Econsultancy’s 12th annual email census, published in association with Adestra, takes an in-depth look at email marketing practices currently being adopted, including personalisation, segmentation, and optimisation for different devices.

There’s also insight into how AI and predictive analytics are infiltrating the industry.

So, what’s top of mind, and what’s down on the priority list for email marketers? Subscribers can download the full report, but in the meantime, here are a few key takeaways.

(P.S. Join our free webinar on July 19th, 2pm BST, looking at all the latest email marketing trends)

Email rated most effective channel for ROI, but confidence down on 2017

First up from the census comes the news that, yet again, email marketing has emerged as the most highly rated marketing channel for return on investment, with 74% of client-side marketers rating it as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

Despite this over-arching positivity, however, deeper analysis reveals that a smaller proportion of respondents than last year rated email as ‘excellent’ for ROI (30%), while a higher proportion than 2017 cited email performance as ‘average’ (21%) or ‘poor’ (5%) in this context. 

This may suggest that competition within email marketing is hotting up, and that poorer performance is perhaps due to marketer’s shortcomings – not the channel itself.

Like previous years, SEO (organic search) is the channel second most likely to be rated as excellent for ROI, with 25% describing it as such. Paid search and content marketing follow this, with 62% and 61% of respondents respectively rating these disciplines as excellent or good.

Marketers fail to look at the bigger picture 

Metrics like clickthrough rate are among the simplest to measure, which is why the percentage of marketers using this metric has remained at 91%. 

The good news is that some more valuable metrics (including conversion rate and earnings per email) have seen a modest uplift this year. 67% are now using conversion rate compared to 62% in 2017.

While this highlights more of a focus on commercial metrics, it is a marginal rise and there is still only a quarter of respondents tracking earnings per email.

Automation is a growing focus, while AI creeps up

Looking ahead, when it comes to the most pressing priorities, automation has seen the biggest rise, with 53% of respondents citing this as a key area of innovation where they intend to focus in 2018, compared to 45% last year.

Interestingly, only 17% of in-company respondents and 21% of agencies plan to innovate with artificial intelligence in 2018 to create personalisation at scale. This is certainly food for thought, nonetheless, as it proves there are clear opportunities for early movers to differentiate themselves through this strategy.

Elsewhere, more creative uses of behavioural triggers and greater use of dynamic elements (such as video content and GIFs) remain high on the agenda, highlighting an ongoing focus on reader engagement.

innovation in email chart

Specialists correlate to better ROI

There is a continuing trend towards email marketing being the responsibility of a team rather than an individual.

Within this trend, businesses with teams or individuals dedicated to email marketing are nearly twice as likely to report excellent ROI, compared to those whose teams or individuals take responsibility for the channel along with other marketing responsibilities (46% vs. 25%).

Subscribers can download the 2018 Email Marketing Industry Census, in association with Adestra.