B2B Email Trends to Watch in 2012

Your goal for 2012 should be to develop a comprehensive triggered email program that gets more email in front of engaged subscribers.

In my last column “Reflecting on the Future for B2B Email,” I discussed how the email channel has evolved from being the only digital channel by which B2B marketers communicate via newsletters and alerts to a data-driven, customer-centric channel that communicates your message through multiple channels.

This week, I’ll present my predictions for 2012 and the implications they bring for your email program.

Mobile Expansion

As of July 2011, 40 percent of all mobile phones in use are smartphones. The number continues to grow every day, according to Nielsen research. Android is the king of the mobile operating system share with 40 percent of all smartphones, while Apple iOS is second with 28 percent.

It’s also clear that smartphone adoption isn’t going to stop there. Nielsen’s research indicates that the majority of mobile phone users are likely to upgrade to a smartphone and likely to choose an Android or Apple iOS device.

What does this mean for your email program? In 2012, I predict smartphone penetration will rise to well above half the market. As Nielsen found that 45 percent of all mobile web use is for checking email, this means every version of your email is now the “mobile version.”

With this in mind, it’s imperative that you make your email templates mobile-friendly:

  • Email widths need to narrow, ideally to 640 pixels.
  • One-column designs are best.
  • Raise font sizes to aid legibility when scaled down for small screens.
  • The padding around links and buttons needs to increase so larger fingers can click accurately.

Failure to address your customers’ mobile rendering needs will cause your subscribers to disengage with your program at best and unsubscribe or spam-complain at worst.

Relevant Content Is King

Content-quality tools such as the Google Panda search engine algorithm and the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm have set the bar high for your subscribers.

They now expect you to offer highly relevant content and delete the “noise.” ISPs have followed suit.

The “Last in on top” model will be replaced by “most important on top” approach through continued use of tools like Gmail’s Priority Inbox and Smart Labels, Hotmail’s Sweep, and Yahoo’s “view from contacts” and “view from connections.”

This trend makes segmenting your lists beyond traditional practices (geography, industry, and company size) even more critical.

Start using behavioral traits including clicks in the email, browsing on the website, or discussing with the sales representative to segment your list and drive follow-up messaging.

Using “in-market” data can yield three times to five times the return in revenue per email over traditional broadcast messages.

Increase relevancy of emails using:

  • Segmentation
  • Dynamic content
  • Preference center
  • Clickstream data
  • Sending more emails to the most active subscribers and fewer emails to those who are less active.

Failing to use these methods can banish your messages to the “not important” box.

Rethink How You Send Email Campaigns

Triggered email programs are already becoming a critical part of a B2B marketer’s playbook. After a purchase, 50 percent send a triggered customer-satisfaction survey, 43 percent send an invitation to review the purchase, and 29 percent send a recommendation based on the previous purchase.

However, although 7 percent of marketers report sending browse-reminder emails in 2010, 64 percent said they planned to in either 2010 or 2011. Fewer than 20 percent of surveyed marketers send anniversary greetings, cross-sell/upsell messages, or reorder/replenishment reminders.

While marketers are waking up to the value of triggered emails, sophistication varies wildly. The challenge is to make triggers more sophisticated.

Trigger campaigns are often based upon single versus multiple variables or don’t include exceptions. Other marketers continue to batch their triggered emails rather than mail them on near real-time or include personalized information in the triggered email content.

Your goal for 2012 should be to develop a comprehensive triggered email program that also gets more email in front of subscribers who are the most engaged.

The Last Word

This past year proved to be the year of email marketing maturity, and 2012 will be the year that B2B email marketers continue to engage and drive the conversation with customers, analyzing how the interaction with customers and prospects will evolve.

Effective marketers will focus their programs on customer centricity, lifecycle programs, and data-driven, multi-channel marketing strategies to drive their email campaigns.

The benefit will be the creation of a mature email program that will allow them to gain key insights about their audiences, identify sales opportunities more quickly, and refer hot leads to sales organizations for follow-up.

Ultimately this means more revenue generated for your organization.


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