StrategyContentEmail marketing 2021-22: the glass is (at least) half full

Email marketing 2021-22: the glass is (at least) half full

Why marketers shouldn’t panic about Apple-driven privacy changes and what they should focus on to ensure email continues to thrive

30-second summary:

  • Apple is pushing users to maximize the level of actual email engagement vs the superficial focus on lower-value data
  • Strategy, content, and operational excellence should be the pillars of your email marketing ROI
  • What should you know and action to motor through the changes of 2021 and beyond?

If the pandemic didn’t convince email marketers of the need to evolve, then the latest privacy changes impacting Apple email clients should do the trick.

The good news amid the Apple changes – which make it appear that every message sent to an Apple email client has been opened, so open rate data is nullified – is that they’re bringing about a healthy re-focusing on more impactful email metrics and more audience-focused content strategies and operational practices.

While at least one expert with a very informed perspective is comparing the changes to an earthquake, I’m less pessimistic. But I can think of two reasons the changes should be taken seriously:

  • According to Litmus, 95 percent of email marketers report tracking open rate as a metric
  • The top three email clients in use are Apple iPhone (38 percent of users), Gmail (27 percent), and Apple Mail (11.5 percent)

Your audience makeup could vary but for discussion purposes, assume about half of the users have clients tied to Apple and are therefore affected by the new policies.

Apple’s changes will contribute to several positive trends that will define email marketing for the balance of 2021 and all of 2022. In fact, the state of email marketing – to be explored in a HIPB2B white paper coming next month – is evolving in a healthy way amid ongoing business disruptions, and it is not declining as has been predicted so often over the years.

Our report will recommend a ramped up (or new) focus on a set of email-centric performance indicators, as well as broader business indicators tied to financial performance. I won’t reveal them all here, but for the former category, consider click-through rate (CTR) and follow-on actions (for example, form fills) as prime examples of metrics that have always been more insightful than open rate anyway. They must receive more emphasis going forward. For the latter category, consider the ROI in email, which is more of a business performance calculation than a pure email measurement.

The audience engagement equation

I believe marketers should choose to view Apple’s changes in a positive light because they’re pushing us to maximize the level of actual engagement with those we send emails to, rather than focusing on lower-value data. This will encourage (or force, depending on how you look at it) us to further refine our audience recruitment, targeting criteria, list segmentation, messages, quality of content in our emails, and usability of those emails. The more we optimize these factors for our audience, the more likely we are to see higher CTR, higher conversions, higher revenue per subscriber, and so on. What’s not to like when it comes to changes that push us in this direction?

One great tactic to maximize measurable audience engagement: when you enlist a new subscriber who has opted in to receive your content and messages, send them a high-quality welcome email. This shows them that opening your emails leads to a reward – great content, new insight, a discount, even something humorous to brighten their day.

Engagement is great, but it requires a rock-solid foundation

Strong audience engagement that yields strong performance against higher-level metrics is a highly desirable outcome. But if you’ve not refined the operational side of email (which we all know can be extremely challenging) then you will undercut your efforts in metrics and engagement. Think of operations as the foundation of a great email strategy and measurable success in this channel.

One of several operational priorities we’ll cover in our upcoming report: send-time optimization. While lots of broader industry studies reveal the best days and times for certain types of emails and subscribers, your data is the best indicator of these factors as they relate to your list. You must sharpen your focus on send time and many other practices as you evolve your email operations.

Cause for optimism

Our forthcoming deep dive on the state of email marketing strives to lay out a solid roadmap for factors to consider and steps you can take to manage through the changes of 2021 – just as we all did, successfully, in 2020. Rest assured, we will manage through them again.


Bret Smith is CEO and Founder of HIPB2B. Bret is a Demand Gen, Content Marketing, and ABM expert. He can be found on Twitter @bretsmith_HIP.

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