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Year after year, email remains the top tool in the marketer’s arsenal, as a recent survey by eMarketer confirms.

Sure, email is a workhorse that gets the job done and it will continue to be the top target for increased investment across all digital channels in 2016, according to the recent studies. But there’s another reason why brands are doubling down on email marketing: Innovation has made it more effective than ever.

Here are the factors that drive cutting-edge email marketing:

Deeper personalization: Actionable data to drive campaigns can be found in more places than simply demographics and purchasing behavior. An audience segment composed of women aged 24 to 45 may include mothers and the childless; marrieds and singles; those who work outside the home and those who do not. A mom with kids may have very different interests from a single attorney. Therefore, one email campaign won’t fit everyone in that demographic.

Some analytics and marketing platforms now allow marketers to identify prospects based on similarities to existing customers that extend beyond demographics and geography. For example, they’d allow an email marketer to identify crafters or fashion mavens within that segment, regardless of demographics.

Deeper integration with third-party data and marketing technologies: Today’s email platforms allow marketers to leverage data around their subscribers across their own systems, as well as other leading MarTech and AdTech platforms. Using the richest, most current data ensures that campaigns are relevant and reaching the likeliest audience.

Dynamic content elements: Campaign management can get hairy if a new campaign has to be created for each segment. Instead, some email platforms allow marketers to dynamically change elements to appeal to different subscriber bases. For example, Incisive Media, a publisher with more than 100 titles, has created over 1,200 automated campaigns that include content based on the product and subscriber lifecycle segments. These dynamic campaigns include newsletters, personalized alerts and lifecycle marketing. This strategy has led to 31 percent growth in subscription revenue. Way to go guys! (Disclaimer: I used to run Incisive’s North American business (hi Tim Weller!) so I’m always excited to hear such great success stories such as this one.)

Integration with mobile payments: Both Apple and Google recently announced that they would integrate their mobile wallets with websites. Although use of mobile payments is growing slowly, these moves could increase conversions. Mobile users will still have to click through from an email to a mobile website to buy, but at least they won’t have to fill out a payment form one tap at a time. In another wrinkle, the Save to Android Pay API will also let retailers include links allowing customers to add loyalty or gift cards to their accounts, according to Ars Technica.


mobile shopping

The modern ESP

Email has come a long way. For consumers, it’s easy to receive media-rich messages and to interact with them. They can seamlessly watch videos, click through to websites and share via social media. A variety of call-to-action features within messages boost conversion.

On the marketer’s side, it’s even better. Today’s advanced email service providers (ESPs) simplify things like A/B testing and allow them to track campaign performance in real time – and to adjust elements of the email campaign to quickly optimize the messaging.

Marketers can easily build a complex customer profile, following each anonymous customer through every step of the customer journey. More important, email platforms can integrate with CRM systems and other databases and tools, providing a single view of each customer across platforms. Analytics are available through simplified dashboards that it doesn’t take a data scientist to understand, so that everyone on the team can collaborate.

The top ESPs provide a higher level of automation than ever, as well. That begins with automatically triggered emails. Welcome messages to new subscribers and abandoned basket emails keep consumers engaged and can boost ROI.

The most advanced email systems allow marketers to automate content targeting and data collection, too. The 2016 Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Census found that marketing agencies enjoyed a 63 percent increase in “very successful” campaigns, thanks to email automation.


The evolution of email marketing will continue, as best-of-breed ESPs up their game, adding new features and capabilities. It’s very good news for marketers eager to engage customers like never before.