Four decades after its inception, email is still considered a top channel—fiercely competing with social media and organic search when it comes to delivering ROI. In the Email Marketing Industry Census 2017, conducted by Adestra in partnership with eConsultancy, 73% of email marketers considered the performance of email campaigns either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ while SEO came close at 72% and social media at 44%.
The evolution of email from just an inter-departmental communication tool to being one of the most successful marketing channels was not only reliant on the email’s reach but also the advancements and the improvements to email domains. As we inch closer to celebrating the fifth decade of email, we sit and reminisce about its journey so far and visualize what the future holds.
A Glimpse Into Email Advancements
Shortly after the first HTML webpage was created in 1989 by CERN, emails also took the leap towards being visually pleasing. User interaction and user experience increased with hyperlinks, colors, images, and use of different system fonts.
In 2003, BlackBerry introduced devices which support push email, mobile telephone, text messaging, internet faxing, web browsing, and other wireless information services. In 2007, the first-generation iPhone was announced. For the globe-trotting business person, this meant having emails delivered instantly to the palm of their hands. But email made for desktop (600px) looked congested in mobile (320px) and by 2009, the need for email to be responsive grabbed speed.
In this blog, I’ll cover what tech trends marketers should keep top-of-mind when planning their 2018 email strategy.
Code it Like it’s 2017
Email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, and Lotus Notes do not support <div> tags, and so email development remained stuck in a routine of using <table>,<td>, and <tr> tags. But email clients are now listening to the masses and coming out with updates and upgrades to break away from the shackles of the table layout.
Keyframe Animation-Based Interactivity
Email subscribers are no longer content with a witty email copy or bright imagery. Hence, email marketers have been dabbling with the inclusion of elements to make the emails more interactive. One of the best ways to achieve interactivity is by using keyframe animations.
The animation is created by gradually changing from one set of CSS styles to another, and the @keyframes rule specifies what animation needs to be done at specified ‘key’frame. In addition to common interactive elements such as menus, accordion, flip effect commonly used in websites, emails have some more keyframe animations to boast.
Even though it is currently supported by limited email clients, this has not deterred email marketers from using interactive elements in their emails.
Gamification is the process of incorporating game mechanics into non-gaming realms so that you can drive the desired behavior from your readers. By motivating the subscriber to complete a task in exchange for a reward, email marketers are creating an engaging relationship with their subscribers.
Here are some email examples from brands who used interactive elements in their emails to create a game to engage their subscribers.
Custom Font Support
When you visit a website, fonts on the page are fetched to be displayed as the sender intended. This was not possible in most email clients, but email marketers did provide fall back fonts accordingly for the corresponding custom font. The only drawback was that emails could only support those fonts that were installed in the subscribers’ devices. Now, marketers will be happy to know that there is another method to dynamically fetch custom fonts that need not be installed in the end-users’ devices to be rendered—it can be done with the help of @font-face and @import CSS properties.
This is the original B2B email sent by SproutSocial inviting the subscribers to a webinar.
This is a representational version wherein the heading is displayed in a different font.
There are two types of brands in this world: one type that sends personalized emails and the brand that blasts their entire mailing list. In the Engagement Economy, a world where personalization is becoming table stakes, subscribers are ready to share their information in exchange for getting improved user experience. So, email marketers are leveraging the collected data to bring in the age of hyper-personalization.
Marketers listen to and interpret the information collected from their subscribers and alter content based on their interests, past behavior, or purchase history to create a more relevant and personalized consumer experience.
(Source: Really Good Emails)
In the above email, Tailor Brands offers 50% off on any purchase in exchange for feedback.
Context and real-time information based on relevancy to recent interactions are the stepping stones of sending hyper-personalized emails mainly when it comes to B2B brands. Because ultimately, what matters is the who, the when & the what.
When you invest the time and resources to cater your subscribers (the who) with incentives based on their preferences and user behavior (the what) in a timely fashion (the when), you stand to get customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. With increasing support for dynamic content by email service provers and email clients, the scope of personalization using real-time data has great potential.
In a nutshell, what your customers expect when they receive a personalized email is:
- Moving beyond a tailored First Name
- Contextual information
- Tailor-made content
- Relevant information
- Acknowledgement of their association with the brand
Introduced first in 2009, video in email made a stunning debut boosting the open rate to 19%. Even though currently supported in Apple and iOS mail, Android Native and Outlook for Mac, embedded video in email is a popular and much-awaited element. Taking a step ahead, we can embed a video that can playback when you open the email. For the non-supporting email clients, we can provide a GIF as the background.
Internet of Things
With the rise of wearables, opens up the scope of typing short text emails and being connected to your home automation via email. With home automation, made popular by tools like Apple Homekit and Google Home, brands are widely engaged in building devices and home appliances that are interconnected and also communicate with each other.
You may argue that your home automation could be accessed via a proprietary app, but this is only possible when all your devices are the same brand. In an ecosystem where your devices have a unique email address each, you can control them individually by just switching them off or on.
While social media has greater visibility, email has greater reach into an audience that cares about you. Rounding up the predictions we have presented, it is safe to say that the future for email is brighter than ever. With updated CSS support by email clients, improved customer touchpoints for personalization prospects, and a pinch of creativity is all emails need to soon become ‘Mailable Microsites’.
What are your views about the future of email? Share your ideas and predictions in the comments below.