With so many shiny new channels at their disposal, it’s easy for the modern-day digital marketer to overlook email – one of the older kids on the block. But building a successful email marketing campaign has never been more important for businesses, and email will continue to deliver value in 2018 and beyond.

Despite being one of the most established digital channels, email tactics from previous years will need to change. With that in mind, here are five email marketing trends to look out for this year:

1. Renewed focus on personalisation

Personalisation is a word that marketers have been talking about for years now, but there are still inconsistent standards across the industry in terms of what it actually means.

For a lot of businesses, especially those that lack more advanced customer relationship management (CRM) tools or resources, personalisation is a labour-intensive game.

Bigger businesses with more CRM resource, however, will be able to employ the latest technologies to really take personalisation to a new level. Coupled with the expanding capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI), this year there will be more room to integrate an omnichannel approach to your email campaigns, with dynamic content at every touch point.

What we’re looking at with AI is essentially being able to deliver personalised emails without being perceived as too intrusive. For customers, this equals getting what they want at a much faster pace.

Data and automation will allow businesses to scrap A/B testing and other time-consuming exercises. In return, they’ll receive deeper insights into their customers that can be used to inform new content ideas or customer forecasting.

I really like what Adidas have done with integrating so many digital touch points into one of their recent campaigns. They report stellar results through their engagement with social and live chat to create a seamless purchase journey.

2. More creativity with creative

It’s a truism to say that we live in a mobile-first world, but there are still marketers out there not optimising their email designs for mobile. This might sound like going back to basics, but with an increasing amount of consumers making purchases on their mobile devices, it’s never been more important to get emails right.

I also expect we’ll see much more in terms of interactivity in email this year. In 2017, we saw a large number of brands including animated GIFs within their designs, which brands will continue to experiment with this year. Other interactive elements that bigger brands started to use last year, like pulsing buttons, search bars or ‘Add to Cart’ buttons, will be more widely adopted by medium and smaller businesses.

Colouring and brand logos are being considered again and I feel the same principle applies to email. It’s important we consider things like design and their ability to influence purchase decisions.

With any design enhancements, especially the more experimental ones, try not to go overboard with every email. Remember that for some campaigns, a clean and simple approach might work best – and would require much less effort to build!

3. Desire to upskill for email marketers

As automation and AI begin to dominate in 2018 and beyond, there might be some email marketers out there feeling like it’s harder to demonstrate value in their day-to-day activities.

It’s important, just like for any profession, that you continue to learn how to upskill as an email marketer. When it comes to embracing new technologies, try to really dig deep in terms of how you optimise activities as a human being. In addition to softer insights being just as valuable as data, knowing how to use data to your advantage is important for all email marketers moving forward.

4. GDPR will become the word on everyone’s lips

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to be implemented on 25th May 2018 and will drastically change how the personal data of EU citizens is dealt with.

For email marketers, GDPR essentially boils down to getting permission from EU customers before emailing them. Alongside that, businesses need to be prepared in terms of how they gather and record consent from their customers.

There’ll be a huge emphasis on compliance and data security. This is something that has significant implications for every business, especially bigger mass-market brands with huge subscriber lists. Customers are savvier than ever with their data and expect it to be looked after carefully.

Email marketers will need to work closely with data, tech and legal teams to make sure every compliance box is (literally) ticked. Start now, if you haven’t already. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of holding back your email activities for a good few months.

5. Improved results with deliverability

Most marketers see GDPR as a threat and a challenge set to disrupt all-things email. As far as I’m concerned, there’s also a brighter side to its enforcement that email marketers should celebrate.

In theory, with new rules around consent being introduced, email marketers will start to see much better metrics with their campaigns. From improved deliverability to higher levels of engagement, your campaigns will be more focused, better quality and more impactful.

As unsubscribe and bounce rates start to become less glaring issues, you’ll have more bandwidth to focus on improving other aspects of your campaign, be it personalisation, automation, creative, or something else.

Overall, 2018 looks to be yet another exciting year for email marketers. By keeping on top of changes in the industry and the latest trends, email will continue to drive significant value for your business this year and beyond.

Sukh Sadhra

Sukh Sadhra


Global lead for CRM at Student.com.