The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many challenges and permanent changes for both businesses and consumers. Email marketers had to quickly transform their short and long-term email marketing strategy to ensure a successful transition to the “New Normal”.
As we head into 2021, the pandemic continues to impact marketing strategies and budgets within businesses of all sizes and industries. However, it’s time to switch gears (if you haven’t already) and see which email marketing trends for 2021 will play a pivotal role and help you successfully improve your email marketing strategy.
“Email has an ability many communication channels don’t: to create highly-personalised, relevant, valuable touches – at scale.” – EmailOut
The “New Normal” has forced many businesses to shut down, cut their budgets and go into survival mode due to the restrictions put in place. Consumers have completely changed their purchase behaviour and the way they interact and engage with brands. Yet, one thing remains certain – email marketing is and will continue to be the driving force behind consumers’ purchasing decisions and the top marketing channel for customer nurturing, acquisition and retention.
In this article, we’ll cover the following email marketing trends for 2021:
- What will impact your email strategy for 2021?
- Top 5 email design trends for 2021
- Top 3 email automation trends for 2021
- Privacy trends for 2021
Ready to dive in?
Factors That Will Impact Your Email Marketing Strategy For 2021
Email marketers and businesses must look for innovative ways and explore new opportunities to ensure the success of their email marketing efforts.
Before diving into the top email marketing trends for 2021, let’s have a look at four vital elements that must be considered when developing your email marketing strategy for 2021.
1) COVID-19 industry recovery: Your email marketing strategy depends on it
Different nations and demographics have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and the recovery of the most hard-hit industries to a pre-COVID level could take more than 5 years.
Analysis conducted by McKinsey shows just how a muted recovery scenario is expected to play out across different industries –
“Email marketing trends in 2021 will be driven by the K-shaped recovery from the pandemic that has seen some companies excel while others struggle. Grocers, e-tailers, digital entertainment providers, tech providers, and other companies that have done well will focus on better personalisation, segmentation, and automation as they inch closer to achieving the 1-to-1 marketing paradigm,” according to Chad S. White.
Industries that have been majorly impacted by the pandemic (i.e. airlines, hotels, traditional retailers, etc.) will focus on improvements and invest in shifting from traditional email templates to modular email architectures to decrease the time it takes to create an email campaign, increase engagement rates and widen their audience.
2) AI hype & the underground AI revolution: Strategy first, solution second
Your business’s size, sector and digital maturity will be the determining factors in how you must adjust your email marketing strategy in 2021.
The most essential principle in email marketing is sending the right message at the right time to the right person. That will never change. Yet, knowing what the right message is for whom and when to send it can prove to be quite difficult to pinpoint since customers can be unpredictable and behave differently especially in a post-COVID world.
While AI is quite a hot topic among digital marketers, don’t think it’s the answer to everything. If your email marketing strategy does not truly require AI, don’t push it into being a “must-have”. An AI solution can be a very powerful tool, yet it will only help you with the specific niche tasks it was built for. However, the AI revolution means email marketers can take advantage of tried-and-tested email marketing solutions which have been improved to work in collaboration with AI-based methods.
Overall, as an email marketer, you need to pick a solution that will aid your goals based on your strategy rather than simply purchasing something because it has an AI sticker.
3) Digital Customer Experience (CX): The starting point for email marketing
Customer experience (CX) is customers’ impression of your business (brand) as a whole throughout the entire customer journey. According to Salesforce, 88% of customers expect businesses to accelerate digital initiatives because of 2020’s events. Furthermore, due to the spread of COVID-19 digital demand has soared, leading to 68% of customers stating that the pandemic elevated their expectations of brands’ digital CX.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, more and more people headed online to make purchases. For a lot of marketers, the ultimate goal now would be to mimic the physical experience of buying by creating a swift, easy and memorable online experience. A smashing CX, essentially, will act as a catalyst for boosting your customers’ perception of your brand.
According to the email marketing guru Kath Pay, there are three elements of CX marketing:
- Being helpful
- Putting the customer front and centre
- Personalising the customer’s experience
Utilising email is a perfect approach to create a positive customer experience for your subscribers. With perfectly designed, highly-personalised email campaigns you can put your subscribers on a customer journey from the second they sign up through their first purchase to any and all subsequent purchases. Welcome and Thank You emails, discount and special offer messages, confirmation emails, reminders, feedback and survey emails are just a few prime examples of emails that promote positive customer experience.
