So, what did our marketing experts think was the most common mistake that brands still make with their email campaigns, and in an ideal world what would they like to see happen to email marketing in 2016?

Here’s the panel, followed by their views on the matter:

And for more on this topic, read our post looking at email trends for 2016 or read our Email Marketing Census 2015.

What is the most common error that brands still make with email marketing?

Hannah Price:

Getting personalisation wrong. When it’s great it’s brilliant, but be warned when it’s used badly the user experience is terrible.

Marketers need to be careful not to make too many assumptions.

Also, emails that are not optimised for the mobile user journey (this is expected).

Joanne Yarnall:

Asking for preferences but then not delivering based on the answers – if you are going to ask you have to be prepared to take action, regardless of what the answer is.

Guy Hanson:

I continue to be amazed by the number of email marketers I work with who can’t measure the value of their own programs. 

We’ve seen research that suggests almost 50% of email marketers aren’t confident they can calculate ROI from their activities. 

This has some real implications – how do these marketers justify having an email program to their stakeholders if they can’t assign a value to it? 

Also, the inability to measure ROI is one of the top-three barriers to securing digital investment.

Parry Malm:

Most brands measure email effectiveness based upon last-click attribution models, and this is a bad idea. 

Think about your own experience – when’s the last time you got an email from Amazon, opened it, clicked on it, and then bought something there and then? 

Probably rarely, if ever. 

Remember that email is also – and importantly – a branding channel, regardless of next-steps, and email engagement surely drives the nefarious ‘direct traffic’ that delivers a huge percentage of conversions. 

So I hope that in 2016 brands will realise that, while sales from email is great, the ‘brand halo’ effect from frequent, effective emails is the real value of an email database. 

Last-click is so 2015, so let’s move on.

Steve Denner:

Being afraid to experiment and test their strategy. 

We all love best practice and stellar examples of email marketing as inspiration for our own communications, but at the end of the day each brand’s audience is unique. 

Just because something worked well a few years ago, it doesn’t mean there is no other winning strategy. 

Let the data show you the way, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new tactics and technologies.

Kath Pay:

Mmm… there are a few 🙂

  1. Testing: Brands don’t do enough, and when they do it’s not implemented strategically and no learnings are taken away. 
  2. Not looking at email holistically and understanding the impact that it has on other channels.

In an ideal world what would you like to see happen in email marketing next year?

Steve Denner:

In an ideal world, email marketers would find the right mix of automating certain emails, keeping batch and blast to a minimum and finally sending the right message to the right audience at the right time. 

We live in an era where we receive more messages than ever before and through more channels, too, so relevancy cannot be understated. 

Start with personalisation (and that’s more than just using someone’s first name). 

Create emails that are based on stated preferences, track location and behaviour and personalise the emails based on context. 

Email should be at the centre of the marketing ecosystem.

Guy Hanson:

One-click unsubscribes become mandatory for all email programs!


  • Tracking: it’s still common for email success to be measured using last-touch and there are concerns about transferring personally identifiable information between parties, but it needn’t be difficult.
  • More opportunities for marketers to enrich the user experience through embedded interactions (e.g. “Quick actions” from Google is an early example).
  • Email program owners should stop just talking about “CRM” and “Smart Data” and really start using it to further automate/optimise their customer lifecycle communications.

Hannah Price:

Full integration of dynamic content.

Joanne Yarnall:

People actually developiong a single customer view (SCV) that links all channels and customer touch points.

Again SCV been talked about for a few years, but few have successfully managed to deliver and the returns on the back of achieving this would be huge.

Kath Pay:

I would like to see email marketers embracing the principles of marketing and looking beyond email as being a technology-driven channel.

Email should be seen as a channel that uses strategy, persuasion, psychology and the consumer’s journey to deliver a holistic and unified experience that is supported by the wonderful technology we email marketers are fortunate to have.