Email Marketing Trends to Watch in 2013

The new year is fewer than three weeks away, but it’s not too early to predict the trends that will shape email marketing in 2013 and beyond.

(How well did my predictions for 2012 hold up? You can review my accuracy in my previous ClickZ column.)

My outlook remains positive. Email is still evolving despite continuing claims that the channel is dead or dying.

The email channel is thriving, as you can see in these two statistics:

  • 67 percent of customers give their email addresses to companies to receive discounts and promotions.
  • 57 percent of customers say they are more apt to buy a product in a store after receiving an email (Digital Strategy Consulting).

Below are my predictions for 2013, along with my recommendations for keeping your email program relevant as digital marketing evolves.

Mobile Optimization Becomes Essential

Consider these two sets of statistics about mobile phone users and their email use:

  1. The Pew Internet and American Life Project (November 2012):
    • 56 percent of all U.S. mobile phone owners access the Internet.
    • 85 percent of all U.S. adults now own a mobile phone.
    • More than 50 percent of mobile users read email on their phones.
    • 88 percent check email on their phones every day.

    Pew reports that 53 percent of mobile phone owners have smartphones, although Nielsen says the number is 55 percent, while comScore estimates smartphones have 51 percent penetration.

  2. Knotice:
    • 36 percent of email messages across 12 key industries were opened on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) in the first half of 2012.
    • That number is up from 20 percent at the same time in 2011.
    • Mobile’s share of email opens is projected to surpass 50 percent for most brands over the next six to 12 months.

In 2013, the majority of your subscribers will open your email on a smartphone. Thus, “mobile-friendly” scalable templates will no longer be enough. You will need to rebuild your templates to account for responsive design.

Responsive email design is the only truly mobile-first strategy. A responsive email design allows you to auto-adjust the layout, content, and text size of an email to tailor it to a specific screen size. You can play with images, too: swap them out for different recipients; shift, disable, and resize them and change their colors.

CSS3 “@media” tags tell the email client how to render two different layouts. Which layout displays depends on the screen size of the device opening the email.

Econsultancy reports that 63 percent of Americans and 41 percent of Europeans would close or delete an email not optimized for mobile. Therefore, if you fail to address your customers’ mobile-reading habits, your emails will be relegated to the digital circular file.

Delivering Relevant Content Remains Key

More stats for you, this time from Return Path’s November 2012 Email Intelligence Report:

  • Marketers account for 70 percent of “this is spam” complaints and 60 percent of all spam traps hits. This is considerably higher than any other source, including botnets.
  • As a result, U.S. marketers’ inbox placement rates decreased roughly 5 percent from 2011.
  • E-newsletters make up the greatest number of emails in consumer inboxes (29 percent).
  • 70 percent of spam complaints are filed on opt-in newsletters, offers, or notifications that recipients no longer want to receive.

These statistics, if nothing else, should persuade you that the days of “batch and blast” and “email and they will buy” are over.

You must offer a regular stream of highly relevant content to your subscribers if you want to stay in their inboxes and keep your email program effective.

Start tracking behavioral traits, such as clicks in the email, browsing on the website, or discussing with the sales representative. Use this data to segment your list and drive follow-up messaging.

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

  • Segmentation
  • Dynamic content
  • Preference data
  • Clickstream data
  • Increasing frequency to your most active subscribers and decreasing frequency to your less-active recipients

Rethink How You Design Email Campaigns

A triggered email program is a critical tactic in an email marketer’s playbook, but in 2013, you’ll need to take an extra step to make your triggered automations go multi-channel.

A timely SMS message, mobile application push notification, or additional frequency from targeted display ads can drive lift over an email-only program.

Rethink your trigger campaigns to determine where multi-channel touch points can be most valuable. For example, SMS is great at driving a sense of urgency through a last-minute reminder, while targeted display excels at reinforcing value while customers are considering their purchases.

In 2013, you should develop a comprehensive, multi-channel, triggered digital marketing program that boosts the overall response from subscribers.

The Last Word

Here are my predictions in a nutshell:

  1. Mobile, relevant content, and multi-channel touch points become the mainstays of effective email programs in 2012. As a result, 2013 will be the year that email marketers will continue to optimize and grow their programs by addressing their subscribers’ changing habits.
  2. Effective marketers will focus their programs on customer centricity, relevant content, and multi-channel, data-driven lifecycle programs to keep their email campaigns successful.

The benefit is a strong and nimble email program that generates more revenue for your organization.

Inbox image on home page via Shutterstock.

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