Email marketing, despite being the oldest form of digital marketing, it’s still a constantly evolving process and what works right now probably won’t work in another 5 years (or potentially even less).
Currently, when you ask marketers about the future of email marketing, one of the big topics on everyone’s mind is artificial intelligence. In recent years, we’ve made leaps and bounds in all aspects of AI and while we already receive emails from bots (usually in our spam folder), we’re approaching the day when we won’t be able to distinguish between chatting with a robot and a real human online.
For more on that and the future of email marketing solutions in general, we asked a group of industry experts…
What’s the future of email marketing?
Here’s what they had to say…
Casey Armstrong, Director of Marketing at BigCommerce
“In the next few years, all effective email and communication (SMS, Facebook Messenger, etc.) will be triggered by an aggregation of prior online actions (eg. you visited page X and did Y), known data points (eg. you are a Director of Marketing at BigCommerce, Austin-based, 30-35, male, etc.), and offline actions (eg. beacon-driven) delivering a hyper-targeted experience. In the next 10-15 years? I have no clue, but it will blow our minds or scare us.”
Bob Reina, CEO & Founder of Talk Fusion
“Business marketers have steadily stopped asking “why video?” and started more aptly questioning: “how can I do this?” Video is no longer a cog in the marketing machine, but rather the machine itself. The video trends and success we saw in 2016 paved the path for what’s to come.”
Zoe Belisle-Springer, Social Media & Content Executive at Phorest
“In 10 to 15 years from now, bulk and impersonal email marketing will undoubtedly be long gone. With email providers making it harder and harder for marketers to reach inboxes, we’ll see Artificial Intelligence and powerful algorithms come to the surface. In fact, Artificial Intelligence – with tools like Alexa – will probably be used by customers to tell marketers how they want to be marketed to. With highly sophisticated interactive and personalized marketing campaigns, better targeting and real-time outreach, the conversion rates and ROI on email should see a dramatic increase – better than ever before.”
Kevin Beam, President of TechTarget
“The post-millennial generation won’t use paper at all, and voice and e-mail may go the way of the fax-machine: they’ll persist, but with limited use. Email as we know it will most likely die. But text and instant messaging lives because of its simplicity and accessibility. AI-fueled automation will accelerate the growth of spam across media, so personal control will rise to block it. We will read only what we want to and what we must — pulling in text communication from family, friends, co-workers and preferred information sources/influencers. In the future, email will need to act more like inbound channels of today, the best of which deliver against very specific long-tail interests of audiences. Marketers will need to excel at data-driven, uber segmentation and engage audiences on their terms with strong, personalized messaging. What’s ideal now, will become a must do in the future or you will fail.”
Colin Darretta , Co-Founder & Partner of DojoMojo
“Email is not going anywhere. Every decade someone comes out with the assertion that email is going to be replaced by whatever the hot new technology is. This has been happening since the dawn of the millennium and email in fact has only become more popular, not less. That being said, it’s evolved, and will continue to do so. Continued personalization of email will be the norm – already machine learning is leveraged by businesses to ensure they communicate things of real value to their subscribers – whether it be a product they are interested in or an article that is particularly relevant to them. By the same token, our ESP’s will become better at curating our emails based on what we want to see. The days of sorting emails into folders will be a thing of the past. Ultimately, however, email will still remain a cornerstone of peer to peer communication.”
Timothy Lorang, Director of eCommerce & Online Marketing at Power Support International
“The future of email marketing is faster, easier mobile shopping for our customers. Using tools like BigCommerce’s new Buy Button integration in MailChimp, our customers can open their email on their mobile phone, see our sale, and with one click check out on our mobile optimized website. Last year 62% of our online sales came through mobile phones and that number is growing. It is essential that we make that process painless. Mobile shoppers do not want to go through 6 steps to make a purchase. One button in your email should bring them directly to an easy, mobile friendly check-out page. The future of email marketing and the shopping experience needs to be seamless, mobile and easy.”
Elliot Rysenbry, Editor of the Trustify Blog
“10-15 years is an incredibly long time frame – but to predict the future, we can take some cues from how email has evolved in the 20-odd-years since the launch of popular services like Hotmail. Right now, over 205 billion emails are sent and received each day, and that number is growing at a rate of 5% a year. That means that 15 years from now, that number will likely be closer to 320 billion. That is a colossal amount of email.
However, services like Gmail have become more and more capable of filtering that volume. Assuming that advances in AI and machine learning keep pace with the growing volume, this means that the average user will see only a tiny, relevant fraction of the emails they receive. Personal communication will likely have completely migrated to other mediums by that point, leaving only spam – which will be filtered – and legal communications (think bank statements) that can’t go anywhere else.”
Erika Levy, Digital Marketing Manager at Sparxoo
“In 10 to 15 years, email marketing will be defined by highly advanced personalization. Digital marketers already know that the key to a successful email campaign is reaching the right consumer at the right time with the right message. In the likelihood that government anti-regulation allows internet service providers to sell their customer’s private internet history, acquiring customer data for marketing purposes will be akin to the next gold rush.
In addition to using data analysis to send highly targeted emails (most likely using artificial intelligence to create the content), geolocation technology that uses a mobile device’s GPS to accurately show where the user is located will merge with modern marketing automation technologies.
