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Email marketing innovations – what’s new?

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 08 Sep, 2014
Essential Essential topic

The latest tactics showing why Email marketing is "alive and well"

If you think about innovation, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t marketing, probably you are thinking of the latest gadgets, self-driving cars and drones. But in the quickly-evolving marketing world a lot has changed in the way brands and consumers communicate. With a trusted and solid channel like email marketing, where does the real innovation takes place?

Email is mature, but not outgrown

Email marketing is known to be a trusted and versatile marketing channel. In the Gartner Digital Marketing Hype cycle published last July places it has moved beyond 'the slope of Enlightenment' and on emerged onto the 'Plateau of productivity'.

Connected marketing concepts that we also find in this graph are still being hyped, meaning that it will take at least 2 – 5 years before marketers realistically will be getting the most out of these channels, if they ever emerge.

The email channel alternately either serves as the center spoke or is almost synonymous with concepts like: Data-Driven Marketing, Content Marketing, Digital Marketing Hubs, Event Triggered Marketing, Campaign Segmentation and others. This is an interesting observation because while email itself is very mature, these other connected elements are not yet fully developed and can signal the way ESP platform are developing.

gartner hypecycle

Mobile email marketing

Whilst  last year many email marketers were still catching up on making their emails mobile proof and rendering well on smartphone and mobile devices, this is starting to reach maturity. A combination of mobile aware and responsive emails has made its way into commonplace email marketing tactics. Statistics on mobile email marketing optimization by Exact Target leads them to project that by the end of the year, a combined 70% will be mobile optimized within their monitored group of B2C brands.

mobile email

Research into email innovations in the enterprise market

This year a new iteration of the Forrester Wave email marketing was released. The first part of the Forrester Wave Email Marketing Vendors 2014 report includes the results of the Global Email Marketing Customer Reference Online Survey, held amongst email marketers in the enterprise market.

Top email marketing tactics

The tactics and strategies employed are sorted according to the duration of their use: This results in the following top 3 of  'innovative' e-mail marketing tactics used in the enterprise market:

  • 1. E-mail triggers (45% more than 3 years, 39% 1 to 3 years)
  • 2. Personalization ( 45% more than 3 years, 38% 1 to 3 years)
  • 3. Triggered transactional e-mails ( 44% more than 3 years, 26% 1 to 3 years)

The use of e-mail triggers and personalization has almost doubled over the past three years among the surveyed companies. Keeping in mind that three years ago, most companies were not capable of applying these strategies, this growth represents an impressive increase. E-mail marketing is alive and well, and the capacities in the enterprise market are seemingly growing. It implies that marketing in this segment is on its way up, to become more sophisticated.

Let’s talk about the innovative nature of the top 3. Provided all companies can deploy them and it makes good business sense. When over a quarter does use these techniques, you can’t call them innovative any more in my opinion. If they are used by over half, they can certainly be seen as part of the standard arsenal and shouldn’t be included in the list at all, or should they?

Innovation does not equal new technology

What the outcomes seem to explain is that innovation inside a company means new tactics, which is very different to new technology. Every day new email marketing features are released by vendors,

Marketing technology usually outpaces the use and need for these features by a mile. Especially in the enterprise market.

Beyond the technology
For example, marketing automation is not new, but truly working towards one-on-one communication is novel to many companies. Personalization is not new at all, but being effective in using it beyond 'Hi Firstname': totally new to many.

A brand can  innovate their email marketing program by applying the techniques they didn’t use in the past. And if those tactics have the highest ROI and bring them the biggest increase in results, that is exactly what they should do.

Personal plateau of productivity
Now the next step in innovation by brands might not be using new tactics, but using the ones they already have to the fullest – regardless of what everybody else is doing. That might not be called innovation, but and reaching ones own Personal Plateau of Productivity is definitely a new way of looking at it. 

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