Email marketing trends

May 4, 2018

Although they’ve been around a long time, email newsletters are still one of the most widely used and successful content marketing tactics. Narrative’s Creative Director, Christelle Grobler, looks to the future of email content marketing and what brands can do to stay ahead of inbox overload.

389 unread messages. That is what my inbox looks like right now. Am I disorganised, or is yours in a similar shape? I’m being flooded with emails from brands that I love, but I hardly get the chance to open and read each one properly. When I do take the time to read an email, it is the same kind of information over and over again – today’s special or new products in store – buy now. And so this begs the question: are we using this affordable marketing tool optimally or are there new trends that can be applied to our strategies to maximise the results we’re after?

What’s the feeling internationally?

In America, some 86% of B2C marketers distribute content through email to connect with customers and potential customers (2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America by The Content Marketing Institute). After social media, emailers are the second-most-popular way to publish content. When the overall success of email marketing was measured, it was right at the top as being the most successful content-distribution channel, but at the same time it also ranked as least successful. See the two graphs below.

What is that?

The success of a newsletter depends on a variety of factors such as the time of day the email was sent, the effectiveness of the subject line, the overall design or the quality of your database, the story you are telling and how well you know your customer. There’s a divide: some marketers are hitting the nail on the head with their emailer strategies, whereas others are bombing out with this tactic. Improving things may just be a matter of experimenting or tweaking.


1. A new marketing funnel

“Marketers must now own the complete journey of the customer lifecycle, not just think about cherry-picking touchpoints along the way. The end goal is no longer to simply convert a lead into a customer. It’s about maximising the lifetime value of loyal customers who will come back again and again,” says Samantha Anderl, the Senior Director of Acquisition Channels at Campaign Monitor. She claims that the old marketing funnel is dead and that a new marketing funnel has emerged.

There isn’t a formula to email marketing. The customer journey and the leads generated are unique to every brand.

2. Craft the subject line

Did you know that there is an overseas company called Phrasee that was born out of purely creating email subject lines for their clients? This comes as no surprise. Crafting a good subject line takes time, and you need to get the most out of it. It’s the first thing people see before opening an email and it’s in that moment that a customer will decide whether to open or delete. A new trend is to include emojis in subject lines – you have the ability to say more with less.

3. Short is sweet

People generally don’t have time to engage with long-format emails. You need to hit your audience with strong visuals and a clear message up front to grab their attention. You only have about three seconds to get them hooked. One way to do this is to make the most of your email’s real estate space, particularly the top section that customers see once they’ve hit that open button. An attention-grabbing animated GIF is a great way to make that real estate work harder for you, or a meaningful image with a strong message. The secret to a good GIF is not to animate for the sake of animation, but to be clever about it.

Long-format emails haven’t gone out completely, but since the rise of mobile, marketers have been challenged to reduce the amount of content. Every part of an emailer needs to be scrutinised and brands need to ask themselves the big question: Is this worth our customer’s time?

4. Clever storytelling

Trimming down on wordy emailers means you have to be smarter about telling a story. The secret lies in showing, not telling. Don’t tell your customers about a product or service, but show them how, where, when and why. Show them a paint product and different ways they can use it, or a dress, and different ways to wear it. This will inspire your readers to keep coming back for more.

Storytelling doesn’t have to take place all in one email, but it could be developed into a series that customers can look forward to.

5. Personal experience

Creating a personal experience in email-sense, is no longer just addressing a customer by their name. With the right tools and technologies brands can connect at a much deeper level with customers through data collection, providing customers with quality information that they are really after.

Dynamic content is something that brands need to embrace. Already, forward-thinking brands are leveraging sticky content. Imagine an email on a specific 4×4 vehicle brand where subscribers receive information about trails and events near to where they live. If the subscriber’s location isn’t available, content will be replaced with something generic, but still relevant and meaningful.

6. The one to watch: interactive email

Larger companies abroad are already experimenting with creating experiences through interactive email – referred to as a kinetic email or a mailable ‘microsite’. Users are able to interact with the email interface within the comfort of their inbox. This opens the door to a variety of new design challenges. The aim is to keep the user engaged within their inboxes, without losing them the moment they click out to engage with a piece of content on the website. The experiences that can be created are endless and include elements such as interactive surveys or quizzes, adding items to a shopping cart, incorporating hamburger menus into the design, hovering over images to reveal more information or another image. For now, these interactive effects are only supported or partly supported in AOL, Apple mail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail. Hopefully Outlook will catch on to this soon as this feature will open up a whole new way to use emailers to connect with customers.

Knowing what email platforms your customers are using will be key and it will open the door to new, exciting customer experiences. Bring on the future!

Content Marketing Institute
Campaign Monitor
Marketing Land

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