Email is more than four decades old, and email marketing (and spam) have been around for nearly as long. Though people almost immediately realized the implications of this platform for commercial purposes, email marketing looks completely different now than it did when the world went online in 1991.
The Data Protection Act
Emails presented a far cheaper avenue for marketers than phone calls or snail mail, but one of the earliest changes with consumers in mind was the Data Protection Act. This Act, passed in 1998, required marketers to include a way for readers to opt out of receiving future marketing messages. The CAN-SPAM Act (2003), the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (2003), and the Sender Policy Framework (2004) were other early milestones that have shaped modern email marketing practices.
The Rise of Mobile
Image via Flickr by garryknight
Mobile devices began to flood the market around 2010, and by 2012, almost half of all marketing emails were opened on mobile devices. Thinking about how emails displayed on these screens and how to link messages to platforms such as Facebook and Twitter forever altered how companies drafted marketing messages.
The Rise of Gmail
Gmail’s slice of total email subscribers has increased by approximately 100 percent since 2013. These accounts now make up roughly 33 percent of all email subscribers. Users prefer Gmail for many reasons, but the influx of subscribers has changed and will continue to change how users craft their email marketing campaigns.
Because Gmail has become so popular, email marketing campaigns need to be designed with Google’s deliverability rules in mind. Without considering these restrictions, email marketers will find that their messages to Gmail users go straight to the spam folder or to the “Social” or “Promotions” folders. More specifically, Gmail has a few snags that are changing the best practices for email marketing:
- Location-based input data won’t update if a user opens an email in one location and then again at a new location. This can create problems, for example, with companies that want to provide location-specific services, such as recommending the closest retailers to a user.
- Gmail doesn’t support web fonts. Brands that use these for their content might have to redesign or consider a new approach if they want to send messages to Gmail users.
- Gmail isn’t a leader in terms of interactive email content and video. Reaching Gmail users with this type of content might prove difficult. Unfortunately, this type of content is also one of the best ways to generate interest in your brand and educate readers. This means it’s worth learning more about Gmail’s interactive media rules and how you can create this type of content for that platform.
Modern Spam Filters
Spam is as old as email itself. But thankfully, we have more control over keeping spam out of our primary inboxes and unsubscribing from mailing lists. Indeed, spam filters are fantastic for individuals, but they create problems for email marketers.
Consider Gmail’s authentication system. To make sure emails go to inboxes and not spam folders, marketers have to understand various types of authentication, including:
- Sender Policy Framework
- Domain Keys Identified Mail
- Domain-based Message Authentication
- Reporting and Compliance
- Transport Layer Security Exploitation
- Transport Layer Security Encryption
- General Data Protection Regulation
Users are engaging with marketing emails more than ever. This is especially true for Gmail, which reports a greater percentage of all users opting to receive email marketing communications compared to services such as Yahoo and Hotmail. Gmail users are also more active compared to users on other email services. This is another reason why many email marketers have to prioritize this platform.
How Can I Create Successful Email Campaigns?
Creating a successful email marketing campaign is challenging but doable. Follow a few best practices to make sure your messages land in the right folder and that users engage with your content:
- Revisit your mailing list. Don’t wait for users to click “unsubscribe.” If you find that some accounts never open your emails, remove them from your list.
- Send messages before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. Marketing emails sent during this period are more likely to be opened and answered.
- Understand encryption types and what you need to do to get your messages in users’ inboxes. Prioritize the platforms that account for the majority of your subscribers.
- Focus on Google. With Google’s Gmail service accounting for such a large chunk of total users, engaged users, and active users, most content marketers have to prioritize this service. Though it has its hang-ups, it’s often worth the effort to learn this system’s specifics and reach the largest, most engaged audience possible.
- Keep the subject line short — three words or fewer if possible.
- Greet the reader by name and expand on the subject line immediately in the email. Explain the benefit of this particular email and why the user should read on.
- Avoid a hard sell. The most effective marketing emails introduce a topic but don’t ask the reader to commit their time or energy or make a purchase on the spot. Asking a yes/no question like “Is this relevant to you?” at the end of the email opens the door for more messages in the future, and your reader won’t have to worry about committing anything else at that moment.
- Think from your customer’s perspective. Marketing content is so ubiquitous with online activity that virtually everyone has an opinion about promotional messages. Consider what you like about the emails you receive at home and what you dislike about marketing practices. Respect your subscribers’ time, and aim to provide succinct, precise information in your emails.
- Test your campaign. If you want to optimize your email marketing, you need to test which subject lines work best and which messages achieve the best results. Visual style tests, structure tests, time/day tests, and content tests are all fantastic ways to improve your email marketing campaigns.
Email marketing has changed significantly throughout history, and we’ll see many more adjustments as users become interested in new types of content and as platforms like Gmail and Outlook tweak their algorithms. Keep testing your campaigns to craft more effective messages, and continue to respect your readers’ time and energy. Though trends will change, these two practices are evergreen in the world of email marketing.