What’s ahead for email marketers in 2016? From responsive design to an Apple voice-controlled headset, columnist Chad White shares his thoughts on what the future holds for email marketing.
1. There Will Be Many More Positive Media Stories About Email Marketing Than Negative In 2016
After years of “Email Is Dead” headlines, this year brought renewed interest and headlines like “The Triumphant Return of the Email Newsletter,” “Shop, Play Games, And Check Twitter — From Your Inbox,” and “Lena Dunham and why 2015 was the year of the email newsletter.”
The media and influencers finally seem to be realizing that all of the self-proclaimed email-killers — from RSS to social and mobile and Slack — have only made email stronger. And as the shine wears off newer marketing channels, more attention will be given to the marketing channel that consumers prefer most and that has the highest ROI: email. In short, email marketing will get its swagger back.
2. Another Major Email Service Provider (ESP) Will Be Acquired
In 2015, Constant Contact was acquired by Endurance International Group for $1.1 billion. In 2014, IBM bought Silverpop, and Adobe acquired Neolane for $600 million. In 2013, Oracle purchased Responsys for $1.5 billion, and Salesforce acquired ExactTarget for $2.5 billion.
A few software titans, including Microsoft and SAP, have yet to integrate email marketing into their customer relationship management and digital marketing offerings, so we’ll see another big ESP bought in 2016 as the wave of integration continues. The age of email marketing as a standalone, siloed channel is coming to an end.
Email is critical to cross-channel marketing, plus the data from email marketing interactions is vital to fueling campaigns in social and elsewhere.
3. Brands Will Debut The First Shopping Experiences That Are Fully Contained Within Emails
Thus far, interactive email functionality has been largely limited to hamburger menus, email carousels, embedded video and the occasional live Twitter feed. That’s all just a warm-up for the main event: shopping in an email.
Using functionality pioneered by the likes of Rebelmail, a few brave brands will step out into the unknown and allow subscribers to complete entire shopping sessions — including viewing products, picking sizes and customizing orders — within emails without ever clicking through to landing pages. Will consumers like it? I bet that they will.
4. The Majority Of Email Opens Will Be On Mobile Devices
During 2015, the percentage of email opens on mobile devices averaged 49 percent, with mobile opens surging in November and December, according to Litmus’ Email Analytics data. Webmail, especially desktop opens, will continue to decline.
In 2016, opens on the Outlook desktop app will fall to around five percent as businesses continue to shift away from expensive desktop suites like Microsoft Office toward more scalable services like Google Apps and Outlook 365. Cloud-based software will continue to disrupt installed and on-premise software.
5. The Majority Of Brands Will Use Responsive Design For Their Marketing Emails In 2016
Brands have been stubbornly slow to adapt to consumers’ shift to reading email on mobile devices. In late 2014, the majority of marketers were finally using mobile-friendly design techniques for their emails. In 2016, we’ll see this trend take a jump forward as the majority of marketers adopt responsive email design.
Only 41 percent of marketers were using responsive design for their emails as of June 2015, according to joint research between Litmus and Salesforce. Driven by what has turned out to be the most mobile holiday season ever, we expect a big wave of responsive design adoption toward the end of the first quarter and into the summer.
6. Apple Will Release A Siri-Infused Headset That Syncs With iPhones And The Apple Watch
In addition to a new iPhone with a screen size similar to the 5S, Apple will put effort into a voice-controlled headset (a la Jawbone) that can be used to read and dictate texts and emails, access map directions and more.
This new accessory will bring more relevance to the Watch by allowing users to do more without taking out their phones. It will also bring new relevance to the plain text version and watch-HTML version of an email, the latter being the portion of an email that would be most likely preferentially read.
The cumulative effect of all of these developments is that…
7. Email Marketing Will Experience A Second Coming Of Age In 2016
It will be a time of accelerating competitive advantage for brands that are committed to investing in high-ROI, subscriber-centric strategies. And it will be a dangerous time for brands whose resource-starved email strategies have never matured beyond batch and blast.