With the rise of social media in marketing, rumors of “email marketing is dead” were running rampant in headlines. No one in marketing actually believed that email was dead, but several significant changes have necessitated new strategies and tactics. The medium has arguably become even more important as social media channels become increasingly crowded.
Renovations in recent years have altered standards, norms, displays and more. To say the least, those in email marketing have been busy.
These five recent changes have required marketers to find new ways to administer email campaigns.
When Google decided to make a major overhaul on the way emails are filtered in Gmail inboxes, email marketing professionals went a little crazy. The new inboxes now sort incoming mail into category tabs that include one labeled “Promotions,” where most marketing emails now find themselves. This created a great deal of speculation among marketing professionals about how they would be able to reach the hundreds of millions of users on the most-used email platform on the planet.
How marketers have adapted: A hot topic on marketing blogs for some time after the Google announcement, there is plenty of information available on how to adapt email marketing campaigns for the new Gmail inbox. One simple way marketers were campaigning to get moved to the “Primary” tab is including directions in emails to Gmail users on how they can star their emails to receive them in their primary feed.
The biggest way marketers have to adapt practices is by targeting their audience and providing more value to their subscribers. Gmail’s move to categorize promotional emails gives users a better experience by allowing them to read marketing emails on their own terms. Tactics like flash sales aren’t as effective anymore when recipients are reading emails at leisure. To that end, subject lines have become even more important with the new Gmail.
This summer, Yahoo announced it would be cleaning up the Yahoo ID list by eliminating all IDs that hadn’t logged in for over a year. This meant each Yahoo email, and all the other Yahoo products tied to it, would be wiped clean and put up for grabs for new users. Marketers then scrambled to figure out how they would prevent emails already on their list from going to a different person.
How marketers have adapted: When Yahoo cleaned up its list, marketers had to do so, as well, by monitoring emails bounced back by inactive accounts. The transition was about 30 days for marketers to watch for bounced back emails. If marketers were unable to purge their lists of inactive Yahoo IDs, the complaints could roll in about unwanted emails.
Ultimately, Yahoo did marketers a favor by helping them to identify abandoned accounts. Sending emails to those subscribers wasn’t doing marketers any good.
3. INCREASED MOBILE EMAIL USE
The increasing popularity and heavy use of mobile devices has been arguably the biggest change in email marketing in recent years. Mobile devices have drastically changed how consumers access and interact with emails. According to a report from Knotice, 41% of emails in 2012 were opened on a mobile device. That number is anticipated to grow in future years. The Radicati Group predicts mobile email users will grow 28% in 2014 and 23% in 2015.
How marketers have adapted: There’s no fighting this trend for reluctant marketers. Mobile email is the norm now, which means “mobile friendly” templates are no longer enough. Responsive design is the email of the present and of the future. Responsive design allows marketers to adjust text, type, images and other functions of an email depending on what screen or device the email is opened on. Because so many users access email via both desktop/laptop and mobile devices, responsive design is the answer.
Hotmail has been in a slow decline for several years now. In 2012, Gmail finally surpassed the Microsoft platform as the most-used email platform in the world. Earlier this year, Microsoft made an announcement that Hotmail would no longer be available. All current Hotmail users were transferred to Outlook.com by the summer of 2013. Though they could still use the Hotmail.com domain name and keep their addresses, the platform was now Outlook and they had the option to change their address. The move, industry pros predicted, was the “death of Hotmail.”
The Outlook platform also had a similar function to the Gmail tabs, placing non-personal emails into a separate folder.
How marketers have adapted: Anytime a major email platform makes such a striking change, it means email marketers have to do some major housekeeping on their lists. Potentially, users could have both a Hotmail.com and an Outlook.com address that goes to the same account, causing duplication problems. Those users who made the switch to Outlook.com domains will no longer appear on some lists, so marketers had to make an effort to stay in touch with subscribers through other methods, like social networks.
As with Gmail, subject lines become more important when marketing emails are categorized to a different inbox. Targeting engaged users is, of course, of benefit to brands, as well.
5. LIST HYGIENE AND TARGETING
While list hygiene has always been a practice among email marketers, the change in the landscape over the past year made it even more important. List hygiene involves cleaning up lists to eliminate unresponsive accounts and also segment and target audiences better within the list. Inbox sorting, as noted, made sending the right emails to the right people more important than ever. Marketers are also moving away from the email “blasts” of previous years in favor of fewer emails with more personalization.
How marketers have adapted: With email platforms like Yahoo and Hotmail eliminating dormant handles and migrating users to a new interface, marketers have had to pay closer attention to bounce backs and unresponsive email accounts. Many marketers found that when they cut down the numbers on their email lists, they were able to grow engagement, as evidenced by publisher CNET, which cut its email newsletter list by 53%. Other marketers sought to reactivate dormant accounts. The Denver Center for Performing Arts was able to increase ROI by 73% during a reactivation campaign that targeted 40,000 lapsed patrons.
Would you like to see more marketing industry news and information like this in your inbox on a daily basis? Subscribe to our Marketing Dive email newsletter! You may also want to check out Marketing Dive's look at 10 B2B brands showing how LinkedIn should be done.