2016 has been a big year for email marketing! It ranked as one of the top three traffic drivers on Black Friday and DMA’s recent consumer email tracking study highlights that consumers are in fact interested in receiving emails in their inbox. The email marketing channel shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. In 2017, we can expect another exciting year for email.

Going back to basics

In 2016, it has been tricky not to get carried away with the next big thing as the innovation of email marketing has evolved. However, with a lack of planning and strategic focus, it’s evident which brands implemented the latest technology without a plan and those that took their time to ensure it was right for their customer.

The focus for 2017 needs to be optimising from the ground up. Brands need to reduce their focus on the next shiny thing and evaluate whether the basics are still fit for purpose, such as welcome journeys, basket abandonment and transactional emails. The latest DMA Consumer Tracker report reveals that consumers respond well to brands that get the basics right. Amazon, for example, was voted as the brand that has the most effective email marketing. Amazon has nailed the basics and sends emails based on transactional behavioural and products consumers have visited on their website. These are the functional basic elements that work.

It’s all about AI

This year, shifting the focus of tactical email campaign planning to define a long-term strategy was a key advancement in email marketing. Other digital channels such as search already had this approach nailed, but email marketing had come from a history of tactical implementation.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning intelligence will drive email marketing strategies forward as brands become more sophisticated in their use of data. The continuously increasing use of marketing cloud technology in 2017 will make it easier for marketers to consolidate data all in one place, making data more accessible than ever before. Having data all in one place makes the Single Customer View insight actionable. As a result, brands can move towards a more advanced stage of segmentation based on machine learning intelligence.

Intelligent personalisation is the evolution of personalisation. In 2017, brands must move away from merely using the first name to personalise content. 2017 will see the use of intelligent, behavioural and data driven personalisation continue to grow. However, consumers highlighted the ‘creepy element’ of personalisation in 2016. Intelligently informed personalisation shouldn’t feel like that, it should naturally appear at the right times and be relevant within a customer’s journey. Using data that a customer hasn’t provided to you or realised they have given permission to you to use is where it feels untrusted.

Data quality and promises 

Ahead of the GDPR coming into effect in May 2018, now is the time for brands to really review and adapt existing marketing practices to ensure they are compliant. When speaking to marketers it’s clear that most would like to turn a blind eye to the changes until they are fully ‘enforceable’ by law, but these are best practices now. Although it’s over a year until the deadline, in some instances it may take more than a year to get system changes in place. Make 2017 the year you get your marketing practices in order for a stress-free 2018.

Make way for modular design

Like website development, email marketing has now got to a place where the majority of a design can be dragged and dropped. Modular designs mean less time is spent on designing the email and more focus on defining the strategic purpose and objectives of a campaign. Email designers can now build a library of partials that can then be used to customise modular templates to ensure it is unique to each brand otherwise every email will look the same, and there definitely wouldn’t be variety in the inbox.

Email content comes to life!

In 2017, bring back the fun in email content! Over the last few years, video has really taken off but unfortunately for email, constant rendering and display issues meant it wasn’t a possibility for the channel to include. Now, finally, videos are supported by Apple’s iOS10 (rejoice!) Email marketing content now has the ability to be more interactive. It can be more engaging and start to reflect what a website can display. The popularity in using Gifs has also increased in 2016 as brands want to engage and captivate their audience for that all important click through.

Real-time optimisation has steadily been growing in 2016, but in 2017 we will see this being used to its full potential. Functionality includes adding live shopping carts in emails which will remind recipients what they have left in their cart. This is important because virtual reality and augmented reality are becoming more widely adopted by brands. Consumers are now more receptive and expecting this level of interaction across the board. Virgin Holidays, for example, incorporated virtual reality into the purchasing experience within their travel stores. This ensured that they not only didn’t lose customers as they waited in the queue to speak to a Travel Advisor but also converted them whilst waiting.

The future is bright – imagine how you could bring your emails to life! In 2017, the focus should be incorporating email marketing in a way to enhance the experience customers have with your brand.


Jenna Tiffany

Jenna Tiffany


Jenna Tiffany, Lead ‎Digital Marketing Strategist, Communicator.