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ESP Evolution: What The Next Generation Of Email Marketing Looks Like


Email marketing has come a long way. Since the first unsolicited mass marketing email was sent in 1978, email marketing and the strategy behind it have advanced significantly. But as new channels arrive and customers discover new and novel ways to access brands, email is often taken for granted. 

The fact is, email is perhaps the most critical channel for engaging customers and driving revenue. Recent research from Emarsys shows that “100% of marketers believe email is the most important channel for reaching Black Friday shoppers.” Furthermore, martech as a whole has evolved considerably, and today’s email service providers allow marketers to do some incredibly advanced things. 

Email is here to stay, but as we enter the next generation of email marketing, the means of using email to engage more customers and increase growth and revenue becomes much more sophisticated. 

Let’s examine what the next generation of email marketing looks like.

6 Considerations for Next-Gen Email Marketing 

The next generation of email marketing isn’t tech stacks bloated with bells and whistles. It’s about having the right strategy and technology in place to connect with customers on a 1:1 level and drive business results. 

If you’re looking for a solution to bring your email marketing into the next generation, here are six key considerations to keep in mind. 

Multichannel Focus

As a primary digital marketing channel, email won’t be displaced anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean you should solely focus on email to the detriment of your other channels. To satisfy customers, brands today must have a multichannel presence, which means your ESP must be multichannel, too.

The moniker of ESP might imply that the technology is singularly focused on “email,” and traditionally, that’s what was expected of an ESP. Today’s ESPs can do so much more. To stay competitive, find an ESP that can send 1:1 messages to customers across any channel — mobile, push, in-app, SMS, and more. 

Content Personalization

Customers are already inundated with enough emails, and brands are ceaselessly clamoring for their attention. If your email content is generic, you won’t stand out amidst the noise. In fact, for many customers, a personalized email is table stakes if you want their attention.

The most sophisticated ESPs allow marketers to create 1:1 personalized email experiences. This goes beyond pulling in a first name from a database. Next-gen email marketing takes into account the individuality of each and every customer. 

Personalized content should be tailored to each and every customer based on their unique behavior (browsing history, purchase activity, on-site actions, etc.). This ensures the messages are relevant (showing them products based on purchase history and demographics) and resonate (tone and imagery that connects with them and piques their interest).

We’ve started to introduce a lot more personalized email marketing around our customers’ journey, and this … has helped us to shift towards personalization and expand our reach to be value additive. Ultimately, our goal as a brand is to meet customers where they are and provide them with the resources and tools specific to the needs or areas of interest that they’re indicating. One really great example of this that’s been so powerful [and that] we’ve really utilized Emarsys in order to make it even better is our waitlist system. […] And this has been particularly instrumental in really coveted product launches or product drops like our newsprint jean, celebrity favorite styles, or product collaborations like we did with New Balance.”

Jessica Ozella Senior Director of Growth Marketing, Reformation With Vscocam With S5 Preset

Jessica Ozella

Senior Director of Growth Marketing, Reformation

Data Capabilities

Data is at the core of nearly everything you want to do as a marketer, particularly when it comes to real-time, omnichannel personalization. The amount of customer data that now exists is staggering, thanks in part to the rapid growth of digital commerce. This data must be fully integrated with your email marketing, not siloed from it. 

A next-gen ESP must have the ability to ingest loads of different types of data. Not only will it take the data from all the various touchpoints in your digital ecosystem, but just as importantly, send data back out to those parts as well. Having your customer, sales, product, transactional, and other data sets fully integrated within your email marketing enables you to deliver the sophisticated 1:1 experiences customers crave and expect. 

“I think one of the issues we had originally actually was how our data was siloed. So our transaction data wasn’t talking to the data we had in our email platform. Being able to neatly tie up customers with what they were buying, what we had available in our product feed, for example, and where the customer was on the journey really helped. I think, in terms of prioritizing what was important, was doing data analysis to work out which part of the lifecycle we needed to focus on, and then we could go from there and think about what products and what content we wanted to include. […] Really, it starts with analyzing the data that you’ve got, bringing that all together in one place so the data is no longer siloed, analyzing it, and then making use of all of the technology that Emarsys has in terms of recommendations.”

Sebastiano Elia Orlebar Brown

Sebastiano Elia

Head of CRM & Customer Insight, Orlebar Brown

Dynamic Content and Responsive Design

Static one-size-fits-all marketing emails, in theory, are broad enough in their message to resonate with a large number of people. But in reality, they usually end up having little impact (because they’re so general in their offering) on just a few people (because they aren’t specific to any one shopper). 

The future of email marketing takes into account the individuality of each and every customer. Your content should be dynamic so it can be tailored in real time, based on the unique behavior of each and every customer (browsing history, purchase activity, on-site actions, etc.). 

Also, consistency across devices makes your content more resonant. If an email looks great on a  desktop, but awful on a mobile device, then the customer’s experience suffers — even if the message is spot on.

Timing and Relevance

The generic marketing email you sent a couple months back may still be sitting in the inbox of your subscribers. Why? Since then, your customer’s needs and wants have changed. The message was irrelevant before it even hit their inbox.

Next-gen email marketing delivers 1:1 messages in-the-moment, based on the customer’s recent behavior or specific action — not after the fact. Look for a platform that allows you to automate and deliver customer experiences in real time (abandoned cart, abandoned browse, etc.) for maximum impact and relevance. 

We try to use our order confirmation texts and emails to the fullest. Within the past few months, we added product recommendations to the bottom of our order confirmation. And we’ve also added them to almost all of our transactional emails. It’s just such an easy way to get the customer back to the site. Maybe they’ll see something that they didn’t know we sold. [So] just getting them back in any way [we] can. And I doubt they’re going to stay just on that one product. They’re going to shop around. And especially if your site is built in a certain way, it’ll help them.”

Kelly Ringel, Digital Marketing Coordinator, JOLYN

Kelly Ringel

Digital Marketing Coordinator, JOLYN

Testing, Reporting, and Analysis 

It is impossible to predict whether an email campaign will be a huge success or a complete failure. You can, however, craft your content with greater certainty by using the right testing, reporting, and analysis capabilities of your ESP. That’s because you’ll understand what’s working, what’s not, and how to modify your strategy accordingly. 

The most prepared marketers aren’t taking shots in the dark. They have reporting and analysis capabilities within their email marketing platform, connected to all their data, so they can measure and track the results of their efforts. As a result, they are able to gain greater insight into the performance of their marketing, as well as see dollar-by-dollar how their efforts impact the business. 

Entering the Next Generation of Email with Emarsys

Email marketing may not seem sexy, and it’s certainly not novel, but email remains one of the most important channels for engaging customers and driving revenue. It’s the cornerstone of all your digital marketing efforts, so it’s vital to ensure your email marketing capabilities are on par with what the most successful brand marketers are doing. 

Fortunately, having all the aforementioned considerations accounted for in one single email marketing solution isn’t an out-of-reach lofty ambition. The Emarsys Customer Engagement Platform allows marketers to deliver highly personalized 1:1 experiences to customers across all touchpoints and channels — including email — at scale, and in real time. It also gives marketers reporting and analytics capabilities within the platform so they are always up-to-date on how their campaigns are performing, where they can improve, and how marketing drives revenue for the business. 

>>> See for yourself what the next generation of email marketing looks like by scheduling a demo.<<<

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Special thanks to our friends at Emarsys for their insights on this topic.
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