This article was originally published in Total Retail on February 24, 2022.
Buyers no longer want a traditional brand experience; they need data-infused, highly personalized experiences. And with new privacy measures in place, marketers are forced to tap into zero- and first-party data, and extract qualitative insights from channels where customers can be kept honest — like email. In fact, according to our 2021 State of Email report, 91% of respondents maintain email marketing is critical to the overall success of their company. This is a testament to email’s ongoing ability to garner—and keep—engaged customers amidst changing strategies.
To put it simply, email is the most important channel in today’s marketing playbook. Because of its growing importance, more than 40% of companies intend to increase their investment in 2022. Email isn’t slowing down anytime soon, so retailers and e-commerce brands should follow these trends in order to keep up:
Boosting personalization and automation
In 2022, 55% of marketers will make personalization a priority for their email program. How will this impact retail marketers?
There’s been a significant uptick in the use of segmentation in email, with marketers doing more than simply changing the subject line or recipient name. Retailers need to decide which factors or past interactions are most critical to the success of their email program. Historically, personalization has been moved to the forefront of B2C marketing because of its ability to leverage purchase history. Marketers can easily personalize and draw conclusions based on preferences by looking at someone’s buying behavior.
Additionally, with brands becoming more strategic about data personalization, we’ll start to see more practical uses of automation and AI in email. These technologies can help build more accurate customer profiles and optimize the overall brand experience, giving buyers the personalized experience they desire. As a result, nearly six out of ten marketers are expanding automation capabilities and eight out of ten say they’re already using automation in their email programs.
Privacy trends impacting email performance and analytics
As a result of current privacy updates, like Apple Mail Privacy Protection, for example, about 43% of marketers are changing how they measure email performance. Traditionally, marketers have looked at open rates and click-through metrics as key indicators for their email programs. Now, with a lack of purchase-decision insights drawn from those metrics, opens and clicks are finally being viewed for what they should have been all along — leading indicators into subscriber engagement. Marketers should really focus on:
- Understanding the “why” behind a campaign.
- Acknowledging multi-channel attribution across all channels.
- Earning trust from your customers, which creates new channels for zero- and first-party data.
While many marketers view these privacy trends as negative, they can actually improve email marketing performance as a whole. For example, building a strategy based on zero- or first-party data and user intent will result in more (and better) personalized outreach. Also, marketers should start relying on more insightful metrics, like read times, to identify who’s engaged or who needs to be reengaged.
2022 will be the year marketers make real progress on email personalization. But, if our data is any indication, we’re starting to see an inflection point. With increased privacy standards and a greater emphasis on mature data structures and automation capabilities, we’ll finally witness widespread adoption of best practices in email personalization. For example, imagine you, a retail consumer, are about to move and, before you do so, you visit a hardware store to get the necessary supplies for your new home. Later, after the move is complete, you receive a personalized email from that store headlined, “welcome home,” and with a new home ‘kit’ with essential items and coupons. This is real, mature personalization reaching consumers at the exact right moment: what every retailer and e-commerce company should strive for.
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