When email was first introduced, the phrase “You’ve got mail!” was pervasive, even resulting in a movie named after the famous AOL welcome message. With email cropping up in our personal lives, at work, and even in entertainment, email is now more than pervasive, it’s ubiquitous. That makes it one of the most powerful tools at marketers’ disposals. Based on data from thousands of Acoustic customers, email engagement is higher post-pandemic than it was previously, with email continuing to be a dominant communication tool in 2021. Other studies have found that 4.3 billion people use email and as many as 361.6 billion emails are sent each day.
Despite these metrics, email’s getting a bad rap from users who are sick of spam or prefer other communication methods. Apple will soon restrict the marketers’ ability to track user activity via emails that are opened through its Mail app, causing many of us email marketing managers to be concerned with how we can continue crafting personalized email campaigns moving forward. On the consumer side, Gen Z is struggling to collaborate over email, with most preferring other means of communication.
These developments can be seen as big blows for email—or they could be seized as opportunities. Since the world around us is changing, shouldn’t our approach to email change, too? To continue leveraging email effectively as a means of connection and communication, it’s time for marketers to reimagine it for the modern era.
Three Strategies to Keep Email Marketing Powerful
- Rethink your data strategy.
- Leverage email preference centers.
- Unlock dynamic content.
Rethink Your Data Strategy
Whether you’re a marketer at a newly formed startup or well-established enterprise, email is a fundamental tool for engaging your audience. While it will become more difficult to track user activity across platforms with Apple’s iOS 15 updates, personalizing email campaigns is still very possible. Rather than relying on third-party metrics like whether someone opened your email or clicked a link within it, prioritize first-party and zero-party data strategies to better understand and engage your audience.
Zero- and First-Party Data
First-party data is information you collect based on the behaviors, actions, or interests users demonstrate. For example, if you’re a marketer for a sporting goods company, you might surmise that Consumer A is interested in camping because they’ve spent time browsing different sleeping bags on your website. This would prompt you to add the consumer to your email lists associated with recreational activities, outdoor sports, and travel, for example.
Zero-party data, on the other hand, is information that users proactively share. This could come from survey data or other means like email preference centers.
Leverage Email Preference Centers
While surveys are a tried-and-true method of collecting data directly from your audience, email preference centers are often overlooked. Many brands use email preference centers strictly as a means for enabling users to unsubscribe from email communications; they’re viewed as a necessary evil, nothing more. However, email preference centers can tell us a lot more than just which emails your audience doesn’t want to receive—they can help personalize the content they do want to have delivered to them across touchpoints.
Rather than only providing a blanket “Unsubscribe from all” option to users, consider the many forms of email communication you share. Do you have a daily, weekly, and/or monthly newsletter? Do you share sales alerts? Do you provide updates to different audience segments based on topic or interest area? By offering multiple email options, you’ll be able to uncover different interests and provide a more tailored experience that users can help curate themselves.
Unlock Dynamic Content
The information collected via preference centers can also be used to personalize the email content itself, not just which emails your audience receives. Personalized email campaigns are powered by dynamic content, or content that changes based on the person you’re sending the email to. This can be anything as simple as the person’s name to more complex changes within the body of the email itself.
For example, if you’re that online sporting goods store and you’re having one last sale before the end of summer, you’ll want to alert your full email list, but tailor the content based on your customers’ purchase behaviors. All emails may have similar “50 percent off” language, but Consumer A is served tents and sleeping bags based on their interest in camping while Consumer B is served the latest golf clubs. Because this content is directly based on their interests, it is more relevant and therefore more likely to be engaged with.
50 Years Later, Email Still Wins
Email is the reliable marketing tool that’s been around since the 1970s, and because of that, we tend to forget how powerful it can be. But like anything, email—and email marketers—must adapt with the times. The landscape has changed, consumer priorities have shifted, and new technology and tactics are available to us. Instead of lamenting these changes, find the exciting ways to keep email relevant so your brand can stay relevant too.