At ClickMail, we have a team of some of the brightest minds in the email industry. So as this year comes to a close, I decided to tap into those bright minds to find out just what these email experts think the New Year will bring.
In talking to these big brains of email, I realized there are two classes of predictions one can make. There’s the fast-moving, definitely going to happen (or already happening) kind of prediction on the one hand, and the slow-moving, progressive kind of change that can be predicted on the other hand. I also realized there’s a third category: the “I wish” category.
Mobile will continue to grow in importance
Among the fast-moving, happening-as-I-type this predictions, mobile stands out. Grant Johnson, the Vice President of Strategic Services at ClickMail, had a lot to say about mobile in 2015. Grant’s predictions around mobile include:
- Mobile-first design will become the norm–the expectation, rather than the exception.
- Email service providers not yet offering mobile design support as part of their platforms will scramble to catch up.
- Mobile marketing will be forced to pay attention to Android and innovation will no longer begin and end with the iPhone.
- Companies like @Pay will see explosive adoption as marketers scramble to move to better enable commerce on mobile devices.
Along the lines of @Pay and these kinds of new technologies, our Business Development guy Michael Kelly predicts that enhancements to email via integrations and their adoption will start “coming in droves.” As far as the use of existing capabilities, Michael also predicts an increasing focus on re-targeting as a way to drive more ROI.
Consumers will choose to do their own targeting
In addition to changes brought about by consumer behavior in the mobile space, Grant also predicts the growing appeal of specialty products such as craft beers and the “shop local” trends will trickle down to digital marketing. “Growth in new subscriptions and engagement for national brands will slow as consumers turn to more intimate digital relationships with smaller, friendly brands,” he says.
Changes in code as email goes global
Behind the scenes, our Chief Technology Officer Cameron Kane predicts SMTPUTF8 will gain wider adoption, enabling a larger set of characters to be used in email addresses and headers, which is right in line with what we see happening in the internationalization of email (and it’s an interesting counterpoint to the localization prediction made by Grant). Although SMTPUTF8 is so technical that it can’t even work as an acronym, it’s a strong indicator of the increasing personalization and relevance of email, as we enable email headers to be created in native tongues rather than mandate English to all.
Changes among the email industry’s players, big and small
Not all of the changes will happen at the inbox, however. Our team predicts changes within the providers too. Grant predicts that the spread between the “haves” and the “have nots” in digital marketing will continue to grow. “Big companies will figure out how to use Big Data. Smaller companies will not have the expertise or the tools,” he says. “This will create more market opportunity for third parties that can bring advances/benefits in Big Data to smaller clients at lower cost/complexity.”
In contrast to the growing digital divide Grant cites above, he also sees more enabling technologies for the smaller businesses: “The consolidation of enterprise digital marketing tools into marketing clouds and complete tool sets with high costs and complexity will open the mid and small business markets to competition and product innovation/differentiation,” he says. “Another driver in this arena of increased competition will be the continuing emergence of plug and play cloud components that make a build-your-own ESP a reality.”
Speaking of ESPs, Cameron predicts two or three ESPs will fill the middle-market void left behind by ExactTarget and Responsys moving upstream. Cameron didn’t venture to predict which ESPs those might be, so that will definitely be something to watch. Along those lines, Michael predicts Marketo will be acquired, probably by SAP.
We can’t underestimate the importance of mobile
As for my own predictions from where I sit as the CEO at ClickMail, I see mobile at the top of the list of developments to watch. I predict more companies will adapt mobile strategies and mobile will have wider adoption in the industry, but those at the forefront today will continue to innovate, offering email-based payments options like @Pay for example, while the companies currently lagging behind will begin to optimize emails and websites for mobile. I suspect next year’s Thanksgiving shopping weekend will demonstrate this continuum, with those ahead getting farther ahead and those behind getting caught up.
Will there be an ESP identity crisis?
I also predict email service providers will continue to evolve into digital marketing solutions, enabling multichannel marketing for their customers, but that they will continue to call themselves ESPs, not losing sight of their roots, perhaps, or the role email plays as the backbone of all things digital. Michael, on the other hand, suspects ESPs will start calling themselves something else, as a reflection of their changing roles in the multi-channel marketing space. We’ll check back in a year to see who was right!
More multi-channel marketing
Like I already predicted in an earlier article about the future of email and technology, a growing focus on multi-channel marketing will increase marketers’ desire to and ability to deliver messages how, when and where consumers want to receive those messages…which is exactly what we want to see.
Marketers will see the value of data visualization
Finally, and particularly after seeing the data proving marketers want more robust reporting, I predict marketers’ expectations around email reporting will force it to evolve from the predominantly static and flat industry standard of today into something more like a Business Intelligence (BI) tool that enables deeper analytics and identification of trends, primarily through data visualization. And on this point, Michael and I agree. He predicts that the recognized value of data visualization will explode, especially around email/digital marketing, and particularly around conversion data.
And some wishful thinking…
Are all of our predictions reasonable? Yes, although the team had a few that rely more on changing behaviors than changing technologies, making them harder to predict for sure. The following prediction might fall into the “we wish” category: Grant projects “sequential mailings, a.k.a. drip campaigns, will move beyond the welcome/new subscribers series and begin to be used as a tactic for selling many product and service types.” He expects there will be more education and useful information, and less “buy me, buy me!” messaging. I hope he’s right.
Although no one is predicting the end of SPAM in 2015 (as much as we long for it), Grant also thinks there might be some improvement in that arena as ESPs and digital marketing platforms get control over the SPAM reporting process, so that SPAM reports start with the sender, and no longer the ISPs.
Lastly, I give you a prediction/wish from our Senior Manager of Strategic Services, the ever optimistic Nate Brink: “May 2015 be the year marketers pare down their databases, seeing unengaged subscribers for what they are: dead weight!”
And on that note, let’s hope 2015 brings us all of the predictions of our email expert team, and well as a new adherence to best practices and better behaviors too!
P.S. If your team needs help to make these predictions come true at your business, call on our team to help!