Why email is taking center stage in marketing innovation

From beacons to user-generated content, columnist Jason Warnock takes a look at the email marketing innovations we can expect to see more of in 2017.

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Flying Email 525062410 Ss 1920Most marketers plan to maintain or increase their investments in marketing innovation this year. But here’s the catch: They’re hedging their bets by expanding innovation in reliable channels like email rather than rolling the dice on unproven marketing tactics.

Email marketing is a prime target for innovation in 2017

Marketing innovation is a top priority for marketers this year, according to “The 2017 Yes Lifecycle Marketing Channel Report” (registration required) from Yesmail, my employer.

Across the board, we’re seeing a renewed emphasis on marketing as a driver for growth. Nearly all marketers (99 percent) reported that they will either increase or maintain their marketing budgets in 2017 — and a large share of these resources will be devoted to innovative tactics and technologies.

The push for innovation is particularly evident in marketers’ planned spending targets. For example, technology innovation ranks as the most important consideration in the selection of a cross-channel marketing service provider, followed by analytic services.

But despite the focus on innovation, marketers aren’t counting on pulling rabbits from hats. Instead, marketers have realistic expectations and are looking for innovation in proven channels.

Although marketers are certainly aware of the potential for VR/AR (virtual reality/augmented reality) and other trendy technologies, they aren’t ready to embrace these as viable marketing channels. In fact, just 8 percent of marketers currently use VR, and more than half doubt whether VR and AR are relevant to their brands.

Rather than risking it all on new channels, most marketers are expanding innovation in proven channels (e.g., email and social media). Sixty-eight percent of surveyed marketers said that they will invest additional attention and resources to email in 2017.

With nearly half (49 percent) of marketers admitting that their personalization efforts are weak, two-thirds indicated a desire to improve email personalization. So it’s safe to assume that many marketers will identify email personalization as a target for innovation over the course of the year.

Tips for email marketing innovation in 2017

Email continues to be a very effective channel for marketers. But while the reliability of email marketing hasn’t changed, marketers are constantly looking for new ways to use email as a vehicle for connecting with targeted audiences.

As marketers gravitate toward proven channels, there are plenty of opportunities for innovation in email marketing. Here’s a sampling of the advanced tactics we can expect to see more of this year:

  1. Dynamic offers

Dynamic offers are ideal opportunities for brands to introduce personalization into their email marketing strategies. In fact, nearly half of marketers (46 percent) said that although they don’t use dynamic offers now, they plan to do so within the next 12 months.

Rather than presenting static offers and messaging to an entire group of subscribers, dynamic campaigns enable marketers to tailor message content to individual users based on behavior and other criteria.

Real-time data takes dynamic messaging to a whole new level, shifting the conversation from offers tailored to the individual to offers tailored to the individual at specific moments in time. For example, instead of delivering offers to subscribers based on past purchase history, marketers can generate offers based on the individual’s lunch order or websites the subscriber browsed five minutes ago.

  1. User-generated content

User-generated content is the brass ring in marketing. Content created by third parties is usually considered to be more trustworthy than content generated by the brand itself. The problem is that user-generated content can be difficult to capture and control, so marketers haven’t relied on it as much as other tactics.

That may be about to change. A little more than a third (38 percent) of brands currently use user-generated content in their marketing strategies. But another 38 percent are interested in incorporating user-generated content in email messaging and other marketing communications this year.

When combined with dynamic offers and other innovations, user-generated content can amplify the trust credentials of messages and deliver important wins for the brand. Interested in user-generated content delivered in real time via email messages personalized to subscribers’ needs and preferences? It’s within the realm of possibility for forward-thinking marketers in 2017.

  1. Beacons

Beacons are geofencing in miniature. They detect subscribers or other users in retail spaces, triggering a notification that is sent to the individual via SMS (Short Message Service), apps or email. Opportunistic by nature, beacons are often used to deliver on-the-spot offers or promotions to subscribers in precise physical locations.

Only 11 percent of surveyed marketers currently use beacons. But another 28 percent are interested in using beacons this year, mainly because they are a proven advanced marketing tactic that presents ample opportunities for innovation.

Creative marketers are pioneering the use of beacons outside of brick-and-mortar retail spaces. Concert venues, stadiums, public transit terminals, industry events — any location where target audiences congregate has the potential for the combined use of beacons and email messages.

One of the things I love about email marketing is its adaptability. Although new tactics constantly make their way to the marketplace, I’m especially looking forward to the email marketing innovations that are likely to emerge in 2017. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be an amazing year.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jason Warnock
Jason Warnock is the vice president of market intelligence and deliverability for Yesmail Interactive. A seasoned digital marketing veteran, he spearheaded the development of the Yesmail Market Intelligence tool that tracks the campaigns of competitors across eight digital channels, including email and social media. Warnock has designed and executed successful technology and business strategies for several Fortune 500 companies.

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