In the future, you may get an email from a company that sells nutritional supplements at 7AM on a Wednesday because they know that’s when you normally take a fitness boot camp class. Only they know you didn’t go to class that day because your GPS shows you were at home. They also know you recently booked a vacation to Hawaii because they purchased your internet history. With all of this combined, the email AI might generate a message that says *“Good Morning, needed some extra sleep today? No worries, let “Product X” do the work for you so you can look your best in Maui this Fall.”
Ajay Prasad, President of GMR Web Team
“Email marketing is becoming more and more custom tailored to each individual. From tracking consumer spending habits to their internet usage, marketers are using data to figure out exactly what users need and when they need it. Even the language used can be personalized to different segments for more effective marketing.
As email marketing grows more and more popular, however, people will become desensitized to such messages. They may begin blocking or marking emails as spam if they don’t seem authentic. That’s why so many campaigns are focused on providing immediate value free of charge before they try to sell any products.”
Roger Barnette, CEO of MessageGears
“In 10-15 years, CMOs of global brands will look back on storing email marketing data in the cloud the same way we look back at storing data on a floppy disk. The data integration challenges of today are forcing marketers to change the way they collect and store customer data. In the future, it will be ubiquitous for marketers to have real-time access to all customer data without having to upload and sync data in the cloud. Core functionality, such as delivery, will still take place in the cloud, but marketers will access real-time data from all consumer touch points directly from the source where it lives. It will be the norm for marketers to create highly personalized messages based on sensitive customer data without uploading the sensitive data to the cloud. Replicating customer data in a marketing cloud to create email will be a thing of the past.”
Michael Mignogna, CEO of Minyona
“I suspect that email will cease to exist as we know it today. In 10-15 years, if Moore’s Law persists (Ray Kurzweil thinks it will), artificial intelligence will be self-aware. The ability of computers to learn your preferences, habits, etc., will be so powerful that email will essentially be able to read itself and respond appropriately. The real question is, in 10-15 years, where will administrative assistants be?”
Jennifer Phillips, Vice President of Marketing & Client Services for Traktek Partners
“Email has gone from static ‘one size fits all’ messages to more automation, segmentation and personalization over the last few years. With the rise of website behavioral targeting, email messages will continue to become more automated and dynamic, based on user’s behavior online. Savvy marketers will send more relevant content specific to what their audience searched for or viewed on their website. As content gets more relevant and advanced a/b testing solutions evolve, we will see a rise in email marketing relevancy in the years to come.”
Tieece Gordon, Digital Marketing Executive at Kumo
“Cross-channel marketing and integration will play a huge part in developing email marketing as a whole. They are already pretty closely related but in the near future, it will be absolutely pivotal to the success of a campaign.
Mobile search has now taken over desktop which is proof that more and more people rely on their phones. Most everything they do in normal life can be accessed from their phone, geolocation and other demographics can easily be picked up by a number of mobile apps and services. You’ll be able to cross-reference data taken from different platforms and drive much more specific campaigns for targeted groups, which should improve open and conversion rates.
An important note is that mobile screens are much smaller than desktop. Email marketing will consist of shorter messages that fit nicely, opening up a huge use for tools such as MailChimp’s Inbox Preview.”
Kristoffer Roxas, CEO of Hxnesty Media House
“The industry is going to look completely different. First of all, I think open rates for normal email marketing is going to continue to decline.
It won’t go away completely, even print mail is still around and works well, but there will be so many newsletters by that point that people will be blind to it and just not care.
We’re already starting to see that. People are unsubscribing just because the volume of emails is so huge.
With that said, there are opportunities in other countries. Asia is typically low on email marketing and North American/European style landing pages. It’ll probably start to become popular and effective in those markets.
The most effective long-term strategy is instead of bombing people with sales messages, tell a lot of stories and entertain them. Make them think you’re cool instead of always selling. Communicate from your core.
Emails in VR, too.”
Joan Barrett, Digital Consultant & Owner of Joan Barrett Media
“My prediction is that email marketing will be continue to be a strong force for B2B marketing as less and less businesses will be communicating via the phone and through snail mail.
However, in terms of B2C marketing, I believe that email marketing will continue to decline in terms of clickthroughs and conversions. Social media and services like Amazon have depleted the power of the coupon code, so if you want people to buy your product, it has to be good, it has to arrive quickly, and it has to be competitively priced. In addition, you’re going to have to invest in some strong video marketing and social ads. Email marketing will not cut it.”
Eric Anthony, Founder of StreamingObserver.com
“Email Marketing will get shorter and sweeter. No more once-a-month long emails with lots to click through. Instead, the emails will be brief with only one or two main points to get across.”
Joonas Jukkara, Online Marketing at SEOSEON
“Every marketer knows that the secret to successful email marketing is to serve content that is relevant to the receiver at the right time. Future of email marketing will continue on this path, but instead of campaigns and automation via simple workflow rules, we will see personally AI-powered personally customized content for each receiver. We can already see a glimpse of the future through providers such as Traq.li, whose algorithms are able to use the data on what each visitor views to figure out what kind of content will be sent to them. In the future, I predict we can see recommendation engines that also understand video and audio and are able to combine group and individual data to choose the right send out frequency.”