Chat bots, social messengers and online influencers are being boasted as some of the top-tier channels for digital marketing. While they’ve each earned their stripes, it’s actually one of the oldest forms of digital communication that continues to give marketers the most traction with consumers: email.
The world is nearing 4 billion active email users, all of whom spent a collective 50% more time consuming content online in 2020 than in 2019. The power of this communication channel is not to be underestimated, even if it isn’t as new or flashy as others.
At the same time, email isn’t being used like it was in the past. The landscape of all digital marketing has changed, and email has not been unaffected by these changing tides.
Keep reading to learn what trends in email marketing will have the biggest and longest-lasting effects on ecommerce!
It’s safe to say that email has not gone away, ancient though the technology can seem next to marketing technologies like chatbots and virtual reality. Can anyone really say whether this channel will still be alive and relevant in another decade?
The millennial consumer audience has been in the spotlight the last several years, but they won’t stay there for long. The Generation Z buyer is quickly ageing into place in the world of new, post-COVID consumer trends. These are digitally native consumers who spend as much time on their smartphones in a day as they do sleeping. While they are always connected to their personal devices, however, it’s not their email accounts they’re checking, but their Instagram and Snapchat accounts.
Ecommerce for Gen Z means shopping on social channels as much as it means surfing Amazon. So, how will email marketing still be relevant once this generation outspends others in the market?
Email marketing has been declared dead before, and yet people remain connected here. Let’s take a minute to consider what this means. A whole ecosystem of marketing channels is available to ecommerce sellers today, especially those already operating a multichannel strategy. Customer service and sales can both take place in messengers while marketing and remarketing can be surgically segmented across Google Ads or social networks. Wherever consumers are, your message can reach them. They will not have access to any of those social and messenger accounts, however, without an email address.
As long as email addresses are required as usernames on other accounts, we will continue communicating this way.
Ecommerce marketing has trended away from email in favour of new channels, each of which has its merits. The efficiency of email marketing, however, hasn’t changed despite everything changing around it. Email ecommerce messages still enjoy up to 20% open rates in most industries.
Using this timeless digital channel well, however, is another thing entirely—we’ll get into that next.
While email marketing remains relevant, it certainly doesn’t remain static. Like all things, it’s changing.
For one, it’s getting smarter.
The walls are coming down between email marketing and other channels in a way that’s supporting brands’ omnichannel approach to reach consumers. Buyers online and off are researching products before buying them, and not just by asking for recommendations on Facebook. In fact, 60% of traffic to ecommerce websites is traffic from users with zero intention to buy from that or any other site—yet. Instead, they’re just getting the lay of the land. What options are available for the products they’re interested in? What price ranges do they find? How do sellers stand out one to the other?
According to Think with Google, consumers of online and brick-and-mortar channels now average almost three touch points while researching a purchase. That number gets significantly higher the more expensive an item gets, too, and also when trying to purchase goods that were traditionally tried on or held in-store before the 2020 pandemic hit (like clothing).
With all these touch points, email marketing that once ran in a single lane of brand-to-consumer communications is now part of a bigger, multi-lane ecosystem. Based on how consumers interact with your brand on other channels, you can better segment your email audience to send only the information that’s of real interest.
Email marketing is one of many ways to connect with today’s hyper-connected consumers. Brands that use email as part of a bigger system while also ensuring a consistent brand experience across channels will be on the way to omnichannel marketing and sales, keeping email in its due place at the beating heart of today’s digital consumer.
The “first-name” tag is the smallest common denominator in an expansive library of email marketing personalisations that are possible today.
Along with segmenting audiences (based on behaviours across channels online), email marketing in ecommerce is also leveraging more personalisations. This isn’t a new concept, but it is possible on a whole new level now.
At its core, email personalisation is based on sending different messaging to different groups of people based on the segmentation talked about above. This is more than just segmenting “new customers” from “returning customers.” It gets down to really understanding each user to keep email marketing automated while making the message feel incredibly personal.
For example, messaging can get more specific using:
Most of these personalisations are more easily used for existing and returning customers with more data within your strategic reach. However, the trend for personalisation in general stretches across audiences from the top to the bottom of the sales funnel.
In spite of all the conveniences of online shopping (especially with the global push for more shipping and pick-up options in 2020), there are still some inherent disadvantages for consumers when it comes to user experience when buying online. The physical sensations of shopping are limited to what a user can see or hear. Touching or trying things on isn’t an option, and so many of the factors that normally push a purchase past the finish line instead result in buyer doubt.
Email marketing has become more content-rich as a result of the enhanced capacity to build beautiful, media-deep emails as well as the growing consumer need to “experience” a product before it’s bought online. Enriched photos and videos have helped bridge that gap, and other technologies like augmented reality (AR) have been even better for user experience.
Not only do consumers benefit from all this media, but they’ve come to expect it, too. Photos, for starters, are not only the staple of online shopping, but now have to be enhanced to communicate interesting or compelling things about products. Just imagine a high-quality product photo with an overlay explaining the origin or design of specific features, for instance.
Videos, similarly, have become more than just a marketing hook. A product video gets up-close-and-personal with the products that consumers are interested in. An inspirational video can help consumers see the products in a typical scenario of use, too. By adding video to email marketing, customers spend almost twice the time inside of email content and are 300% as likely to click through to a product page.
Just like videos give consumers a 360-degree view of a product, AR has been injected into ecommerce marketing to provide consumers with a more interactive shopping experience. AR experiences are linked to from within email content, generating higher click-through rates to a growing list of online AR tools that marketers can use to superimpose their products over content captured by consumers’ cameras.
Rich product-based media should be used everywhere in digital marketing, especially in email. Whether it’s linked to or embedded in an email message, users are looking for the visually profound user experience to feel more confident about their online buys.
With all this segmentation and personalisation, not to mention the graphic media accompanying each product, ecommerce marketing is hinging on a gargantuan library of product data now. This includes everything from SKUs and product descriptions to photos and ad copy. Email is ultimately another sales channel, which means product data has to be optimised for it. After all, the product description and specific photos you use on Amazon will be different than the description and photos you use in an email message.
Of course, while the product data will be different channel-to-channel, the product itself won’t. Managing your product data, so you can use the right pieces on the right platforms will keep your digital marketing ecosystem healthy and agile. This kind of product data segmentation and optimisation will simply be part of ecommerce marketing moving forward. Fortunately, product information management software (PIM) was designed specifically to organise this data, so you can easily optimise it for each channel.
Improving technology will make email-optimised product data even more important, too. Soon, consumers will be able to make purchases without even leaving your email. Each message will speak individually to users while weighing in their needs and behaviours, and with the right product data displayed, buyer experience will be maximised in your email messaging for a ROI that goes through the roof.
Product data certainly does become more complex as you promote the same products on multiple channels. This multichannel approach in ecommerce is part of the “new normal,” however. Email marketing trends will continue to get more specific along with these larger product data optimisations as marketers segment and silo even more.
The following blog was written by guest author Alex Borzo, a content contributor at Amber Engine, a software company passionate about eCommerce. The company’s fast and simple PIM software gets sellers, distributors and brands to Amazon and other online marketplaces in weeks instead of months.
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