If 2021 told us anything, it’s that a new era in eCommerce is being ushered in. We’re moving to a consent-based era, where privacy laws rule the roost and brands are at the whim of customers. It’s time to adapt or die. Here’s how email marketing will continue to change in 2022.
1: It’s not about the channel, it’s about the business.
Marketers who continue to analyse email (or any channel, for that matter) in a silo will come under immense pressure from brands who need to manage their funnels holistically.
Cannibalising revenue for the sake of attribution to a channel is nonsensical, and channels should be there to support the business goals, not work against it to highlight the great job marketers are doing.
Look out for a gap in strategy this coming year that requires a deeper understanding of unit economics from marketers.
2: Looking at revenue in a silo means you’re not working in the brands best interests
Email attributed revenue has been an unreliable indicator of success on the platform in recent years and I’ve been very critical of marketers who claim they’re doing a great job because of this.
The fact that open rates are now massively skewed due to iOS 15 (which ESPs use for attribution) is going to distort accurate readings even more.
And while people shift to Google Analytics as a more reliable source of truth, all of this detracts from the wider issue at play: looking at any channel in a silo and not part of the omnichannel experience is neglectful of the customer journey.
You’re also pigeonholing email as a sales channel, and missing out on a slew of greater benefits the platform offers (more on that below) if you obsess over Revenue Per Recipient (RPR) and conversion rate from each email.
Last point on this: a brand that is too dependent on email revenue is not acquiring enough customers to grow and survive.
Look out for marketers who cunningly play on this. They’re looking out for their own self-interest, not yours.
3: SMS isn’t going to save your brand
There seems to be a few murmurs in the ecosystem that SMS can now replace email and drive growth for brands.
This is nonsense.
SMS effectiveness is dependent on acquisition efforts. You can only continue to scale any owned marketing channel by consistently acquiring new customers.
SMS is another touchpoint to add to the omnichannel experience to help improve retention and profitability. It’s powerful, but isn’t a replacement for email - or any other channel, for that matter.
Keep building your SMS list but don’t take your eye off what really matters: acquiring new customers.
4: Email Marketing is now a customer research channel
Email marketing has always been vastly underused for its ability to survey and progressively profile existing subscribers to drive qualitative insights.
As we head into 2022 in this new privacy-based era, it has an even more important role to play in this area of the business.
More on this in last weeks article here.
5: Email Marketing is a content distribution channel
Your subscribers demand value from your brand when you subscribe. Sharing meaningful, high-quality content is an effective way to deliver upon this (you’re probably reading this now after coming from our weekly Newsletter; case in point).
Blog articles, tutorial videos, and company-wide news are all ways to deliver value to subscribers and nurture relationships beyond offers. Lean into them.
6: Email Marketing is a community-building channel
Email can help strengthen communities, even though some people have rebuffed this due to the 1-1 nature of the platform.
But you’re building a community with your subscribers when you engage with them in conversation.
You can also cross-promote social media competitions, as well as competitions unique to email.
The beauty of this is that you can strengthen deliverability and your sender reputation by deploying this conversational approach. More on that in the article above.
7: Email Marketing is a channel that can strengthen acquisition efforts
Email is a treasure trove of customer data when used correctly.
By leveraging data enrichment points, you can collect invaluable zero & first-party data that can be used to segment your audience and drive custom audiences back to Facebook for retargeting and other channels.
Invest in researching your customers through email and use these qualitative insights to improve the whole funnel for your eCommerce business.
8: When revenue goes above 40% attributed to email, your brand is in trouble
I mentioned this above but it’s worth repeating on its own as a separate point.
It is generally NOT healthy to have revenue largely dependent on email & SMS, and many times, it can be a warning sign for your business.
Driving 40% of revenue from existing customers continuously can mean that you’re failing to acquire new customers or potentially milking your list to cover up this shortcoming in your business.
Never forget that light buyers (single-time customers) make up a large % of revenue for any brand. Having a high retention rate is fantastic for profitability and can be the difference between make-or-break for a lot of brands, but don’t let it detract from the core focus of growing your brand, which is to keep the top-of-the-funnel loaded with new customers.
9: Most marketers use Email & SMS incorrectly
Most marketers are cannibalising sales from SMS that would have occurred naturally from email.
They think they’re adding more value to the brands they work with by adding more touchpoints. What they’re actually doing is eroding their profitability by being uneconomical.
Sending SMS to thousands of people who would have bought/engaged over email isn’t smart - it’s costly.
This segmentation strategy fixes that:
10: Email & SMS need to be managed on the same platform
This may seem a little controversial but hear me out.
The ability to segment and manage data under one roof is just too much of an advantage to justify having different SMS and email providers at this point in time.
