channels, social apps and much more. This type of integration is now essential for any business that wants to execute a cohesive online marketing strategy. Here are some tips for maximising the benefits of cloud services and APIs:

Develop an API strategy
The proliferation of mobile activity reinforces the importance of a well-defined API strategy. Start by understanding where and how audiences engage with your brand online. Develop an online experience with integrated digital touch points that includes everything from the email communication to the social site to the community coupon to the eCommerce application to the ‘thank you for your order’ message.

Choose partners carefully
When choosing your technology partners, carefully review their credentials and capacity to support API developments and integrations. Select partners with well documented APIs that provide rapid integration capabilities with other technology platforms. The most important integrations, particularly in the fields of CRM and eCommerce, are often available out-of-the-box. The best APIs also serve as building blocks for more powerful marketing capabilities.

Always consider the cloud
While ‘cloud’ has been a buzz word for several years, the business value of cloud services is extremely compelling for online marketers. Cloud services provide very efficient data synchronisation, campaign execution, lead tracking, and measurement of ROI for each online campaign. Of equal importance, the complexity of email sending and deliverability is substantially reduced through cloud services.

Trend 10: Email will be the engine in the online marketing plan

Email marketing is not an island and will continue to be part of an overall marketing mix that integrates with other channels, but email marketing will be the engine in the online marketing plan as it powers internet marketing and provides the single highest return on investment. The US Direct Marketing Association forecasts that in 2012, every $1.00 invested in email marketing will provide $39.40 in sales.

In addition to the very high ROI, email also offers a unique vehicle for marketers that no other channel provides. With just a little knowledge about client preferences, marketers can use email marketing to link their brand to personalised offers. Your travel brand might be interesting, but your travel brand with offers to go from San Francisco to Paris for a segment of customers that travels this route at least 2 times per year becomes truly compelling. Your online shoe store might get some interest from potential buyers, but offers with sports shoes directed to athletes and designer shoes directed towards the fashion conscious creates real demand.

This combination of personalisation, brand and offer is a powerful revenue generator. The rapid time to market of email campaigns also enables organisations to quickly reach the market with new products and services. Return on investment, personalised offers and rapid time to market are the top reasons why email will continue to be the engine in the marketing plan.

Source: SmartFocus

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