The 2 Things Email Marketing Experts Are Doing in 2014

Every new year, marketing managers, analysts, and pundits across the globe make predictions about the most popular trends to come in email marketing. Based on early statistics, the top priorities for real email marketing managers in 2014 are 1) increasing subscriber engagement and 2) expanding the use of list segmentation.

Overall email marketing usage

While more modern online marketing channels, such as social media, are increasingly important to marketers, email marketing is growing in importance right along with them. On January 7, Salesforce released a report showing that of the 2,600 mid- to senior-level marketing managers surveyed, 57 percent planned to increase the number of emails they send out this year. Furthermore, according to “a teaser from the April 2014 issue of Direct Marketing News,” 68 percent of marketers believe email is core to their business, and 52 percent plan to increase spending on email marketing.

Why marketers are focusing on engagement

In January, a StrongView survey reported that 44 percent of 387 business leaders said increasing email subscriber engagement is one of their top three priorities in email marketing. Even more telling is that 32 percent of respondents indicated a desire not only to increase engagement, but to develop more relevant engagements.

Relevant engagements are the key to successful email marketing. While high open and click-through rates are nice to achieve, they don’t matter much if they’re not driving sales. In order to drive conversions through email marketing, marketers have to send email content that provides value, and, most importantly, converts.

Popular tactics for increasing engagement: 

  • Optimizing for mobile: About half of email users delete emails that aren’t optimized for mobile. The previously mentioned Salesforce report found that 64 percent of marketing managers say increasing click-through rates and open rates are their main concern in 2014. These days, one of the best ways to do that is to make sure marketing emails can easily be read and clicked on mobile devices.
  • Trigger-based email marketing: Unfortunately, not all marketers have access to trigger-based email marketing, but those who use more advanced email software can adopt this tactic to increase subscriber engagement. Email marketing service provider GetResponse, for example, allows email marketers to send automatic messages related to a subscriber’s previous engagement with the brand. This increases relevant engagements.
  • Personalization: This is another big buzzword for email marketers in 2014. According to Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing Study released this February, personalized emails achieved 29 percent more unique opens and 41 percent more unique clicks than generic emails in 2013. Email marketers who want to increase engagement are likely to look at personalization as a leading strategy.
  • Harnessing data: Data offers insights into subscribers’ preferences and habits that can’t be found elsewhere. As more and more people talk about the power of marketing data, those behind the times have really started to listen. According to the aforementioned StrongView survey, 26 percent of marketers plan to take advantage of data themselves in 2014.

Why marketers are focusing on segmentation

Email list segmentation is another major way to increase subscriber engagement, yet many email marketers still don’t use this tactic. In January 2014, Pure360 released the results of a survey of 600 email marketers, reporting that 44 percent of respondents had not yet created segmented email lists. Improving segmentation and targeting, however, was named a top priority by 31 percent of email marketers, according to the StrongView study.

Segmentation can increase engagement and conversions in email marketing, because smaller segments allow more targeted emails. The larger an email list gets, the more diverse subscriber demographics become. This makes it difficult to target content and provide relevant opportunities for engagement. Segmenting one list into multiple smaller lists drives relevant engagements.

Popular email list segments:

  • Varied time intervals: While many businesses create different email versions for different subscriber demographics and/or content preferences, they rarely give subscribers the option to choose how often they receive emails. Offering different options (every two weeks, every week, every day, etc.) helps businesses retain less interested subscribers and engage more often with subscribers who want their emails.
  • Big purchasers vs. small purchasers: If a business offers services or products that vary widely in price or level of consumption, engagement can be maximized by segmenting lists according to subscriber spend or purchase volume. Email marketers can promote big-ticket items to big spenders, for example, and low-priced items to low spenders.
  • Prospects: In addition to segmenting subscribers by different spend levels, email marketers can create a special segment for subscribers who have never actually spent money with the company. Targeting these prospects with messages that are different from messages to past customers can increase their engagement rates and lead to new conversions.

With their focus on increasing engagement and list segmentation, marketers are indicating that the future of email marketing depends on developing personal connections with subscribers in order to achieve more relevant engagements. People receive so many emails per day that standing out and deepening subscriber relationships is crucial to staying relevant in customers’ inboxes. Targeting specific demographics with better, more engaging content is the key.

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Written by:
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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