I realise Klaviyo (at the time of writing) isn’t as good as Attentive or Postscript, but at its core, SMS is a simple channel, and for the aforementioned reasons, should be managed under one roof, in my humble opinion.
And this is before getting into cost-saving and managing teams across different software platforms…
11: Email can help bridge the gap on the loss of Facebook Data
I referenced this earlier but it’s worth a standalone point.
Facebook has lost a lot of targeting capabilities due to the recent iOS changes - we’re all aware of that.
But what is not being discussed is email’s ability (via pop-ups and post-opt in) to harvest these data points to help improve retargeting and discovery of new audiences for broad targeting.
12: Email Design is becoming more complex
Two words that sum up this point: dark mode.
While there has certainly been some simplification of email editors inside ESPs over the past decade, email design itself has become increasingly complex to optimise for the sheer volume of browsers, inbox providers and devices customers are adopting.
The fact that this is inherently tied to email deliverability makes the importance of working with a strong email marketing team across the board with deep specialisation in the platform even more crucial than ever.
13: Collecting Email Addresses at signup is no longer enough
We’ve already covered how the loss of data from advertising platforms is forcing us to take a more strategic path in the customer journey.
Offering a 10% off coupon in return for signup may still be effective at driving conversions, but it gives us minimal insight into who our customers are and what their goals are when shopping with us.
Adding multi-step forms along with radio buttons compared to conventional signup forms can unlock a treasure trove of data, leading to a more personalised customer journey and improved retargeting.
14: Email automation should support customer service
Email can help mitigate customer service problems and negative reviews.
By strategically interjecting in the customer journey at the right moments, you can save yourself a lot of negative publicity.
Good times to interject include post-delivery NPS if the customer is unhappy with their experience, or, simply with a thoughtful check-in to ensure the customer is satisfied with their purchase.
By being proactive rather than reactive, you can identify opportunities (yes, they’re opportunities) to strengthen brand integrity and increase customer satisfaction levels.
15: Conversational Email & SMS is powerful
Long gone are the days of email & SMS being one-way communication channels.
Engaging with your customers and having conversations at scale is one of the most effective strategies you can deploy to improve customer satisfaction levels and increase Customer Lifetime Value.
It’s time to view the conversational approach as a profit centre rather than a cost centre (I want to give credit to the original person who wrote that quote, but I can’t remember who it was… I like it though).
16: The days of ‘Noreply@brand’ sender names are ending
Treating your customers with contempt and not being willing to engage with them is a surefire way to lose their business in 2022.
Having a friendly, welcoming sender name, i.e. “hello@” and encouraging customers to connect with you is a potent weapon in your arsenal. Use it and get a competitive edge against those who don’t.
17: Segmentation is becoming more sophisticated
It’s clear that email opens are no longer a reliable metric in a post-iOS 15 world.
Segmenting by browser device as well as utilising clicks, time spent on site and RFM models (RFM stands for recency, frequency and monetary) on purchase frequency are going to be integral to protecting deliverability.
Some basic models already exist for this but as adoption of new iOS operating systems increases, so too will the level of sophistication that marketers need to implement to segmentation.
18: Holdout Testing will become more popular
The true value of how many email campaigns brands send is difficult to measure. Is ‘less more’ or should we ramp up our frequency to maximise reach?
Most people base their answers to these important questions on guesswork.
Holdout Testing is a solid testing protocol to help answer these questions.
Good agencies will recommend holdout testing, so push them on it where possible to find out the true value in your program.
19: D2C shouldn’t make or break your business
Final point to conclude proceedings but probably the most important of all:
Is D2C dead/losing its allure?
Absolutely not, and even more challenging acquisition costs cannot stop the MASSIVE advantages D2C can give your BRAND.
When launching a BRAND, it's important not to view D2C in a silo.
D2C is a distribution channel. As is Amazon, marketplaces and offline retail.
In order to grow your BRAND, you need to have a presence in multiple channels (physical availability).
D2C's biggest benefit is that it provides a direct form of communication to your audience.
You should lean into the massive leverage D2C gives you in qualitative research and progressive profiling of your customers.
If executed correctly, this can help unlock better market insights, brand positioning and strategic areas of growth such as SKU diversification.
Looked at through this lens, D2C can massively enhance the profitability of your OMNICHANNEL distribution strategy.
Imagine being able to hit retail with a strong brand presence.
Compete in marketplaces with a deep understanding of your positioning.
De-risk launching new product ranges that your audience has already told you they want.
Yes, this won't drastically change the fact that it's more challenging to profitably acquire customers through paid advertising channels, but it WILL improve the overall profitability of the BRAND across distribution channels.
The best way to collect these insights? Your email/SMS list, reviews, private communities, and customer service tickets. Lean into them and start using them to improve your omnichannel approach.