Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with nine of my colleagues from a broad range of companies and asking them to pontificate and wax poetic on the future of email marketing. As you can see, they came up with a diverse set of predictions, warnings, and ruminations that should give everyone sending email today an opportunity to reflect on their digital communications strategy. Email is the oldest form of digital communication and comes packed with an ROI second to none. Despite years of pundits proclaiming that email is dead, it’s very much alive and thriving, thanks to mobile devices that have put the inbox into our pocket.
Chris Arrendale | CEO | Inbox Pros
Purchasing and renting lists have been a practice characterized by diminishing returns. Historically, purchasing lists does a significant amount of harm to a company’s reputation and leads to deliverability problems across the board. The short-term gains are offset by long terms deterioration of the company’s house file—and ultimately revenue. Over the last few years, numerous Email Service Providers (ESPs) and Marketing Automation companies have beefed up their Terms of Service to reduce their customers’ ability to pump purchased or rented lists through their platforms. As 2016 chugs on, it’ll become more difficult to reach customers acquired through purchased lists—marketers will be forced to rethink their acquisition strategy leading to leaner but healthier house files. The only sure-fire bet to growing your subscriber base is organically through tried-and-true marketing practices. Be authentic, have a voice, an active blog, and provide value for your products and services to drive engagement.
Laura Atkins | Deliverability Expert | Word To The Wise
Security breaches will increase highlighting the importance of improved email security. From Target to Home Depot to Sony, the initial compromises that lead to massive data breaches often started in email. Data breaches have cost companies billions of dollars in damages, lost productivity and customer attrition. Email authentication and other security measures have become more widely adopted such as DKIM, TLS, SPF, DMARC, and DANE and will evolve as a basic requirement to reach the inbox. There’s been an active push to make the web more secure through visual browser enhancements and other forms of security. Email is due for a security overhaul and marketers need to be more aware of the vulnerabilities of the channel and how consumers interact with emails. ISPs such as Gmail & Microsoft Outlook are starting to enable visual icons that help recipients feel secure that email has indeed been authenticated as legitimate and originating from a trusted source. More and more companies need to enable multiple layers of email security to help protect their reputation and their customers’ inboxes.
Jessica Best | Director of Data-Driven Marketing | Barkley
Email will see a flourishing of animation and video in 2016 and beyond. The obstacle to this kind of content historically has been the receiving end (the ISP or mail client). This is the year that marketers and content providers need to push back because consumers expect interactivity in every market and communication channel. There have been small strides with video in email through Google and YouTube, but change will only happen when both marketers and consumers begin to demand a more engaging and contemporary experience in the inbox and we’re well poised for that to happen. You might call it wishful thinking, but I see the transition from static to animated experiences in email as the next big story email can tell. We’ve already taken the first step in this journey by including things such as animated gifs, real-time content that changes upon open and even the use of emojis, up 775% YoY!
Dennis Dayman | CPO & CSO | Return Path
In 2016 and beyond, cloud and email based platforms will begin to need to use privacy as a selling point, or create a value proposition around their privacy posture and policies. Given the recent challenges to Safe Harbor, privacy and inter-global commerce at a digital communication level are under threat. Companies will have to behave and design their business practices with more stringent privacy regulations that exist outside of the United States in order to engage with, and conduct business, at a data level, with organizations overseas. Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas has once again reintroduced an update to the Email Privacy Act; the bill was voted down last year—it would’ve required warrants for ESPs to turn over client emails. Given the many surveillance programs that have made major headlines in the United States, the outside world looks at our business practices with concern. Marketers will have to be more aware of where their data is stored; and who has control, access, and the ability to action that data.
Alexander Garcia-Tobar | CEO | Valimail
Email authentication will increasingly matter to marketing teams in 2016, and not just “messaging and anti-abuse” personnel. Email authentication provides visibility into the true nature of a sender to mitigate fraud (phishing attacks) and provide control across the entire email ecosystem. Typical security measures at a company placed the CISO or security chief in a position to build a perimeter wall around the company. That was then; in today’s world, the company’s brand is an attack vector leveraging their reputation and name recognition to compromise users and defraud them of PII leading to really bad things happening. Companies are beginning to take control of their brand and messaging ecosystems to prevent wide-ranging abuse by installing a comprehensive email authentication model and reporting infrastructure to monitor and resolve issues before they chip away at a brand’s reputation and revenue. 2016 will be the year that email becomes more secure—the work started long ago for Google & Twitter that both enabled Transparency reports to highlight sources of TLS encrypted email in the wild, this trend will only continue and more companies will join the bandwagon.
