Before we crack on, don’t forget to check out these Econsultancy resources:

Smart use of data

Parry Malm, CEO, Phrasee:

This year, Virgin Holidays combined the power of Phrasee and Moveable Ink to provide real-time email with optimised engagement metrics. The end result? They won at the Masters of Marketing – and increased email revenue by a few million pounds. Not bad, not bad at all.

Another one is Domino’s. Most think of them as a pizza company – but actually, they’re a tech company who happen to make pizza. They’ve increased their click-thrus by 57% by using optimised subject lines (via Phrasee, and yep, it’s a shameless plug, but still, it doesn’t make it untrue!)

It’s companies like these who understand the power of increased email engagement who will leave their competitors in the dust.

Graham Charlton, editor in chief, SaleCycle:

Asda’s Daily Alert emails may not be the most attractive in terms of design, but the data behind them is incredibly smart, and they’re very effective.

The emails are sent for 10 days towards the end of the month to subscribers, and the products displayed and content is automated and chosen according to the individuals propensity to purchase.

Steven Ledgerwood, managing director UK, Emarsys:

To me, one of the biggest trends in email this year – and for many years – has been the channel’s durability. Its death has been predicted for years now, but the channel is evergreen and continues to reinvent itself: it is stronger than ever, and continuing to grow in volume and adapt to the challenges presented by new technologies and mediums for communication.

In 2017 this has been most clear in the form of personalisation. The channel has retained its predominant position for personal communication thanks to brand marketers collecting customer data, understanding customer lifecycles and applying these insights to email communications, to achieve personalisation. If you include automation to make sure the content reaches consumers, at the right time, email is still by far the most effective unique identifier, and the most definitive ‘digital ID’ available. The fact giants like LinkedIn and Facebook still count on email reflects as such.

Going beyond promotions

Colby Cavanaugh, Senior VP of marketing, Emma, Inc:

This year, we’ve seen brands really begin to diversify their email content beyond promotions. Discounts encourage one time purchases, but telling a story or providing valuable content creates an exciting and lasting relationship. Consumers are smart. They know when they’re being sold to, and they’re overwhelmed with sales messages on a daily basis.

The only way to stand out is to connect and leave a lasting impression with content that they look forward to (even better if it’s personalised).

Emojis and GIFs

Graham Charlton:

This isn’t necessarily a good trend, but the use of emojis and other gimmicks seems to have taken off, in my inbox at least.

As Parry Malm explained in a recent article, they can be used effectively but some seem to take it too far and seem so desperate for attention they’ll try any trick. (See Gap example below). For design, Adidas creates some eye-catching emails which use GIFs very well.

Arificial Intelligence

Parry Malm:

Without a doubt, “artificial intelligence” was the buzzword across all channels in 2017. And yet – most people don’t know what it is.

Lots of people were talking about it, but a lonely few were implementing it – and, even fewer were implementing it in a manner that made them money.

Steven Ledgerwood:

In terms of stand-out innovation in 2017, BrandAlley is one great example. It has achieved a remarkable 40% year-on-year order growth by opting for AI. Machine learning capabilities in our platform provide them with recommended campaign formats and activities, based on specific customer segments, ensuring only the most relevant content is shown across all channels, and in particular email – its main channel.

By using it to tailor customer communications to each recipient, while also matching the aesthetic appeal of the designer companies it partners with, the company has also seen a 50% reduction in abandoned basket conversion and cost per acquisition rates, and increased its customer reach eight-fold. All while reducing campaign execution time to a matter of hours, and freeing up time to work on content and design.

Creating a cohesive strategy

Colby Cavanaugh:

Despite their huge budgets and massive marketing presence, professional sports teams actually tend to be a little bit behind as far as email strategies go. However, we’ve seen examples like the Tennessee Titans really step up their game with incredible, mobile-friendly design and smart strategy.

Specifically, they do a great job nurturing fans and providing a cohesive, engaging experience from their website to their inbox to their social channels and beyond.