E-Mail marketing trends 2018: 7 ideas for the New Year

E-mail marketing will remain an important tool in the future to inform your customers about offers, new products, or special promotions. Technical developments and changed user behaviour mean that you have to regularly adapt your strategy to stay up-to-date. You might already be familiar with some of these trends - a sign that they are becoming more and more important. Other methods, such as A/B testing or smartphone optimisation, have become so commonplace when it comes to newsletters that they don’t need to be explained in this article.

Generally, this year’s e-mail marketing trends are also aimed at inspiring readers and challenging them with new ideas. The biggest challenge with newsletters is providing users with useful content and original advertising messages. To make sure customers really appreciate your regular e-mails, enjoy the content, and don’t delete your messages without reading them, you shouldn’t ignore these newsletter trends.

Gated Content

The first hurdle you have to overcome as an e-mail marketer: how do you get your customers’ e-mail addresses? Without the user’s consent, you can forget sending out newsletters. But since almost every website, blog, or online shop operator now wants to send its users regular e-mails, you might find that very few users are willing to part with their personal details easily. Therefore, it’s best to find a strategy where both sides benefit.

Marketing specialists can adopt a technique from the online newspaper sector to do precisely that: gated content. In order to create additional ways of making a profit in addition to advertisements, some internet magazines place special articles behind a paywall. The rest of the content is still available free of charge but those who want to read the premium articles have to pay. Other journals offer a certain contingent of freely available content. If the user has reached their article limit, further articles are only available after payment has been received.

However, as an online marketer, your currency is customer data. It makes sense to create content that will only be activated once the user has entered their personal information by subscribing to the newsletter. Only content that provides users with real added value is suitable for this: customers are happy to share their details in exchange for whitepapers, statistics, or online courses. You could provide a preview so that users can see in advance whether it’s worthwhile signing up.

Automation

Once you have built up your mailing list(s), it’s important to send informative newsletters to your customers on a regular basis. These should be automated as much as possible. While automation is not a new e-mail marketing trend, it is a continuing one – and is becoming increasingly important. In the past, it might have been sufficient to send a message once a week and schedule a dispatch date in advance. But now it’s simply not enough. Good automation reacts to the users’ behaviour. This way, you can accompany different users in their purchase decisions.

Thanks to automation, you can kill two birds with one stone: on the one hand, you can react much faster and more individually to each user. Depending on how your customers act online, you can prepare the right e-mail for them and can send it in real-time. On the other hand, you save resources because automation processes mean you need less time and fewer staff members to run effective e-mail marketing.

Customisation

Another newsletter trend that is becoming more and more popular every year and is closely linked to automation is personalising your e-mails. In order for your messages to be effective, they should be as individual as possible. You need more than just the correct name of the customer to impress them: you should also react to what your customer is doing and find out who is behind the e-mail address. Make the most of the information you have on your customers. Even if this data can’t always be assigned to individual people, it gives you a good overview of your target group.

Thanks to automation, you can also react directly to your customers’ behaviour. Send follow-up e-mails when they’ve made a purchase, respond to a product search, try to reactivate users that have gone quiet, or simply congratulate them on their birthday and give them a gift voucher. Make sure you only deliver content that is relevant to your customers. Don’t, for example, try to sell women’s clothes to someone who is only interested in men’s shirts. Work with different distribution lists since not all users fit the same template. Create meaningful groups and address users more effectively.

Dynamic content

When designing your newsletters, there is a new e-mail marketing trend in 2018: steering away from static images and text, and more towards GIFs and videos. Thanks to further technical developments, it is now also possible to incorporate dynamic content into your newsletters. Many e-mail programs and web clients display animated GIF files, and thanks to HTML5, videos can also be played in e-mails. This is a reaction to changing viewing habits and current trends in online surfing. Self-generated GIFs can be used to simulate the stories popular with Snapchat and Instagram, for example. Videos have also become an integral part of articles, social media posts, and instant messaging.

