Now that the dust has settled on the Christmas rush and marketers are looking forward to 2014, we thought it was time to take a look back at 2013 and recap some of the key themes that emerged in email marketing.
1. Mobile Optimisation/Responsive Design
At the beginning of the year mobile optimisation was highlighted as the key opportunity for marketers in 2013, with smartphone ownership increasing steadily and with it the need to adapt to changing consumer habits. While it continues to be a hot topic, there hasn't been quite the spread that was anticipated. Despite opens on mobile devices increasing to 48%1 and purchases via mobile devices expected to grow to $109 billion in the US by 20172 only 11.84% of email campaigns are optimised for mobile. So those that have adopted mobile optimisation are ahead of the curve, which means this is an area that is still worth exploring. To read the full article click here.
2. Gmail Tabs
The introduction of the new tabbed inbox from Gmail shook up the email marketing world and led to some panicked marketers speculating on an email marketing apocalypse. But the prediction that email would suffer as a result of tabs has not been backed up by the data, with research from Return Path highlighting that open rates have increased and spam complaints reduced since the launch in July. The research also suggests that Gmail users view social messages as more of an intrusion in the inbox than commercial messages; of the 39% who modified the default tab configuration (allowing messages into the primary inbox), 77% kept the social tab in comparison to the 46% who kept the promotions tab4. It would appear that rather than relegating emails to a dead zone, the new Promotions tab makes it easier for consumers to search out and view commercial emails when they are in the mood to shop. To read the full article click here.
3. Obama Campaign
Although taking place in 2012, the results and importance of email in the Obama presidential campaign didn't really emerge until 2013. The Obama campaign confirmed the importance of list size and mailing frequency in engaging subscribers and driving revenue. By sending more emails to more people, Obama was able to raise the best part of $700 million via email, significantly more than Mitt Romney. As well as the increase in frequency, the Obama campaign embraced testing, optimisation and peer-recruitment of subscribers, which also played a vital role in creating a sophisticated and effective email strategy. By no means was the email campaign strategy the ultimate reason for Obama's election victory, but it can certainly be seen as a contributing factor. To read the full article click here.
4. Frequency & Relevancy
The myth of inbox overload continues to perpetuate in email marketing with brands fretting over how much email they send. However, there is no data to support this notion, only evidence to contradict it. Most consumers receive less than 6 commercial emails per day, with further research highlighting that when more emails are sent, consumers are more likely to find the content valuable5. We took a look at the advantages of a periodic increase in send frequency as part of a seasonal email strategy. To read the full article click here.
5. ESP/Email Agency Buyouts
2013 saw a spate of buyouts takeovers and investment in various ESPs and email based agencies; the most notable of these being Salesforce's $2.3bn acquisition of Exact Target and Oracle's $1.5bn deal for Responsys. Despite the persistent myth of email dying in some quarters, the success of email in engaging consumers and driving revenue for brands, plus increased investment in the industry, highlights that email is alive, kicking and still the most effective ROI channel in marketing.
6. Big Data
Another topic tipped for big things in 2013 was 'Big Data', which, although generating lively debate in the email industry, has not taken off in the way predicted, or at least become as prevalent. With more and more data being created, Big Data can of course be utilised to improve marketing programmes, but ultimately it's always going to come down to the quality of the data and how it's used, rather than the size of the data. It will never be a fail-safe and good marketers with little data will always beat poor marketers with lots of data.
7. Increase in Volume
Research from the UK DMA highlighted that email volume has now hit an historic high, the second half of 2012 experiencing a 25% increase year-on-year. Email volumes are only likely to increase further, as brands are recognising email as an indispensable channel that on average delivers a £21.48 return for every £1 spent6. To download the report click here.
Marketers have a great opportunity to plan for the year ahead based on analysis of the last twelve months to work out which campaigns delivered the best returns, but also to be ambitious and think about radical new strategies. Here's to a successful 2014!
5 DMA Email Tracking Study 2013, http://www.alchemyworx.com/emailworx/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Email-Tracking-Report-2013.pdf