Digital Marketing

Three Digital Marketing Industry Challenges That May Positively Impact Email Marketing

Tom Wozniak heads up Marketing and Communications for OPTIZMO Technologies.

Email and digital marketers can be excused if they have been feeling a bit stressed over the past year. Beyond the immense challenges presented by the pandemic, there have been ongoing developments in the data privacy landscape and changing technologies to deal with. But it’s good to remember that challenges also often provide opportunities. Let’s take a look at a few big changes that could impact email marketing in 2021 and in the future — and how marketers can adapt and identify new opportunities.

Evolving Consumer Engagement

Consumer behavior evolves constantly. Some changes can occur suddenly and require quick decisions, while others allow marketers the time to adapt more gradually. Over the past year, email marketers have been dealing with largely unprecedented and sudden changes in consumer behavior.

Just one example was the shift to working from home that impacted workers around the U.S. and the entire world. People who had previously never had the option of working remotely were now scrambling to set up home offices with no certainty about when or if they would return to a traditional office setting. While marketers had already seen a shift toward more remote work in years past, according to Global Workplace Analytics data (via Business 2 Community), the massive acceleration of the change was a game changer for many companies. Consumer needs for some products and services skyrocketed while the need for others plummeted, and many marketers found that all of their existing campaign performance forecasts and benchmarks needed to be reevaluated and potentially tossed aside as organizations pivoted on long-standing strategies.

More people working from home means more people spending more hours in front of their desktop or laptop in a home office setting. Marketers may be seeing this shift in the form of increased desktop email activity and decreased mobile email activity.

But, if we take a step back from the disruption, it isn’t hard to identify many opportunities for email marketers to adjust to these changing conditions. While mobile devices have the benefit of always being available, the larger screens on laptops and desktops give marketers the ability to develop more compelling email campaign creatives. It’s also reasonable to think that people who work from home will spend more time in their personal email inboxes than they would at the office. So, email marketers should be keeping a close eye on their analytics with regard to the type of device that consumers are using to log into their email. Also, with no commute (except from the kitchen to the home office) many consumers now have even more access to their inboxes. These represent real opportunities for email marketers.

Developing Data Privacy Regulations

Whether the average consumer is truly more concerned about data privacy than they were a few years ago may be debatable, but I believe the trend toward more data privacy regulation is absolutely going to continue moving forward. One challenge for U.S. marketers (and businesses in general) is trying to understand and comply with the ever-increasing number of different laws at the state level. 

Companies need to get a handle on the information they have collected on consumers in their databases, along with understanding what they are continuing to collect from every visitor to their website, store and so on.

So, what’s the opportunity for email marketers? While email marketing is certainly impacted by new privacy laws, the industry has had a longstanding set of guidelines to follow: the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. To date, that remains the overarching set of rules for email marketing in the U.S., and email marketers have been successfully complying with those rules and continuing to drive performance and ROI for nearly 20 years. As other marketing channels grapple with how to adjust their processes to comply with various regulations (such as honoring opt-out requests), the email channel may represent a place for marketing teams to turn to as a stalwart of performance. Email marketers should look at this as an opportunity to even more firmly establish their value within their company’s overall marketing programs.

Changing Email Technologies

While technology is always evolving, there are a few key developments on the horizon for 2021 or in the near future that could have an impact on email marketing. Two of the most relevant developments are:

• Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature.

• The demise of the third-party cookie, when Google stops supporting it in the next couple of years. (The date was recently pushed back.)

The Apple update will essentially make basic email engagement tracking (email opens) processes unreliable because of how the service can automatically open and download the contents of every email. So, every email delivered to an Apple Mail recipient with this feature enabled may look like it was opened, as Litmus explains. Many email marketers depend on open rate data to make marketing decisions in future campaigns.

The third-party cookie is less directly related to email marketing, but other digital marketing channels (display, video, etc.) rely on it for performance measurement and audience targeting.

Once again, there is an opportunity in each of these developments for email marketers. Open rates have always been a flawed statistic because various technical factors can lead to incorrect reporting. Despite this, some email marketers have focused on open rate as a metric to optimize for over the years. But, even without the inaccuracy, simple email opens are disconnected from more important metrics like clicks and conversions (sales, downloads, etc.). Driving a renewed focus on performance metrics related to ROI can only help email marketing campaigns achieve more revenue.

The deprecation of third-party cookies could force marketing leaders to look for channels that aren’t as disrupted by the change. Email could be at the top of that list. 

As is often the case, challenges also bring opportunities, and I believe email marketing is poised for even more growth in the years ahead.


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