With content that distinguishes itself visually from the competition, you can address your customers much better. But don’t go overboard: while moving images get a reader’s attention, if you use too many it will be too confusing and put readers off. Using dynamic content sparingly also has another advantage: despite new developments, not every user can benefit from this new technology. This may be due to the fact that the program used does not support a particular format or that the files take too long to load due to a slow mobile internet connection.

Note

Since not all smart device users keep up-to-date with the latest technology, it could be that not all dynamic content is displayed properly. To combat this, you should always use a strong alt-text or design your GIF in such a way that the first image of the GIF is informative for the reader. In addition, there are users who don’t allow their e-mails to be displayed in HTML format since they can pose a security risk. You can still lead both types of users to your elaborately designed content by adding a link to the newsletter in the e-mail.

Interactive content

Animated graphics and videos are not only possible in e-mails. Another newsletter trend is aimed at interactive content. This means that users can influence the content when reading the e-mail. This is based on the idea of gamification: typical game elements that give the reader a challenge are inserted into the e-mail. The principle works because the user gets a high from playing and doing well, even though they don’t technically get anything for winning. However, you can create further incentives by distributing small prizes such as coupons, as a reward.

But it doesn’t always have to be a game: anything a reader can click on will increase their interest. For example, several tabs can be integrated within an e-mail so that the reader can click through the offer. It’s also possible for surveys to be filled out directly in the e-mail that bring in very good results. This gives you a double advantage: on the one hand, you can collect interesting data from the survey and on the other hand your e-mail will get more attention.

Note

Not every user can display interactive elements correctly, so make sure your e-mail looks acceptable and interesting to read even without these elements present. You can also provide a link so that the content can be displayed in the browser.

Although these e-mail marketing trends in 2018 have become important for design, and new possibilities shouldn’t be overlooked, you might notice that a countermovement is happening at the same time: some marketers are going back to plain text e-mails. This is because they want to ensure that all users see the e-mail as it’s intended to be seen. However, it is questionable whether this trend will prevail or not.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is starting to spill out into areas outside of computer science. Smaller companies also now rely on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Therefore, another current e-mail marketing trend is to integrate artificial intelligence into the creation and distribution of newsletters. This development is still in its infancy but it is advisable to get in there and keep your eye on the ball. The main focus is on optimisation and making predictions.

For example, artificial intelligence can determine the best dispatch time. It is not only possible to determine the optimal time for large groups, it’s also possible for individual recipients. The same applies to the very important subject line: if this isn’t appealing enough, the e-mail won’t be opened. AI can also help here, although it goes one step further: thanks to the enormous amount of data that artificial intelligence can process, it also makes it possible to make predictions. This way the computer can determine beforehand how well a certain image in a newsletter will be received, for example.

Data protection

Another newsletter trend is competing with the possibilities of artificial intelligence and must be adhered to: data protection. This, of course, isn’t a new topic. Data protection is, was, and will continue to be an important task for marketing specialists. The large amount of personal information makes it easier to advertise on the internet (especially in combination with AI). Of course, you have to comply with the laws. If you fail to do this, your (future) customers will lose faith in you.

Some things have changed: many things have become more concrete and many have become more restrictive. Customers must agree to their data being collected and it may only be used for purposes to which they’ve given their consent. In other words, data provided by a customer so they can buy something, cannot be then used for advertising purposes. This requires additional approval. You must also ensure that this data does not fall into the hands of unauthorised people.

Summary: Newsletter trends

The e-mail marketing trends of 2018 are bolder than ever before: automation and individualisation will continue to be important in the future and can be further developed by adding artificial intelligence to the mix. The same applies to e-mail presentation: dynamic and interactive content can be used to inspire your readers. It will be interesting to see what is going to be possible in the future when it comes to design and selecting the content in e-mails.

What’s becoming increasingly important is data protection. Many users have had bad experiences in the past; not necessarily because they’ve had their data passed on to third parties. It’s more often the way that they have been addressed or harassed by newsletters. Make sure you have a sense of responsibility when it comes to data protection and content design since this will remain a relevant newsletter trend for years to come.