Go beyond just removing barriers. Create a fantastic digital CX using your brand’s tone of voice, messaging and, of course, helpful email programmes.
4) Be real and authentic: Better personalisation creates lasting connections
All consumers are looking for a more personal connection with brands and email marketing holds the key to delivering one. Rather than sending generic bulk emails, be interested in your consumers and send them highly-personalised emails. If you aren’t personal, you aren’t relevant and you are not connecting to your customers.
Think about dynamic content, behaviour-based personalisation, buyer personas and even utilising AI solutions if they genuinely benefit your plans. By sending consumers highly-personalised, valuable, relevant email campaigns you encourage better engagement and conversion rates. Ah, and remember, make sure your recipients can choose the type of emails they want to get from you; include a link to your preference centre. The more you show consumers you care about them, the better results you’ll achieve.
Email Design Trends For 2021
A new year, possibly a new you (thank you New Year’s resolutions!) and why not even a new email design?
Email design is an essential element to a successful email marketing strategy. Yet, the face of email marketing has changed thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there’s no need to despair. Instead, put your designer cap on and create something that will definitely turn heads and ultimately increase your engagement. Take a look at the top five email marketing trends for 2021 –
1) The Minimalist Design
Overcomplicating things is unnecessary especially when you can drive your point home in a more simple, uncluttered and visually stunning email design.
Minimalist emails have fewer elements making them less distracting to allow the recipient’s main focus to be what you want them to do. Components such as white space, easy to read typography and muted colours are key to crafting the perfect straightforward attention-grabbing email campaign.
Fewer words can deliver more meaning. Thus, don’t clutter your email with tons of imagery, weird hard-to-read fonts and numerous call-to-actions (CTA). Keep it short, simple and to the point.
2) CX Boosters
Customer experience (CX) will forever be altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to ensure the customers’ journey will be seamless and swift.
For some shoppers, online purchases might be a first. For others, it’s an already adopted buying practice. Whatever the case, you must help customers navigate the process as easy as possible. You can easily achieve that with your email marketing campaigns by inserting CX boosters such as –
a) providing a link to immediately open support chat;
b) offering website navigation tips; and
c) answering FAQs regarding purchasing your products/services online
Here is a prime example of providing good customer experience by MADE –
3) The Broken Grid Layout
It’s not “a must” for your email to always be neatly structured with perfectly aligned columns; and, somewhat boring, overused traditional layout design. A rather surprising email marketing trend for 2021 is the broken grid layout.
Let’s clear up a few terms first. A grid layout is a structuring and organising method that allows marketers to arrange content such as images, text, buttons and other elements into a certain layout. Keep in mind that a grid layout is rather a concept than a defined method. Take a look at these four grid layout examples –
A broken grid layout, in the simplest terms, is an email layout that defies the traditional standard grid layout. It could mean adjusting columns’ width and/or row size; overlapping and/or stacking design elements; adding animation; and, any other tactic going beyond the standard grid designs. A broken grid layout allows email marketers to create unique, visually-engaging, highly-entertaining email campaigns; and, offer a memorable and distinguishable experience to the recipients.
The fashion brand Zara has done a wonderful job at defining the confines of traditional email layout design with this campaign –
4) Motion in Emails: Videos, GIFs and Cinemagraphs
Including video content in your marketing emails increases your click-through rate by 65%, decreases unsubscribe rates by 26% and boosts open rates by 19%. Those are some pretty impressive numbers proving video in email has been a major email marketing trend in 2020 and will only increase in popularity in 2021.
However, email marketers must consider one vital factor when attempting video in email. Many big-time email providers such as Outlook and Yahoo do not allow video playback. Therefore, your best course of action might be either embedding a link to the video leading to your website or YouTube channel or use animated GIFs or cinemagraphs instead. For example, you can implement a GIF rather than a still image; and, link it to a video on your YouTube channel –
5) Join the Dark Side: Dark Mode for Emails
Back in 2018, Apple added dark mode to its desktop email client. In 2019, iOS mail introduced dark mode, too. Other ESPs, including Gmail, followed suit announcing support for dark mode. Thus, there is no denying it… dark mode is here to stay.
