Every year I review trends, changes, and innovations that impact email marketing. What follows are my observations for 2019.
3 Types of Email
The three forms of online media are paid, earned, and owned. Paid media is any form of advertising, such as on Google, Facebook, and niche publications. Earned media is free publicity — articles and other free content that drive brand recognition or web traffic. Owned media includes properties that are controlled by, say, an ecommerce company, such as websites, social media, and podcasts.
Email marketing increasingly encompasses all three categories.
First, email campaigns are owned media. The brand controls the content and the recipients.
Email has paid elements, too. Sending email is not free. You must use an email service provider for a monthly fee, typically. In this respect, email crosses into paid media, although it’s not advertising. Another paid element is the cost of acquiring subscribers, such as co-registration and list rental.
Regardless, email typically provides higher returns on investment than other forms of paid media.
Email subscribers from earned media are extremely valuable. These are usually consumers that have read a brand’s content and then opted in to the email list. Often they are targeted shoppers.
Internet service providers such as Yahoo and Google realize their value to brands and marketers. In recent years, ISPs have themselves captured ad revenue from email, as seen on the screenshot below from Yahoo mail. Note the Verizon ad at the top of the inbox.
The California Consumer Privacy Act becomes effective on January 1, 2020, with strong regulations concerning data transparency and privacy. CCPA gives California residents the right to gain access to the personal information companies keep about them and how that information is used.
The CCPA does not single out email. But the trend of increased privacy laws is not going away in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The United States’ CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is marketer-friendly, especially when compared to Europe and Canada. For example, a U.S. brand does not need an explicit opt-in to send marketing emails. Canada’s anti-spam legislation (“Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act“) does require it.
Nonetheless, sending email campaigns only to recipients who requested them is a good, perhaps essential, practice. Brands should record the date, time, and source of all opt-ins. Additionally, brands should ensure subscribers’ email addresses are current via hygiene and verification tools.
Advancements in artificial intelligence have impacted email. Email service providers use AI to:
- Increase clicks with the best combination of text, images, and offers.
- Increase opens by optimizing subject lines on the fly (as campaigns are delivered).
- Determine the optimal send time.
- Integrate predictive analytics for product recommendations.
The use of artificial intelligence for email marketing will likely increase in 2020.
Email Is Dead?
Any review of email marketing should address its use. Younger consumers have not been heavy email users, which is a worry. But this trend has reversed in 2019, according to a study by OptinMonster, a lead generation platform. The study found that 91 percent of respondents age 15 to 24 use email, as do 85.5 percent of respondents 65 and older.
Many of our digital activities require a valid, active email address. Examples include online banking, event registration, and personal and professional communication. Email is our connection and unique identifier to sign in, sign up, register, and stay connected. It’s safe to say that email is not dying anytime soon.