The continued dominance of email as a marketing channel is elevated further in a time when people are paying more attention to their inbox in real-time than ever before. But that doesn’t mean marketers don’t need to keep abreast of new technologies and tactics.
Among the possibilities for today’s email campaigns is modifying content at time of open, using polls or other interactive tools to increase engagement, and even using the signature as a marketing channel.
MarTech Today hosted a recent MarTech Live broadcast where April Mullen, director of brand and content marketing at Sparkpost and co-founder of Women of Email, and Michael Barber, founder of Barber & Hewitt, a digital content marketing firm, discussed features and functionality to add value to email marketing.
“[Real-time] email campaigns are difficult to build, but you have to build the back-end support of capturing data so the interface knows what to do while the computer is engaging,” said Mullen. “I think of email as the universal app sold globally.”
The critical tool in making email valuable is the use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) email format that allows recipients of AMP emails to interact dynamically with the content directly in the message.
The AMP format allows for:
- Senders to include AMP components inside more dynamic emails;
- Modern app functionality; and
- A variety of interactive experiences such as surveys.
AMP emails are currently supported by Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook platforms, however Microsoft has announced its plan to create their own AMP-enabled dynamic email platform.
Conversion as a goal
How to generate conversions is still the goal of much email marketing, but how you get there is a lot different in 2020 than it was in 2010 or 2000. Current popular strategies to increase audience engagement, and ultimately conversions, include:
- Surveys embedded in the body of the email;
- Collecting data via forms or links embedded in the body of the email; and
- Interactive quizzes with content updated in real-time
Embedding functionality within email is also needed to attract future adult consumers and corporate users of email, mainly Generation Z, that have lived their entire lives with access to smartphones and smart technology. To them, the traditional email inbox experience is not only boring, it is obsolete.
“You should be asking clients in real-time to toggle down a path so they can convert,” said Mullen. “It should be like the old ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ books where the user feels in total control.”
The use of AMP is popular in email marketing, but the lack of industry standards and structure has limited its effectiveness. Standardization is key to bringing similar content delivery experiences to users. The rapid pace of technology development in email marketing has prevented this standardization, but consistent content delivery will be vital to attract younger generations of users who have been a part of consistent experiences on social media.
The inconsistencies of email marketing and its platforms and providers can make the entire sector appear like a combination of one-off, random marketing campaigns that just happened to land in their email inbox, and not as targeted audience outreach.
“The largest challenge in this market is standardization,” said Barber. “[Generation Z] is not going to work with a post-click environment, it is not an experience they are used to.”
To properly market to Generation Z via email, next-generation features need to be added, including swipe capabilities, use of email signature lines as marketing channels, personalized subject lines based on past actions and experiences; and direct calls to action that can be completed on their phone with one-click.
“It is really important that we make email more active with a higher utility value,” said Mullen. “And all quality campaigns have to look to convert directly from the inbox.”
Industry experts like Barber are looking for standardization to define how to deliver content in a timely and targeted manner to increase efficiency. The ability to modify email content in real-time also increases a company’s profit margin as discounts can be increased and decreased depending on the user, location, time of day and inventory.
However, companies must stay focused on conversions and not applying too many features to distract from the bottom line.
“Marketers have to ask themselves what is the line of diminishing returns for content delivery and relevancy,” said Barber. “Make sure you are creating dynamic content, but not content so relevant that it goes unused and limits ROI.”
This story first appeared on MarTech Today.