Email Marketing: The State of the Inbox

Last month I attended Inbox Summit East, a one-day email marketing conference. Hosted by Tech Wire Media and Campaigns & Elections, the conference focused on the latest and greatest of email marketing. Topics included email deliverability issues, email metrics, social integration, content and personalization among others. Below are a few of my takeaways from the conference.

The morning started off talking about where email marketing stands right now – “The State of the Email.” While it’s hard to imagine, list hygiene was a big topic. Instead of everyone vying for the biggest lists and constantly adding, the recommendation was to clean house. If the user hasn’t engaged with your first five emails, delete them. Get rid of those contacts. It’s doing your brand more harm than good to fill the inbox of those who aren’t engaging.

For example, United Way noted that only 15 percent of their email lists contained personal email addresses. They found that most people engage with their brand while at work, therefore have used their work email while signing up for emails or contributions. Additionally, many United Way programs come through corporate-sponsored charities, thus being distributed through work emails. Because work emails are the primary contact source, they are often bounced after some time due to attrition, people leave jobs and move on. United Way is constantly cleaning lists to make sure they are up-to-date.

Three sessions that I thought went hand-in-hand included email deliverability, automation, and design. Shane Greer, from Campaigns and Elections, moderated the discussion on email deliverability and said that email marketers really need to have an understanding of Gmail’s algorithms as Gmail accounts for 70 percent of email open rates. More brands are being sent to spam or promotional filters and are never reaching the true inbox. If users aren’t opening your emails, they will eventually be sent to spam even if the user did sign up for your emails at one time. Engagement from Gmail users is very important.

Because continuous engagement is important, email marketers need to have a well-organized onboarding strategy beyond the initial welcome email and periodic sale emails. Having a CRM platform to help manage campaigns journeys will help trigger the right email to users when it matters most. Reminder emails about what’s left in a user’s cart, a sale email when a user leaves a page or a similar content email based on what the user is reading or viewing. Having a well organized “if this, then that” strategy will help to hook your users and keep them coming back.

Along with having a well-executed email strategy, the design of the templates can often help brands cross the finish line. Whereoware’s Dan Caro gave a few examples of email campaigns that used real-time action in emails such as game stats and traffic information as fans were traveling to a game. Dunkin Donuts did a year-in-review email campaign that was personalized to the user – how many stores the user visited, how many rewards the user gained, etc. Going above and beyond traditional static email templates can help to engage users on another level. This is when other metrics aside from opens and clicks are useful. How much time was spent on the email or how did the user engage with the site after they clicked through from the email?

Another segment of the conference that I thought was pretty important was the session on GDPR. Don’t know what GDPR is? The General Data Protection Regulation is a regulation set to unify data protection for all individuals in the European Union, effective May 25, 2018. This is enormous for every brand that interacts with European customers and is the biggest change in data protection since the 1995 Data Protection Derivative. Every country within the EU that you contact will have new privacy laws in which your brand will have to abide by. List hygiene will be especially important now.

Users will have the right to request information such as request a copy of their data (every piece of information you have on them), request the ability to move their data, request the deletion of their data, among others. Regulators can ask for records of processing activity, place bans and enforce penalties.

Brands should already be conducting audits. You should know things like what data do you hold, where did you obtain it, when was it acquired, how often is it updated and where is it stored. Emails should not have any pre-checked boxes.

Of course, there is so much more to this complicated discussion, but the bottom line is that if you engage with users in the EU, then you must educate yourself on GDPR and prepare for it now.

Let’s talk.