The future of email marketing and the email marketing eco system

What can we expect to see in the Future of email marketing? Everybody is eager to know what will be the changes that lie ahead at the junction of email software systems, suppliers, agencies, marketers and of course the client.

Our panel of email marketing experts share their thoughts about the trends in email marketing software eco-system and ESP functions. What are the most important or new features in email marketing software? Here are the insights these professionals shared:

Predictive analytics will be a big development

Predictive analytics will be one of the biggest developments in ESP functionality, I’m sure. We’re already at the stage in ESPs are building campaigns off descriptive analysis is “drag and drop” but what would be really cool is if the ESP implementing a predictive element where it suggests offers/content/campaigns based off of behaviours within segments.

This might be years down the road for some, but it would be useful to marketers to have data-based suggestions from their platform. Or, when building an automated campaign, it could predict in real-time what the outcomes might be based on past behaviour of the segments within the campaign. Currently we rely on data analysts for this kind of planning, but with predictive models already existing, I can see ESPs figuring out a way to integrate and automate these practices. For marketers, it would allow more efficiencies and better forecasting.

TJ Rosenberg – Marketing Manager at Inbox Marketer

Big Data transparency

Biggest development in ESP functionality: Making Big Data transparent… Marketers need to think carefully about how they put all data insights to use in marketing campaigns to improve on KPIs like acquisition, retention or loyalty.

It’s important for ESP’s to make this as easy as possible, allowing marketers to learn and improve every day. By combining data in a smart way, patterns can be discovered that will provide marketing insights. The insights can be used to act upon by providing a more personal and relevant experience for customers. A small step a day becomes significant progress a month, and massive high-impact frog leaps on a yearly basis.

Joost Nienhuis – CEO Tripolis Solutions

Recipient engagement calls for more functionality

I think that ESPs will continue to be challenged to add more functionality to their platforms based on a few top-tier ESPs leading the charge. The biggest focus areas are:
-Easier and better integrations
-Easier interfaces (drag and drop functionality)
-Automation of email
-More flexible reporting

This is in line with the industry being forced (in part by the ISPs) to focus on recipient engagement. Integrations are necessary to access the right data in order to send more relevant and timely emails. Easier interfaces become increasingly important as the sophistication level of both the marketer and the platform increase. Automation of email also ties into the ability to send relevant and timely emails and better (and more flexible) reporting is key to allow marketers to measure and optimize what are becoming increasingly more complex marketing programs.

Marco Marini – CEO of ClickMail Marketing

Usability for smooth cross platform deployment

I think the biggest change we’ll see is that email marketing service providers will realize the necessity to move more toward creating easy to use solutions for transactional and commercial digital communications.

Keep in mind that the devices of where such messages are received by the subscriber are being used more and more in cross-reference – meaning, any solution will have to work as smoothly on a mobile screen, a tablet and a desktop screen. And one day soon, via voice command on a smart watch.

Barbara Ulmi – Marketing Director Graphicmail

Wearable tech will boost productivity

I think the next big trend to happen to the market will be wearable tech. Email marketers will have to adapt to shrinking screen sizes and fit their CTAs in using far fewer pixels. The uptake of devices such as Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear will also allow for a new wave of email and productivity apps to be developed, both for the average consumer and for the email marketer on the go.

I also think that in the coming years ESPs will have to offer automatic mobile optimisation of HTML, at no extra expense or effort for the client.

Lisa Coombes – Account Manager Variant4

The future of the email marketing eco-system

One of the most interesting points as we look at the future is the expected (r)evolutions in the email marketing arena. The market can have a big influence on the eco system. What is going to change at the junction of software vendors, suppliers and agencies?

Contextualized content asks for real-time data

Expect corporate acquisitions, partnerships and sharing of APIs to rise as the email marketing ecosystem tries to balance the insatiable appetite of digital omnivores who consume content on a variety of channels, with a business’s ability to identify customer’s desires to deliver the recipient welcomed aid.

IT departments’ responsibilities continue to expand from setting and managing the internal software infrastructure, to proactively developing technology for consumer applications. In an effort to better serve clients, software vendors and agencies will further integrate to exchange data in real-time. This allows them to create contextualized content and a continuum of conversations across multiple channels.

W. Jeffrey Rice – Former Sr. Researcher Analyst at MarketingSherpa and Director of Marketing Strategy at Brick Street Software

Affiliate integrations will hit the scene

Deeper integrations designed to make the email marketing process easier and more seamless for the average marketer. Things like affiliate integrations will make an appearance on the scene, allowing marketers to choose the campaigns they want to use from the networks, and have them pre-loaded in their account and ready to send to their database without any extra leg work on their part.

Lisa Coombes – Account Manager Variant4

Reselling adds to more diverse portfolios

Major ESPs have made it so easy to resell email-mobile-social tools, so more agencies and hosting companies will realize the value of email marketing as an additional source of revenue and expansion of their portfolio. This movement is based on a trend of niche communications marketing, where messages have to be tailored to industry vertical, industry, social type, geolocation, past purchase behaviour and many other segmentations.

Email is being replaced by social media as a means of personal communication. Agencies and resellers who see this trend will begin to consider email as the hub and archival location for everyone’s communications rather than the principal means of communication. As such controlling the flow of communication to an email inbox will become more important. When to send will become as important as what to send.

Nickolas-Eckert – CEO Graphicmail

Enterprise marketing software vendors could set the new bar for marketing platforms

I think there will be the further definition of software/SaaS vendors and agencies into two buckets: those that are focused on offering the best price, and those that will be focused on engagement and ROI.

The actual sending of basic emails is becoming more and more a commoditized market and the price per email, for those vendors will continue to go down. Where it gets interesting is for those looking to do more than simply “blast” emails out.

The complexities of integrations, automation, and multi-channel marketing come into play, just a few are leading the charge at the Enterprise level. With ExactTarget being bought by and SAP buying Hybris, there is also an opportunity for these companies to set a new bar for what is possible within a marketing platform. Time will tell.

Marco Marini – CEO of ClickMail Marketing

Will Salesforce promote all ESP solutions?

It will be interesting to see how the acquisition of ExactTarget by SalesForce will work out within the Salesforce ecosystem. How will the ‘growth by acquisition strategy’ of Salesforce affect the entire industry and manifest itself in practice for customers and other ESPs?

Questions that arise: “Will Salesforce treat all Ecosystems citizens equal or will they prioritize and promote the ExactTarget proposition within their Salesforce proposition, above and beyond other ESP solutions?” The latter strategy will generate short-term success for Salesforce, but will be a roadblock for growing the full ecosystem to it’s potential in a durable and successful way.
Joost Nienhuis – CEO Tripolis Solutions

Massive platforms will lead to more ESP agnosticism

Well, we’ve seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions of email vendors over the past few years which have resulted in massive CRM/Email/Automation/Social/Mobile/Data platforms that combine a few companies’ platforms into one. This is both good and bad, in my opinion.

Good in that integration can be done within one platform; bad in that it can overwhelm marketers or that you may not need the functionality these massive platforms offer.

Moving forward, I think that agencies and small-to-midsize vendors are going to start coming together in smaller partnerships and that ESP agnosticism will be adapted at a higher rate, where the agency/vendor will deploy off almost any system the brand is using. We do it now on a smaller scale, but I see this growing over the coming years.

TJ Rosenberg – Marketing Manager at Inbox Marketer

Thanks to all of our experts for sharing their insights on The future of email marketing and the email marketing eco system. What do you think will be the future of email marketing? Please let us know in the comments.
Image via Flickr

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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