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20 December 2016

Email marketing in 2017: The only thing that’s changed is everything


2016 has been a positive and fruitful year for email marketing. It continues to grow as a marketing channel and is an important piece of the marketing mix. Whilst there has been a rise in other platforms (especially social media), email marketing remains to be integral for brands to reach and engage customers.

Personalisation, automation and optimisation are three key focus areas for email marketing at present. Looking to 2017, all three will continue to grow and become more sophisticated but the application of each is changing to reflect new trends and technology.


Personalisation is becoming more effective, but there’s still a long way to go. An area of particular focus is product recommendations. Amazon, for instance, learns the products you are interested in and targets consumers with tailored content.  However, they haven’t quite reached the holy grail, for instance they might suggest an Xbox console to consumers when purchasing an Xbox game when they already have the console - their technology isn’t sophisticated enough to recognise this yet.

In 2017, we can expect to see technology increasingly being used to deliver hyper-personalisation and the optimum customer experience. Emerging technology providers are overcoming current challenges and in the next year you can expect to see brands delivering more intelligent and tailored content to inboxes.


Real-time automation will be a big trend for 2017. To engage consumers and get their eyes on your content, real-time automation is integral. Using real-time technology, brands can tailor their content to be relevant at the time of open. With eBay, for example, email content is generated instantly and based on what the consumer has been searching for and purchasing – even for searches made after the email has been sent. This is a far cry from the email blast approaches of the past and brands must move towards are more tailored and real-time approach to engage future and current customers.


We’re seeing an increase in artificial intelligence when it comes to optimisation, especially with subject lines. Through understanding what emotions and sentiments lead to clicks, conversions and opens, artificial intelligence can be used to generate the subject lines that will deliver the best results for campaigns.

With the use of artificial intelligence increasing, there is a decreasing reliance on individuals testing email formats from subject lines to the content within the email itself. For instance, if you’re used to performing AB split tests you might believe version A works best but in fact version B is more effective. This is where machine learning can be very effective because more likely than not the technology will be correct and it removes the possibility of human error. This leads to optimisation of your content and ultimately an increase in engagement.  

The industry is taking great strides forward and email marketing continues to flourish as a marketing channel and will twist its stake further into the ground in 2017. However, something the industry is still failing to do effectively is attribution. We need better attribution of the email channel in order to determine how much money it makes in comparison to the rest of the marketing mix, and how much brands should be spending on email marketing. At present, there is far too much reliance on last-click attribution, and this is failing to take into account the many touch points consumers and businesses alike encounter before making a purchase or decision. In 2017, the industry needs to take steps towards finding a more holistic alternative for last-click attribution.

By Ben Tomlinson, Product Marketing and Partnerships Manager at Communicator


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