There’s nothing quite like a deadly pandemic to make people rethink a lot of things. And 2020 wasn’t just a rough time for individuals, either. Businesses had to come up with new strategies. Whether they were traditional brick-and-mortar stores struggling with lock-down conditions, completely online companies dealing with the way people’s priorities shifted or any other business dealing with the consequences of COVID-19, they all had to get creative.
And what some of these companies discovered (or, in many cases, rediscovered) is that e-mail marketing is still among the most effective ways to engage in marketing. That’s right. The oldest internet service ever, the one that has been around even since before the web was ever created, is still very effective.
As companies, from small startups to multinational corporations, get ready to start operating in the post COVID world, email marketing is one of the top priorities. But here’s the thing. While sending an email works mostly just like it did in the 1960s, email marketing strategies are evolving. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a small email marketing agency in Chicago or big, nationwide companies with hundreds of employees. They all need to understand what is new and exciting in email marketing campaigns. What are the email marketing trends for 2021? What are the trends to watch right now? Read on for a brief discussion:
#1 Really talk to your audience
Even the act of drafting and sending an email has remained essentially the same for over 50 years, you can’t expect to copy an email campaign from the 1990s and expect it to run successfully in 2021. A lot has changed in what the consumer expects from the company. Bulk emails sent exactly the same impersonally to thousands of subscribers are just going straight in the trash folder. And if you’re thinking that you’ll add the name of your client to the subject field and in the greeting (you know, how it goes: subject: “Hey David, here’s our catalogue for March 2021”; and in the actual email you just say “Hi, David” and then paste the standard content everyone will receive, I have bad news. That just won’t cut it today either. Each of your clients expects to receive an email targeted at their specific interests and profiles. They expect to receive emails specifically targeted at them.
One solution to this issue is AI technology. Lots of experts say that AI platforms for email marketing will one day be able to generate hundreds of personalized emails per day with just the right set up. But the keyword here is eventually. AI isn’t there just yet. And the other issue is cost. AI platforms are still too expensive for our small marketing agency in Chicago. Only large marketing corporations can start implementing AI at the moment. But this is certainly a trend to watch in 2021 and beyond.
If your company is small or you just don’t want to invest in AI until it’s more mature, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the picture. Your ESP (email service provider, not the other kind) can give you very valuable information about your subscribers; from their interes@ts, preferences and browser histories to a lot more. You can use this information to create targeted newsletters grouped by interest, for example.
This is great for startups that may not have a big marketing budget. Other more expensive solutions can be considered when the time for scaling up comes around.
Successful personalization will need you to:
- Correctly target your groups. No sending beef recipes to vegan customers here.
- Send your emails at the time your client is more prone to opening them. If your mail is sitting in the inbox for several hours, chances are it’ll get lost among the hundreds of emails that can come in during any given day. I, for one, get around 50-70 emails a day (and that’s not very high, believe me!). Chances are I won’t read more than 10 of them so you need to get my attention, ideally while my email app is still open.
- Adapt your content to your user. No pork chop recipes for vegetarians, no fliers about the benefits of gun control over to the NRA.
- Connect people with your brand. Don’t just send over random facts and trivia. Make your clients fell what you are as a brand and what you can offer them to make their lives better. All on a personal level.
In other words, think about your clients, what they need, what they want and come up with ways you can make things easier for them.
#2 Show your customers how you can Appreciate them:
Your customers are real people, with real lives. They have birthdays, celebrate wedding anniversaries and other events when you can email them. Whether it’s a simple email wishing them a happy birthday or a reminder of and upcoming wedding anniversary (with special discounts and good gift ideas).
If you can combine the personalization from step one with the appreciation emails from this step, this can really rev up the communication between you and your clients. They might even start to get excited when they see something from you in their inbox. And that goes a long way into generating more business.
#3 Remember on-the-go
Even though lock-down has forced many people to work from home, more people each day are checking their email through their mobile devices. Please take this into consideration when designing your emails so users can see them well no matter if they are on a desktop computer, tablet or mobile devices. And also take into account that not everybody is a Windows user, so try to use formatting that will display well no matter the device or OS. If I open an email on my phone and can’t read it because of poor formatting, chances are I’ll either delete it right away or it will sit in my inbox undisturbed because I’ll lose it among all the other incoming and read messages when I do eventually get back to my desktop.
Also, don’t forget the ever-growing popularity of dark mode among mobile users. Be sure your email can be read well with both light and dark background settings.
This level of cross-platform and cross-device optimization isn’t easy and is very time-consuming. This is one area you might want to consider investing something in instead of trying to do it yourself.
#4 Have some fun with your clients
Another way to stand out from the crowd is by making your client’s user experience a lot more fun. Get some animated GIFs or dynamic elements in there (just don’t go overboard; you don’t want them having to go for a Dramamine each time they open an email from you). Maybe even an interactive feature or even a little game they can play right from your email. In-email gaming is still in early development, but there are a couple of things that can be done right now.
One fun trend that some companies have started is to let users take part in the newsletter’s creation. Let users send you pictures and testimonials about using your product or service and include some featured posts in your email. Maybe even offer a gift or discounts to those who were selected.
Remember we want your client’s user experience when opening an email to be fun and memorable. We want them expecting your next email.
#5 Remember our new reality
While we might be recovering from COVID, there is still a long way to go before everything comes back to something resembling “normal”. That means more people will be staying at home as much as possible, going out alone or in small groups and wearing personal protection gear. Take all this into account. Make them feel that you’re in the same boat as they are.
If you sell clothing or any kind of products, show them being used or worn inside the house. After all, you don’t need to go out to feel the need to dress up or look your best. If photos must be taken outside, avoid large groups. Make sure people in your photo are keeping social distance and using PPG.
Bonus trend: Going plain can also work
Trend 4 shown above relies on coding and possible HTML formatting to be properly displayed. But, 2020 has also shown us there is still a place for good old-fashioned plain text email. Especially when sending appreciation emails like birthday or anniversary notes. Apparently, many people react well to receiving emails during these times that don’t look like they were created by a template. That they like feeling like you took the time to write the email yourself. So you might want to implement and monitor that trend as well.
Wrapping things up:
Email marketing is going to be big in 2021 and for many years to come. It’s fairly easy, affordable and can be extremely effective when done well. But you can’t just send bulk emails like companies used to do. People are expecting more, no matter if you’re a small email marketing agency in Chicago or one of the industry leaders. Clients want more personal communication, to feel appreciated, to have their preferences and needs taken into account and to have fun. Here we’ve given you some pointers about the main email marketing trends for 2021. Do your homework and figure out how best to implement these strategies. This could be the difference between your business just hanging on or scaling to the next level.