Email marketing software innovation for 2013 and beyond

Marketers should always keep a keen eye out for the opportunities in the ever changing playing field of marketing. Changing customer behaviour requires new tactics to future-proof relationship with your audience.
Part of that is making the best use of email marketing software innovation. What innovations can we expect to see from Email service providers in the upcoming year?

Sneak peeks at email marketing software innovation

Here at emailvendorselection we get to see a lot of  Sneak peeks of the new releases that are planned for email marketing software tools. Because of the site the email software vendors like to show off their cool stuff. And that is awesome. Especially if you are a marketer / nerd like me. 🙂

I am not talking about demo after demo after demo after demo of the same, please! But there are some companies that are lining up some great stuff for the coming year.

In choosing and using the right email marketing tools; that is where you see how much those innovations are worth. Based upon the real life problems marketers run into, you see the strong and weak points of each vendor. Luckily I help quite a few companies in choosing and using and do some serious email vendor selections.

Oh, and that is also where you see some of those cool features are actually just marketing propaganda. Believe me, that is pretty common too. 🙂 Let me share some of the trends that will shape the way marketers are using email marketing tools in the coming year.

Preparing for a Mobile email world

A recent research showed that people look at their smartphones at an average of 150 times per day. Like it or not, more and more people are reading email on their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is a real game changer.

The increased use of mobile email makes it something you can no longer ignore. The “phone” part in smartphone isn’t its’ most important feature. Email, web, messaging, apps and social media make up the time spend on mobile devices.

The mobile landscape changes so fast, here is an updated overview of mobile email statistics.

Email is one of the primary uses of the smartphone. With around a third of all confirmed email opens on a mobile device and steadily headed to the tipping point (50% of all emails opened). Especially B2B marketers start to become more aware. If your ESP isn’t serious about mobile, he isn’t taking your business seriously.

For marketers this means something new. Not only should their emails look good on mobile, but the whole process behind it needs to be re-thought. We will see a lot of Email marketing software innovation towards mobile. With templating, reports and attribution being the in-tool developments. Landingpages designed for mobile and responsively displayed content being another area, managed either from inside or outside the ESP environment.

The broad definition of Customer Intelligence

Another field that is getting a lot of attention is customer intelligence. It is more important than ever to collect data about your (potential) customers and to use that to improve targeting, dynamic content and your whole (email) marketing program.

More and wider distributed customer data
An older term like CRM might no longer sound hip. Social CRM, predictive modelling and big data are the buzzwords of today. They all have the same premise though. There is more and more data available to marketers today than ever and it is scattered across more sources then ever. You see some marketers using their Email Service Provider as their central database or making smart combinations with other CRM systems or customer data warehousing.

The customer intelligence side of email marketing lives in the combination of creating insights, managing the database and easier ways to put those insights to work with smart event driven or behavioural email marketing campaigns as well as providing easy ways to create meaningful segments and use dynamic content. One of the things to keep your eyes out for are eRFM tools, engagement measurement and scoring and the increased emphasis on (database) analytics. We will be seeing more of those features integrated into ESP tools.

Yes, customer intelligence is actually the marketer being smart (and using intelligent tools  to do so).

Multivariate Testing

Here is a very concrete functionality that I think will be introduced in many tools this year. Multivariate testing. It allows for easier testing of multiple elements and the combination of those elements. So for instance if you have 3 elements: header, button and image and you want to test three variants of each you would end up having 3 headers x 3 buttons x 3 images = 27 different test cells.

The static or “hard coded” part of your email (meaning everything that is not an image) is set and cannot be changed after you hit send. This introduces some problems for doing a truly clean multivariate email test. Problems in the form of deployment time, testgroup size, test invalidness or being limited to image only testing.  I thought I would mention that, because talking about multivariate testing (MVT) features will be a great way for you to gage the BS a potential supplier is throwing at you.

Despite the problems that Multivariate email testing has, the addition of these features it is still a great step forward. Ambitious marketers were already running these tests, now they have ways to do so easier. So introduction of the multivariate testing features into email marketing software is a very good thing. If you are looking to do some heavy testing, look at the (MVT) testing possibilities that your email tool is going to be offering in the coming period.

Ask for the development roadmap

Many would like to know in what direction a potential email marketing vendor is developing their platform. So they ask for some kind of roadmap of features they are planning for to get an indication. A tip for marketers that are evaluating a future email tool: be aware just that roadmaps do change often enough and a feature that is planned, might not be released at all.

Images courtesy of Flickr user Naimig and intelfreepress (cc)

About Jordie van Rijn

Jordie van Rijn is an independent email marketing consultant and analyst. He is the founder of Email Vendor Selection and specializes in smart email marketing, online marketing strategy, software selection, campaign management, optimisation and RFP / vendor selection. He tested, reviewed, and wrote about 100+ business software including email marketing services, CRMs, ecommerce platforms, and online course creators. Published in-depth email marketing guides for financial service, ecommerce, travel, restaurant, and fashion industries.
Named one of "50 Online Marketing Influencers to Watch" by Entrepreneur magazine. Companies like Scania, KLM, Unilever, AEGON, CZ, FNV, NRC Media have asked me for advice.

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