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October 20, 2016 (Updated: March 2, 2020)
Email marketing isn’t dead; it has simply evolved to keep up with the times. Brands have become smarter about their email lists and the content they include in their communications. Instead of targeting generic factors, they’re identifying behavioral patterns and creating content based on them. Discover the following six trends that prove that email marketing is not going away; it’s getting smarter.
Image via Flickr by miniyo73
Historically, the goal of email marketing was to collect as many email addresses as possible and contact people on the list daily or weekly with e-blasts. This approach meant that the typical email list was full of spambots, secondary emails that no one checked, dead email addresses, and unqualified leads. For companies that paid per email send, the costs added up.
Today, many companies purge unqualified or unresponsive email addresses to make sure they’re sending content only to real people. As a result, email open rates are going through the roof, and many companies are able to support the same amount of opens, clicks, and responses even though they’re sending emails to a smaller part of their audience.
As companies learn more about the people they’re sending to and identifying qualified traffic, they’re finally able to better segment their emails. Previously, segmentation limited itself to demographic information for B2C companies and job title for B2B companies.
Today’s segments have their bases in interests, past website behavior, and last engagement. For example, some brands track customer engagement and move audiences from daily to weekly emails if they’re not opening or clicking on their daily newsletters. These brands know that they have a better chance of retaining customers if they contact them on their frequency preferences. Others track the last time customers purchased from the company and segments them into a “re-engagement” list to bring them back to a site or store.
Why would you send one email to a specific age demographic when so many behavioral factors better indicate whether these customers are going to buy a product or engage with your business?
Along with audience segmentation, smart brands have started to pay attention to customers within the funnel to create email content that resonates with these audiences. As such, the typical email strategy starts at the interest stage — after the customer is aware of the product and wants to learn more about it — and looks something like the following:
Not all emails are going to result in sales, but companies that can track customers as they move through the funnel will have more success at converting them.
After they take advantage of better segmentation and targeted content, today’s email providers are using behavioral trigger emails to encourage users to further enter the funnel. For example, potential customers will receive cart abandonment emails if they leave their items before checkout. Some brands will include coupons to sweeten the deal and encourage customers to complete the purchase. The action costs only a few cents to reach out to existing customers as opposed to reaching out to new ones, plus the conversion rate is much higher.
Of course, abandon cart emails aren’t the only behavioral triggers that brands use. They also email customers following an event or purchase for a review, reach out to customers who have left comments on particular articles, and follow site visitors who have expressed interest in certain products or pages. These email types are doing wonders for recouping potentially lost business that could never be wooed back with a traditional email campaign.
Many people claim email is dead because they’ve given up on poorly planned remarketing emails. Frankly, terrible retargeting should become an extinct marketing strategy as we evolve to better understand the customer journey.
For example, customers who looked at a pair of shoes used to receive emails about shoes for weeks after they first viewed the product. Even if they converted to a sale, they would receive email content only about shoes. Instead, retargeting ads analyze the types of shoes and price points to place customers into specific shopping categories. In other words, a customer who looks at running shoes will receive information about activewear, while someone who looks at heels will receive information about little black dresses and matching jewelry.
Email automation software is great for weeding out poor addresses and filtering audiences by demographic and purchase intent, but email marketing teams need to create content that gains audience reaction.
These teams need to become experts of the audiences to tailor their content effectively. They need to know what content their customers want to see and how that content will affect their placement in the funnel. Do the customers need to see a tutorial explaining how the purchasing process works, or do they need a coupon to seal the deal for a purchase? The wrong content could result in an email message getting deleted or a complete unsubscribe from annoyed customers.
A myth floating around the marketing world suggests that email is dead, but that’s only because many companies run their email strategies poorly. These companies are not segmenting, or they’re filtering audiences in unproductive ways. Those who continue to evolve will find email to be a useful engagement tool for years to come.