Five social, behavioral and integrated e-mail marketing trends


2010 was the year of the emerging convergence between social media and e-mail with the multi-channel client as the starting point. What is this whole integration between social and e-mail actually about? That you are where your (future) clients are, offering interaction choices and using various channels to communicate with people more efficiently, strengthening the overall return of your communication efforts and ultimately improving conversion. The centre of it all is the customer. The medium: the "content" in the broadest sense (including, for instance, promotions), that leads to dialogues and actions. The objective: stories, word-of-mouth and value. The channels: e-mail and social.

The emerging integration of social media and e-mail marketing is just a part of a much broader evolution towards cross-channel marketing with the customer at the heart of the marketing universe, as explained in this white paper on the Copernican revolution of integrated interactive marketing.

To enforce various channels with each other, you naturally have to make it technically possible and give people freedom to use them. You also have to engage them by offering the proper value and share-worthy information. This can be done in traditional e-mail marketing tactics such as newsletters, in advanced marketing automation scenarios and all other forms of e-mail marketing. And in the end, it's less about the channels than about the prospects, customers, dialogues, mutual value and conversion.

This year the cross-channel use of interaction channels will continue to increase. And it's not only about e-mail and social. It's also about data, mobile, offline interactions and much more.

Here are five e-mail marketing trends in which many of these topics are tackled.

1. The e-mail subscriber is dead: welcome to the multi-channel consumer

Forget about e-mail addresses. Only people matter. Furthermore, e-mail marketing becomes part of a vast and complex mesh of dialogues in function of scenario-driven marketing goals, including lead nurturing, promotions, cross-selling, up-selling, customer retention and much more. E-mail marketing programs are not an isolated strategy whereby people are only segmented based on, for example, purely demographic details. The e-mail subscriber has died. Only multi-channel people of flesh and blood exist. And they increasingly choose what, where and how they inform themselves, communicate and…buy.

2. E-mail marketing isn't possible without content marketing

Content marketing is the use of content for marketing and sales objectives with a clear focus on the prospect and customer and the dynamic relevance of the content in the customer life cycle and all contact moments. The days of "editorial" uniformity in e-mail marketing are over. That applies to both information and promotional content. There is an increasing need for relevant content and editorial calendars. There is also a significant shift towards real-time content. Timing, frequency and interaction rules are changing. Finally, the relevance of the content for the e-mail recipient is a much more important element in sharing e-mail content over social media than the "sharing" button.

3. The role of the social (content) dimension is growing

E-mail marketing is more like a dialogue. It's even part of a series of cross-channel dialogues. This doesn't mean that e-mail marketing is always and only a dialogue. It also doesn't mean that people will openly respond. However, do they on blogs, for instance? Seeing a subject line and reading an e-mail, even if no link is clicked leads to a reaction and thus interaction. The dialogue aspect specifically relates to the response on the digital signals and triggers sent and triggered by your (future) customer and to the data that flows back to your data systems from all contact moments. The content in your newsletters should also be dynamic and user-generated and where possible and effective contain or refer to "social" content such as blog posts and even peer reviews. People trust the advice of their "peers" or of "influencers". Make use of that and highlight these recommendations. Identifying "influencers" and influencer marketing in general is growing in importance.

4. Triggers, events, behavioural data and scenarios are more important

In a universe where people are central, and they choose more often via which media and when they want specific information, automated 'triggers', scenarios and event-based interactions are essential. All 'digital signals' -  behavioural data and feedback of the e-mail 'recipient' - should be collected and integrated in order to acquire communication that is as personal possible. Data from web-forms, social media data, what one knows about the client via customer service interactions: everything contributes to the refinement, more relevant and therefore, more efficient communication. Controlling the timing and content of the e-mails is increasingly placed in the hands of the (future) client and setting up scenarios and triggers depending on the needs and client experience of the client, becomes essential.

5. Promotions and retention become more important in e-mail marketing

The significance of relevant, event-based and personalized content becomes more important in e-mail marketing. At the same time, there is also a shift of the marketing objectives towards customer retention and loyalty. Customer satisfaction leads to customer acquisition in a connected world. However, promotional e-mails are also gaining importance! Are these trends not in contrast with each other? No! Content is everything that engages someone and urges them to take action. Furthermore, like it or not, promotions, discounts and special 'deals' are still the most important reasons why people even care to register for marketing programs and even the main reasons why people start following brands on social media!

Promotional e-mails are growing in importance, just as informative e-mails. In short: e-mail is becoming a more important vehicle, and promotions will be shared most of all between acquaintances and friends. End of last year, Forrester published a report, indicating that modern day consumers forward more promotional e-mails than over the past years. Make them more valuable and put the consumer central in your marketing universe.

For the record: all these trends will continue to evolve, be it faster with one company than with another. It is a process of years, just as the mutual strengthening of social and e-mail was a clear trend in 2010 but certainly has not come to an end. On the contrary: we are just starting to see the tremendous opportunities.

Finally take note that the importance of all these trends for businesses depends on their nature, activities, clients and goals. There is, for instance, a large difference between the e-mail program of a publisher who wants to drive traffic to his site, and that of a B2B multinational with various programs in the ambit of lead generation, customer loyalty, etc.

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