Email Marketing: Are You Ready For 2011?

As we start 2011, I thought it would be worth a few minutes looking at challenges and opportunities that email marketers will encounter in the year ahead.

Email Address Churning
As the giants of the Internet continue to scrap it out, a number of new email projects have been launched to help build and maintain online loyalty.

Facebook announced Project Titan – its vision for the future of messaging for its 500 million users. Not to be outdone, AOL has announced Project Phoenix that will allow for new and more personalised domains and addresses. It will be very tempting to get rid of that clunky stevstrhay99 user name many of us have been saddled with for years.

We might expect to see a lot of customers on the move and changing their primary email addresses over the next few months, potentially cutting us off. Initiatives and incentives to keep email addresses and profiles up to date will be critical. The trick is to keep the issue top of mind with customers and make it easy for them to update their profiles.

New Layer of Email Filtering
Gmail’s Priority Inbox and Facebook’s Social Inbox may result in mail ending up in folders that are rarely reviewed. This potentially has a knock on effect on our opening rates and other performance metrics. Ironically, it is those same metrics that will help us here.

We will need to work harder to ensure that our customer is opening, clicking, sharing, and forwarding our emails; this helps with complex relevancy scoring that will ensure the message finds its way into a higher priority destination. It spells the end of the one-way communication and opens up some exciting opportunities for on message interaction with customers.

Increased Integration With Social Networks
Love them or hate them, many of our customers are almost permanently active on social networks. Email must be equipped for instant integration; sharing, liking, posting, and linking. This is a huge benefit for the brand, getting exposure and endorsements from trusted friends.

We need to ensure we are making it easy, from a design and technology point of view, to facilitate this. With all the extra exposure we will get, we must make it easy to engage all these new contacts we will meet as a result.

Trigger-Based Email
‘Right message, right person, right time’ has been a maxim of the direct marketing industry for years. The challenge is that ‘right time’ now might be a window of perhaps two minutes. In time, the role of trigger-based email that can engage and interact after a specific action, perhaps reviewing a promotional Web page, will be increasingly critical.

There are obviously performance and revenue benefits here, but managing privacy concerns will be critical. Customers don’t want to feel that we are stalking and spying on them. Once we have checked off the customer’s preferences, we want to surprise and delight them with our ability to anticipate their needs.

These columns are full of stories on the explosive growth of mobile devices on which our emails are increasingly being served up. Feedback from one client recently suggested that 49 percent of customers would prefer to read news and offers on a mobile phone. This one cannot wait. Are your messages able to detect and render based on the operating system they arrive at? Are you writing your copy and treating images for readability and performance over a mobile? It could just make or break a campaign.

All that remains is to wish you a happy and successful New Year. Here’s hoping that your preferred brand of mobile, smart phone, or tablet is in your New Year resolutions and that your campaigns in 2011 continue to perform for you and delight your customers.

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