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A Marketing Carol: The Ghosts of Email Past, Present and Future

Email marketing may not have been around when Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley were doing business, but since its birth in 1978, the tried and true marketing method has become a business of its own.
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Email marketing may not have been around when Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley were doing business, but since its birth in 1978, the tried and true marketing method has become a business of its own.

Considering email marketing's evolution, and given the season, we can use the haunts in the Charles Dickens Christmas classic to compare and analyze email marketing's major phases, and how its content and strategy have evolved over the years.

Read on to learn more about the ghosts of email marketing past, present and future and see what might be in store for 2016 and beyond.

The Ghost of Email Marketing Past
The ghost of email marketing past is perhaps the spookiest of all, representing an era when email was still relatively new and the focus of email marketing was on quantity over quality.

In the olden days, the batch-and-blast method was commonly used. Marketers would group contacts into general batches and blast them all with the same email, with little consideration of individuals' interests or preferences. It could almost be attributed to luck, and nothing more, if a contact was interested in the content of a message that he or she received.

In addition to this simple -- and relatively inefficient - sending strategy, the first marketing email messages also differed in content than they do today. Much like other initial email messages in the 1990s and early 2000s, marketing emails relied heavily on text and offered little more to recipients than promotions and discounts.

However, lessons have been learned from these inaugural times, and the email marketing strategies of today have been shaped in large part by the past's successes and failures.

The Ghost of Email Marketing Present
Today, the ghost of email marketing present has found a way to more effectively target audiences and send them content that is more likely to result in opens and click-throughs: a combination of segmentation methods and personalization strategies.

Marketers now use segmentation tools to more specifically group contacts by age, gender, location, sign-up method, purchase behavior and other identifiers. Using this information, they personalize emails with offers and content that will most resonate with individual contacts.

Additionally, as we've learned more about consumer demands, the focus has shifted to providing quality content that recipients will not just open, but actually enjoy. A soon-to-be released report from Campaigner shows that over half of email marketers now include newsletters and informative tips in their content marketing strategies.

The Ghost of Email Marketing Future
Looking ahead, the ghost of email marketing future will rely on higher quality content, omnichannel methods and predictive data to shape strategies.

Marketers will invest more heavily in their content strategies, specifically by introducing interactive content in their campaigns -- if they haven't already. In fact, the Campaigner report will reveal that 60 percent of marketers will prioritize content marketing in 2016. Features such as quizzes, contests and videos will drive both delivery and interaction rates.

We are also likely to see a wider adoption of omnichannel strategies, with over half of marketers naming social media marketing as a 2016 priority. Additionally, next year and beyond will see a buy-button boom, with over a third of marketers projecting to integrate buy buttons into their emails and social media pages.

Lastly, predictive analytics technology is a tool that will begin to build more momentum, as marketers realize the benefits that it can have on ROI. Contacts' behavioral data gathered by predictive analytics will allow for more sophisticated segmentation tactics and more personalized messages to contacts. In fact, we're likely to see a 50 percent increase in the use of predictive analytics among marketers from 2015 to 2016.

Email marketing has evolved in major ways over the years, and it is no longer the Tiny Tim that it once was. By looking at the past's trials we can best inform our email marketing strategies at present, and by looking at today's insights, we can expect that the spirit of email marketing will only continue to grow in the future.