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3 Ways the Job of Email Marketer Will Change by 2020—and How to Prepare


Email marketers never complain about a lack of change in their industry. And there’s plenty of change on the horizon, as our 20 expert contributors highlighted in our Email Marketing in 2020 report.

Some of those changes are bigger than others, and indeed a few of the changes predicted will fundamentally change the job of email marketer. Here’s how:

1. The siloed structure of today’s marketing departments will be broken down, requiring companies to adopt new organizational structures.

Customers expect a consistent and unified experience across channels when interacting with a brand. Technology will allow brands to meet these expectations in the years ahead.

“Successful organizations will break down data silos and share data from across the enterprise, creating a consistent subscriber experience across the entire lifecycle,” says Eric Stahl, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing of Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Eighty-four percent of marketers agree that email will be fully integrated with other marketing channels within five years, according to an Econsultancy/Adestra survey.

The vast majority of marketers expect email marketing to be fully integrated with other channels.

But the de-siloing of the marketing stack is not just a technological change. It will require cultural and organizational changes as well.

“As we see this convergence of channels across paid, owned, and earned media continue to evolve, email will see some shifts in ownership from an organizational perspective,” says Chris Lynch, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Oracle Marketing Cloud.

“Today, email marketing often sits within a marketing CRM or direct marketing organization,” he says. “In the near future, we project these organizations will evolve into a distinct digital marketing organization that spans commerce, web, email, mobile messaging, and paid channels like display, search, and video.”

This transformation will require channel marketers to broaden their expertise in order to stay relevant. For example, “this evolution requires the email marketer to greatly expand their breadth of responsibility,” says Lynch, “and act as the main lieutenant responsible for all digital interactions.”

Cara Olson, Director of Direct Marketing and eCRM at DEG, adds, “Messages will span more than an email inbox…so get ready to change your title from Email Marketer to Messaging Marketer.”

2. Brands will stop creating email campaigns because machine learning and automation will completely redefine what a “campaign” is.

Marketers have long sought to send relevant emails by sending the right content to the right person at the right time. The good news is that technology will enable that on a scale not previously possible. The bad news? That new scale is far too vast and complex for people to manage.

“As the number of behaviours captured increases, using the fixed message flowchart-type approach to creating automation sequences that is common to all current automation vendors leads to unmanageable automation,” says Tim Watson, Founder of UK-based email marketing consultancy Zettasphere.

The solution? Handing over more decisions to machines. And the majority of email marketers appear to be at peace with this scenario, according to a poll by Litmus.

66% of marketers think the majority of email content will eventially be determined by machine learning, AI, and predictive software.

“New paradigms are needed that allow marketers to create principle-based automation rather than the current prescriptive-based methods,” says Watson. “Operating off these principles, machine intelligence will manage and control the messaging to each individual across channels, creating the truly integrated experiences that are currently talked about a lot but rarely delivered.” [Tweet this]

But in handing over more responsibilities to machines, marketers will be fundamentally changing their day-to-day jobs in the process. Marketers will cease designing email campaigns as we currently think about them.

“To deliver a one-to-one experience, customer data and content must be completely divorced from one another and algorithms applied that identify which content should be delivered to which customer, and when,” [Tweet this] says Morgan Stewart, CEO and Co-founder of Austin, TX-based email marketing agency Trendline Interactive.

“The challenge ahead is to push past the current processes that insist on approving the ‘final PDF’,” he says. “The client-approval step will shift toward reviewing content modules, not full creative, and signing off on targeting models, not customer segments. Organizations able to shift to this abstract level of marketing will pull away from the pack, while those caught in the status quo will struggle to stay relevant in the marketplace.”

3. Marketers will have to cater to an entirely new audience: machines.

Email volume is going to go through the roof over the next several years. Thankfully, a good chunk of that volume will never be seen by human eyes. Instead, the recipients of those emails will be machines that we want to keep in the loop.

“Email is the universal plumbing that connects the Internet of Things,” says Paul Farnell, Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of Litmus. “When I get low on milk, my smart fridge could email my grocery store app, adding milk to my shopping list. And when I go grocery shopping, the receipt will be emailed to my financial software app.” [Tweet this]

The number of Internet of Things­-connected devices is expected to increase from 15 billion in 2015 to 35 billion in 2020, according to a report from Semico Research.

To serve this new audience, marketers will have to adjust how they message and adopt new tools. “Building on the example of the calendar’s .ics file format, emails will make more use of standardized data formats,” says Farnell. “In the years ahead, there will be many more of these standard data formats available—think status updates, travel information, receipts…”

All of this machine-to-machine messaging will generate new concerns around security and privacy that brands will need to address, says Len Shneyder, Vice President of Industry Relations at SparkPost. “The IoT has the potential to generate trillions of messages a day, and this tidal wave of email could be laden with all kinds of personally identifiable information (PII), requiring more and more security be bolted onto the back of existing email authentication standards to further secure the channel.”

How to Prepare Now for These Changes

Here are 3 ways that email marketers can start adjusting now to these coming changes:

1. Start reorganizing your marketing department for the omnichannel future.

If you haven’t started de-siloing your marketing organization, now is the time. Creating that holistic view of our customers allows you to put the focus in the right places and to create well-coordinated campaigns and messaging sequences.

In January I did some consulting for an NBA team’s marketing department. We were talking about reengagement emails, but the team had people on the call that covered social and web and other parts of the business. That kind of broad engagement across the marketing team is currently quite rare, and it’s sorely needed to be able to meet the challenges that marketers will face in the years ahead.

2. Start getting your channel experts exposure to other channels.

Deep expertise in a channel is still critical, but having foundational knowledge of other channels is also important. A broad appreciation allows marketing team members to better strategize as a team.

It’s also critical that executives have a basic understanding of how a brand’s key channels work. During my more than a decade in email marketing, the misinformed executive overriding the channel marketer who knows better has been a recurring story.

3. Start fostering a culture of experimentation and rigorous testing.

Brands need to be open to change, and creating an environment that supports experimentation and testing is the best way to ensure you can adapt to the changes ahead. Unfortunately, most brands are very risk-averse, even when it comes to low-budget endeavors.

For instance, a few years ago, a jewelry brand had to lobby hard and long to get support to create a triggered wedding anniversary email. Once launched, that email paid for the startup costs in just one month.

Too often, brands want to see multiple case studies before they’ll go ahead with a project. By waiting for that kind of information, all you’ve done is confirm that you’re 12-18 months behind others—who themselves may be lagging behind, too.

A/B testing is similarly under-supported. Only 63% of marketers test email subject lines, which are the easiest to test and show some of the best results, according to a Litmus poll of more than 800 marketers. And the rate of testing other email elements falls off steeply after subject lines.

Executives should give their marketing teams budgets explicitly for experimentation and testing, and establish firm expectations and KPIs to ensure that it happens.

Follow those 3 pieces of advice and you’ll be in good shape and in the right mindset to succeed in 2020 and beyond.

Email Marketing in 2020

Prepare for the future of email marketing with the insights of 20 leading experts, plus survey results from thousands of marketers and consumers.

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