To brush up on your knowledge, dark mode is a reversed colour palette that uses light-coloured typography, user interface (UI) elements and iconography on dark backgrounds. Dark mode is becoming a rising email marketing trend for 2021 because –
a) it is easy on the eyes minimising eye-strain;
b) it reduces screen brightness preserving your mobile device’s battery;
c) it improves content legibility; and
d) users may simply prefer darker interfaces
Take a look at this example by Land’s End, the brand’s navy-clue logo is barely visible in dark mode which could’ve been avoided if they had considered dark mode when designing their email campaign.
The following email clients and apps currently offer dark mode –
a) mobile apps – iPhone mail, iPad mail, Gmail app (Android and iOS), Outlook app (Android and iOS)
b) desktop clients – Apple mail, Outlook 2019 (Mac OS and Windows)
c) web clients – Outlook.com and Hey.com
Regardless of which email design trend you decide to utilise, make sure you always follow email design best practices and don’t forget to always test your emails before you unleash them on your email list(s).
Email Automation Trends For 2021
Analytics + Email Marketing = Triggered Hyper-Personalised Email Campaigns
This is the perfect formula for a fantastic email marketing automation strategy; and, one of the major email marketing trends for 2021. Have a look at these three email automation techniques you should implement in your email marketing strategy for 2021 –
1) Welcome email series. If you want to send just a single email you can do so. Yet, email marketing experts found out that creating short onboarding email series is a fantastic way of welcoming new subscribers, setting expectations and boosting your engagement rates.
2) Transactional emails. This type of email presents an opportunity for email marketers to seize the momentum of a recent purchase. Therefore, give the customer information about their purchase/order; but also, use the opportunity to engage them further by either offering similar products/services or asking for their feedback. Keep in mind, transactional emails’ open and click-through rates are eight times higher compared to any other email and they can generate up to six times more revenue.
3) Special occasion emails. With milestone emails such as anniversary and/or birthday emails, email marketers can leverage personalisation and ensure each one of their customers feels special by offering them tailor-made offers and special discounts.
There are limitless possibilities for you to automate your email marketing, think about how you can leverage these techniques to engage your audience.
Privacy Trends For 2021
In the world of email marketing, the existence of laws and regulations guarantees you use your email for good, not evil. Yes, there are quite a lot of privacy regulations email marketers must comply with. However, all email marketing laws are focused on one main thing – creating a better email marketing experience for both marketers and recipients.
Take a look at a few of the benefits brought about by privacy laws –
- 41% of email marketers witnessed a decrease in unsubscribe rates
- 76% of email marketers report an increase in open rates
- 55% of email marketers report a decrease in spam complaints
- 75% of email marketers report an increase in click-through rates
If you are sending emails across borders then you have to be 100% compliant with international email marketing legislation. After all, regulations differ from country to country and what makes you compliant in one country could be completely off-limits in another and you might be subject to hefty fines with lots of zeros.
Have a look at the top six privacy guidelines related to email marketing –
1) always obtain consent before adding and emailing people
3) always keep consent records
4) allow subscribers to revoke consent easily by including an unsubscribe link in every email
5) never use false or deceptive messaging
6) clearly show your identity by including a physical address
Each email marketer has their one-of-a-kind outlook and an explicit approach of fusing traditional email marketing skills with continually progressing techniques. However, with each new decade, email marketing trends and techniques that have been used in the past might not be as effective and efficient as they have been.
It doesn’t matter if you are an email marketing veteran or a newbie who’s just starting out with email marketing, separating fleeting fads from new and still developing email marketing trends and evolving best practices can be quite a challenge. However, research and collective experience can help you navigate the changing email marketing landscape.
2020 has proven pretty challenging, yet email marketing continues to demonstrate an amazing ability to adapt to meet consumers’ ever-changing needs. With these key email marketing trends for 2021, you are ready to face anything the new year throws your way and ensure your email campaigns will be fresh, relevant, focused and, of course, boosting your ROI.