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A recap of 2016’s most important email marketing trends: are you up to speed?

Year in Review

Email marketing has seen an explosion in popularity this year. Technological innovations have helped put email firmly back in the center of the marketing mix as marketers increasingly recognize its value – not only as a powerful digital marketing channel, but as an unparalleled source of actionable data.

So what’s driving this resurgence in popularity? And are your strategies still at the forefront? Read on as we recap 2016’s biggest trends in email marketing, so that you can hit the ground running in 2017…

1. iOS 10 added an unsubscribe option

The release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 10, brought with it an unsubscribe option at the top of the screen, making it easier than ever for recipients to unsubscribe. However, this new feature isn’t all bad. After all, if someone doesn’t want your emails, they’ll find the unsubscribe link wherever it is. And there are benefits: you’re likely to have a cleaner list and fewer spam complaints.

2. Video support is back

With iOS 10 also came support for HTML5 video, enabling email marketers to once again embed video content – albeit with some technical limitations (Apple Mail can only play it fullscreen, for example). Video is a highly effective way to engage your audience, and you’re in control of the alternative rendering where it isn’t supported. So why not give it a go and see if you too can increase engagement?

3. Automated campaigns

One of the biggest areas of focus for marketers in 2016 was automated campaigns, with 34 percent of respondents to our 2016 Email Marketing Industry Census saying they would be targeting this area. As such, automated campaigns have increased in sophistication from initial cart abandonment emails and welcome messages to click-through and no purchase, limited time offers and up-sell campaigns, as email automation tools evolved to offer marketers more ways to use them creatively and an increased range of email triggers.

Automation triggers 2016

According to our survey, one key automation trend for 2016 is a growing skill base: the proportion of agency respondents citing lack of skills declined from 38 percent to 31 percent this year. However, as marketing complexity increases, it’s likely that some email marketers will struggle to keep up – so make sure you’re on top of new automation technology and targeting techniques.

4. Personalization through dynamic content

Dynamic content hit the mainstream this year. Our 2016 Email Marketing Industry Census saw 22 percent of respondents highlighting personalization as an area to focus on this year. Dynamic content helps with this, personalizing emails to specific individuals based on existing data and pre-established criteria to decide what content to serve.

For example, product recommendations automatically populated based on a previous purchase, real-time weather reports in a travel campaign, or a map to your nearest store, restaurant or bank branch can take an email campaign to the next level. Implemented appropriately, dynamic content can help improve click-through rates, increase ROI, minimize opt-outs and increase customer loyalty. Are you getting as much engagement as you can through dynamic content?

5. Gmail became responsive

When Google announced that Gmail would support CSS media queries – bringing responsive email in Gmail and reducing the need for inline CSS – excitement rippled across the industry. From a design perspective, marketers can now style content to provide an optimal mobile experience for a much larger audience.

From a development perspective, emails are easier and faster to code. They’re also lighter, enabling marketers to take advantage with engaging design elements like retina-optimized images and animated GIFs.

6. Modular template email design

2016 has been a big year for modular template design. The advantages are clear: modular templates let you quickly and easily mix and match layouts to create different emails for different segments and occasions. All without having to start afresh each time. With email automation proving increasingly effective, modular email templates make it even easier to create personalized, relevant emails, while ensuring consistency and aesthetic appeal.

7. GDPR

Marketers have started adjusting their data processes to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), and have until May 2018 to be compliant. And it’s not just those within the EU that are affected. Any marketers who send communications to consumers in Europe need to be compliant with the regulations. And, as highlighted by Ryan Phelan, global privacy will be a major concern next year.

In our survey, The State of Digital Personalisation in 2016, some 54 percent of marketers said they expect the new regulations to have some degree of impact on their ability to collect data.

gdpr-and-personalisation

However, the impact on personalization wasn’t as much of a concern, with 44 percent of respondents expecting it to have little effect – and 18 percent none at all. As long as marketers’ data practices are up to speed, they should be able to develop their use of personalization over the coming months.

In short? Email marketing has never been more exciting. It continues to offer impressive ROI – but to make the most of email marketing in 2017, you’ll need to keep up with new technology and the increasingly sophisticated techniques that are possible.

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