Nancy Harris | Director of Deliverability | Sailthru
Email filtering and the experience companies have trying to deliver email to corporate domains vs. consumer ISPs are beginning to converge and simplify in some ways. The convergence is the result of cloud based business applications unseating on-prem business tools—as more companies move to a SaaS model, we’ll see a flattening of the nuances involved in reaching a business through email vs. a consumer. In 2015 the rate of cloud hosting for business email has doubled from the year before. As illustration, Office 365 and Google Apps are examples of popular productivity tools that have doubled in size and adoption from 2014 to 2015, per a Bitglass cloud adoption survey. These represent a slew of business domains that have simplified their operations through cloud productivity tools, but also improved the ability of B2B marketers to reach these companies through email.
Ryan Phelan | VP of Marketing Insights | Adestra
Email marketing has become so complicated that few people can wrap their arms around it without bringing in outside resources. The popularity of external agencies and professional services will grow as companies try and incorporate big data into how they segment and target their audiences in addition to creative resources needed to develop and deploy highly flexible and portable email templates that can deliver a uniform browsing experience across a plethora of screen sizes. Agency resources will come in many forms in addition to data partners that help unearth and establish things like propensity to buy, lifetime value, and purchase behavior analysis.
Len Shneyder | VP of Industry Relations | SparkPost
Triggered email will become a larger slice of the overall email landscape in 2016 and beyond. Companies are collecting massive amounts of data that allow the savviest marketers the unique ability to automate more of their email communication strategy. Every customer action and interaction (with a website or other digital property, e.g. mobile app/site) will result in an email as the lowest common—and most pervasive—denominator. Some estimates put triggered and transactional email as high as 4% of total email traffic. In terms of efficacy, triggered and transactional email open rates can be 70.5% higher than batch and blast with click through rates of 152% according to Epsilon. Email communications based on actual customer interaction will drive higher levels of engagement because they close the loop on an experience or event initiated by the customer (such as abandoned shopping cart emails, welcome emails, anniversary emails, curated content based on web behavioral data etc.) vs. one driven by a marketer who doesn't really know their customer.
Matthew Vernhout | CPO | Inbox Marketer
North America is getting smaller—more and more commerce happens between Canada and the United States. However, how you send emails to Canadians is changing thanks to the enactment of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. CASL, as the law is called, is remarkably different than the United States’ CAN-SPAM—marketers hoping to send email to Canadian citizens need to obtain ‘express consent’ that the recipient wants to receive the email. Canada is essentially a true opt-in culture vs. the opt-out culture of the United States. We will see numerous suits and fines levied against not only Canadian companies acclimating to this new policy landscape, but also against American companies—CASL carries the highest monetary fines of any privacy/communications legislation. The CRTC, Canada’s equivalent to the U.S. FTC, has undertaken a massive education campaign head of the law coming into full effect in July 2016 and more components of it coming online in 2017. Data and digital communications continue to manifest as the backbone of our digital economy; similarly, more countries are beginning to change how companies can communicate with individuals to protect them from fraudulent practices in hopes of protecting inboxes and the overall Internet.
Chad White | Research Director | Litmus
Email marketing will have a second coming of age in 2016 because it has entered a period of massive transformation—people are taking a hard look at email because there are so many smartphones in use today. By the end of 2016, the majority of all email will be opened on mobile devices; we’ve already reached a tipping point where more than half of all email opened happens on a mobile device. Beacons, geo-fences, mobile bar codes and mobile-app behavior triggers will further intertwine email and mobile going forward. Email marketing tools will continue to be integrated into digital marketing suites, CRM and analytics all in hopes of achieving the mythical single view of the customer. Web functionality such as carousels will continue to penetrate email templates to create more interactive experiences in the inbox and across mobile devices. Email is the most portable messaging format and offers unique experiences across, web, desktop and mobile email clients.