Automation, personalisation and device optimisation are three of the key themes covered in the 2017 Email Marketing Industry Census, published today by Econsultancy in partnership with Adestra.

Exactly 1,200 marketers took part in the 11th edition of our industry bellwether report that contains a comprehensive review of the email practices being adopted, the resources being dedicated to email, and the channel’s effectiveness compared to other types of marketing.

This year’s report sees the introduction of new questions about the use of metrics, the application of artificial intelligence and the impact of Brexit on how companies are approaching the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

As well as the usual, in-depth analysis of survey data and a comparison with results from previous years, the report also contains a treasure trove of insights from nine leading email marketing experts.

Here are three of the headline findings from this year’s report.

1. Marketers get to grips with automation, helped by improved technology

The increased use of automated email marketing is a key theme of this year’s Email Census as marketers strive to get better return on investment from this channel, while simultaneously offering a more relevant, timely and targeted experience to subscribers.

The proportion of marketers who say they have been ‘very’ or ‘quite’ successful in implementing automated email marketing programmes has increased from 62% in 2016 to 67% this year.

Asked to select the three most important features of an email service provider’s technology platform, two-thirds (66%) selected marketing automation capability. This has now overtaken user-friendly interface (60%) as the single most important attribute of an ESP, underscoring the importance that marketers are now attaching to automation.

Q. What are the most important attributes of an email technology provider?

According to Jordie van Rijn, eCRM and email marketing consultant at eMailMonday: “Marketing automation and email marketing are growing towards each other, to the point that it is unthinkable that an ESP lacks basic automation and triggered campaigns. With the dawn of more sophisticated marketing automation functionality, usability becomes the differentiator.”

2. True personalisation at scale remains elusive for many businesses, though more companies are now reaping the benefits

Email personalisation done properly is currently the preserve of only a minority of businesses, but this percentage is increasing. The proportion of companies who say they can send emails based on individual activities and preferences throughout the funnel at scale has almost doubled from 8% to 15%.

Almost three-quarters (71%) of companies adopting personalisation to this degree report an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ performance from their email campaigns, compared to only 35% for companies who say they ‘are not yet working towards this’.

Q. Which statement best describes your ability to provide personalised email campaigns?

Personalisation (30%) is the area of email marketing where most respondents say they need to focus on during 2017, ahead of automated campaigns (28%), which was the number one priority area last year.

Kath Pay, founder and senior consultant at Holistic Email Marketing, said: “Personalisation at scale is a no-brainer. It can result in providing the consumer with relevant and valuable offers and content served up specifically for that individual based upon their past behaviours (both email and web) and transactions, as well as their lifecycle or buying funnel stage that they’re in.”

3. Companies continue to adapt to consumer use of different devices

The largest jump in terms of uptake of a particular tactic this year is for mobile device optimisation, with almost three-quarters (73%) of companies now doing this compared to just under two-thirds (64%) last year. This 14% increase shows that many marketers are still adapting to the use of mobile devices, even 10 years after the launch of the first iPhone heralded the arrival of smartphones.

Nine in ten (90%) company respondents report that they have some form of strategy for optimising email marketing for different devices, up from 86% in 2016, but the proportion of marketers that describe their approach as ‘quite’ or ‘very’ advanced has only moved up one percentage point from 2016, to just 22%.

According to Riaz Kanani, MD and co-founder at Radiate b2b: “Designing for mobile is clearly something that is an accepted part of building an email campaign today, with the proportion of marketers without a strategy for mobile almost halving to only 10% in the past few years.

"The importance of thinking beyond the email remains though, with responsive landing pages and directly linking to an app critical to increasing conversion rates in mobile.”

As was the case last year, a lack of resources (including budget and staff) is seen as the main barrier to success when it comes to effectively optimising email campaigns for different devices.

According to the report, a mobile-first approach may be suitable for some types of business, but, given that huge volumes of emails are still consumed on desktop PCs and laptops, companies should ultimately seek to have an approach to email which is device-agnostic.

Q. What is the main barrier to success when it comes to effectively optimising your email campaigns for different devices?

For more data and insights, download the full 2017 Email Marketing Industry Census.

David Moth

Published 19 April, 2017 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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