Bold prediction: A lot of brands and agencies are going to be wiped out by the iOS 15 updates.
Let's be honest: reaching the inbox is going to be more challenging than ever.
Measuring attribution is about to get more difficult.
There are two ways to approach things:
1) Bury your head in the sand and ignore what's happening
2) Optimise email beyond revenue generation and deliver phenomenal experiences to your customers
The game is changing. Be prepared to adapt and implement these strategies to stay ahead of the competition.
The way email marketing is typically done today in eCommerce, simply won’t be enough for a lot of brands to prosper in the next 2 years.
Merchants are going to face some incredible challenges getting their emails delivered, opened and read in the inbox post-iOS 15.
I predict a lot of brands will either give up their marketing efforts on the platform, or drastically reevaluate how they’re using email to communicate with their customers.
The main two implications for marketers using the channel are:
- Segmentation: standard methods of categorising somebody as engaged based on open rates will become redundant. We need to discover different metrics to gauge engagement with our email programs.
- Deliverability: If you continue to email people who you don’t know have opened your emails, your deliverability will be crushed and you’ll never reach the inbox.
It is clear that based on the above alone, email will have to become a two-way communication channel, not one-way.
The following metrics/actions are going to become paramount to succeed on the channel:
- Responses to emails
- Clicks on emails
The first will put more emphasis on having the infrastructure to have conversations at scale with D2C brands and shift email back towards being an engagement channel.
The second will put more pressure on the brand to deliver value in their emails and step up their content strategy. After all, why would somebody click an email and browse your site if you’re not delivering value?
In a nutshell: spammers will find it more challenging than ever to, well, spam. Good senders have a strong opportunity to claim prime real estate in the inbox.
Here’s how the “old way” will fizzle out and the “new way” of doing things will replace it
Old Way #1: Front-end Pop-ups focused on conversion at all costs
Traditional website pop-ups have been focused solely on conversion at all costs. Here’s an example:
Whilst these generic pop-ups work for generating conversions, they don’t help us understand our customers at all, in any way meaningful.
New Way: Front-end Pop-ups to act as data enrichment points, helping us to understand our prospective customers, that feed into our personalised segmentation strategy.
By including a single data point in the above, Bluemann will be able to deliver a personalised welcome series and collect invaluable data for retargeting and segmenting their customer from the very first interaction.
I predict at the very least, capturing the single most crucial data point will become mandatory for eCommerce brands to succeed.
It is evident that unless you capture this data upfront, you’re always going to be chasing your tail in D2C to find out these insights after the sale.
The best thing? Customers willingly share this data providing you can commit to creating a better experience for them.
Old Way #2: Batch-and-blast campaigns to drive sales
Sending the same campaign to everybody with no personalisation, every time will become something reserved solely for giant brands.
With huge acquisition budgets and complex inventory requirements, these mass marketing campaigns serve primarily to help the brand clear stock, rather than serve the customer.
And with brand equity that often has been built over decades, giant brands have had the luxury of suffering the fewest consequences of this approach.
New Way: Granular segmentation on campaigns & flows that speak directly to the customer’s preferences
The future success of email marketing is going to be grounded in a deep innate desire for brands to understand their customers and serve them with purposeful content.
That all starts with collecting relevant data from them from the very first interaction and using this to tailor personalised touchpoints that serve the customer at the appropriate stage of their journey.
There is literally no alternative at this point but to progressively profile customers from the very first interaction and then continuously work towards tailoring content further down the line that serves them best.
With the traditional engagement metrics dying out (opens), we’ll need to get customers to proactively respond, click, and inform us that they want to hear from us to maintain a strong sender reputation.
This starts by delivering value to our customers, and value is created by understanding who you’re speaking to and what appeals to them the most.
Old Way #3: Used Primarily as a sales channel
The days of email being used solely to deliver offers to your audience are becoming less effective as the days go by.
Not only will this further erode deliverability without reliable engagement metrics, it’s also been evident for some time it’s a woeful experience for the customer.
New Way: Used primarily as an engagement channel
You’re going to have to start using email as a two-way communication channel in order to succeed with it.
This will include sincere follow-ups with customers to check in on progress and their experience, while you avoid “speaking down to them” and bombarding them with irrelevant offers.
Expect to see purposeful engagement that asks customers to participate in user-generated content, asking for feedback/responses and competitions that engage and delight the customer throughout their journey.
With brands forced to segment by clicks post-iOS 15 as a reliable indicator of engagement, this will include willingly asking customers to opt-in!
Think about that for a second: if you sent an email tomorrow asking customers if they’d like to stay subscribed, how many would honestly say yes?
If that doesn’t scare you into changing your strategy, it should now!
Old Way #4: “Bigger the better” Mentality
Historically, brands have tried to bloat the size of their email list in order to generate results at scale from a mass marketing approach.
With acquisition relatively cheap, this was a plausible - albeit not optimal - strategy for some time for many that delivered results.
With rising Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), and a transition to consent-based marketing, it is clear that the emphasis now needs to shift to quality of leads over quantity.
New Way: Intense Focus on Deliverability & Quality Over Quantity
A new era of relationship building will take place over mass marketing. The way brands execute email will change from a conversion-first mentality to “Does this touchpoint add value to the customer journey?”
The only way to achieve this is by scrutinising every send and considering whether it adds or detracts value from the customer experience over email.
Because CAC has become so expensive, brands will have to pay more attention to negative intent signals such as spam rates and unsubscribes, and put much more conscious effort into driving these down.
We won’t have the luxury of replenishing cheap leads with the way Facebook and Google Ads are continuing to spiral. We need to adopt a relationship-building approach to email that is thoughtful, relevant and considered to the customer at each touchpoint.
Post-iOS 15 will also bring huge challenges to how brands manage their deliverability. Whilst open rates are flawed for many reasons, they have always served as a good general benchmark of engagement.
Not being able to track open rates has huge implications for deliverability which I’ve discussed extensively here.
Brands will depend on customers to proactively tell them they enjoy participating in their email programs in order to maintain a healthy sender reputation.
Old Way #5: Email Siloed and Competing Against Paid Media Team
For as long as I can remember, marketing departments - particularly those from external agencies - have stupidly competed against each other for claims to attribution.
This has usually been done despite the fact that it was not in the businesses best interests, but more for the agency to demonstrate “value” to the client.
It’s not just agencies who act like this either; internal teams will often compete due to politics and competitiveness between departments.
Ultimately, the customer has lost out most due to this approach, as each channel has turned into an aggressive, sales-led bombardment that is internally disconnected & compartmentalized from the brand they’re buying from.
New Way: Email Department Works Harmoniously with Paid Media Team
With the recent changes to Facebook Ads with iOS 14, and now the imminent arrival of iOS 15 impacting email, marketing departments need to work together harder than ever before in order to drive business results.
Expect a less siloed approach and more collaboration as teams work to share data and audiences cross-channel and proactively work together in order to capture insights thus targeting customers more efficiently.
The customer journey has long been multi-touchpoint and inherently complex. Now, more than ever, we need to collaborate with other departments on optimising this journey, rather than competing against each other.
Expect to see the email department work hard to progressively profile customers and sync that data back to paid media for retargeting. This is one of the quickest wins brands can deploy right now to increase ROAS.
My prediction on the future of email marketing
Good senders will try to initiate considered follow-up conversations at scale that add to the customer journey and create more purposeful content that adds value to their audience.
Bad senders will engage in clickbait-style tactics to 'game' customers into responding to non-respondent conversations, and use more gimmicks than ever to try and generate click-throughs.