Email Marketing Industry Review: Top 5 Trends that Shape Email Marketing

Email is the most dominant channel of communication between the brand and the customer. It is constantly evolving, redefining personalization and targeting. So what are the most promising email marketing trends in 2017? Let’s take a look from the inside!

According to the Radicati Group, 2.6 billion people worldwide have email accounts, with an average of 1.7 ac­counts per individual. By contrast, Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform has 1.55 bil­lion active users worldwide.

What’s more, email is more likely to be around in the future than Facebook, Twitter, and other channels, according to consumers. The most hostile group toward email is the Millennials — younger, well off consumers. Therefore, it is a sign that email marketing will be strong in 2017 and beyond.

Email is also a top marketing investment opportunity. Over the past decade, email marketing’s return on investment (ROI) has only been rivalled by organic searches. Marketing experts think this trend will continue for at least the next 5 years, with email marketing remaining one of the top ROI channels.

According to the survey, conducted by Litmus, email marketing’s return on investment (ROI) will be higher in 2017 and beyond rather than it is now.

In 2017 and beyond, will email marketing’s return on investment (ROI) be higher or lower than it is now?

At the same time, regulatory pressures are likely to increase and have bigger impact on email marketing industry. Moreover, due to increasingly singular global internet experience, overseas laws will affect US marketers more and more every year.

Do you think US anti-spam laws (CAN-SPAM, etc.) will be strengthened, weakened, or remain largely unchanged over the next 5 years?

We’ve analyzed the email marketing environment so now it’s time to explore the major trends that will influence the email marketing industry.

Personally, I suggest, that there is no single mega trend, but a bunch of them that should be explored separately. In addition to sharing my own thoughts, I’ll add in the opinions of some influential email marketing contributors, giving you even more reasons to be excited about these email marketing trends in 2017, all of which I think will be impactful.

1. Interactive Emails: More will happen inside the email

With more than a quarter of top email marketers saying, “2017 will be the year of interactive emails,” this is our top trend. What is an interactive email? The most widespread definition is an action taken in an email that triggers an event within the same email.

Interactive email elements can take many forms, including:

  • Hamburger menus and other navigation
  • Carousels, image galleries, and sliders
  • Hot spots (product tour)
  • Offer reveals
  • Quizzes
  • Reviews

Email interactivity brings some of the interactions that would normally take place on the landing page and pulls them into the email. By allowing more to happen inside an email, it reduces barriers to engagement and encourages an even higher level of interaction.

With the help of integrated emails subscribers will be able to make purchases right inside a marketing campaign, without ever leaving their inboxes.

As a result, in the future, email will work harder and smarter to help small businesses. Campaigns will offer more of an app-like expe­rience, too, with embedded video and other interactive elements. However, there are two main barriers that may hold back this adoption:

  1. Technical challenges: Interactivity isn’t supported by all email clients. Therefore, fallbacks will help to properly serve subscribers using less sophisticated email clients. This isn’t new for email marketers, because it is a core principle of email marketing. However, big variations in subscriber experiences definitely make some brands nervous.
  2. Tracking and attribution changes. Since interactivity pulls action from the landing page into the email, in-email engagement becomes more important than click rates. As a result, you need to use different metrics to track the real results of your email campaign. Email interactions are special opens that are triggered by engaging with interactive email elements. This change in email success measurement can be the trickiest issue when trying to estimate how effective is the implementation of interactive emails.

Despite the obstacle that may arise, this major trend is coming all the same, improving the subscriber’s experience.

2. Big Data Personalization: Context Will Shape the Subscriber Experience

Nowadays, for an average user inbox still looks like an unorganised mess, especially when compared to search engines’ ability to provide relevant information to consumers. The biggest change in 2017 is big data personalization that will make possible for email readers to know subscribers and their preferences at a deeper level than search engines.

Here is an example of the future that is close. Based on behavioural data, geolocation, and subscriber`s likes, email reader will use context clues to serve information based on their needs at that right moment. If the subscriber is looking for a new computer in the Internet, the email offering some new technical appliances will hit his inbox immediately. Sounds like a miracle, right?

In addition to passive pattern recognition based on subscriber actions, this better experience will encourage customers to trust email readers more and provide them with even more information.

Email will leverage every interaction from the Internet of Things, location, behavioral data, and customer preferences to deliver messages to the customer in exactly the right context.

3. Cross-Channel Data: Email will make other channels more successful

The emergence of tools like Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Customer Match allow us to target customers through different channels and develop a more sophisticated view of our audiences. As these offerings expand and new services emerge, separate targeting via different marketing channels will become a thing of the past.

In 2017, email will be seen as not just a high-ROI channel by itself but rather a platform that in­tegrates with and makes other chan­nels more successful.

Email market­ing will not only remain the top performing messaging channel but will become a platform for the cross-channel experience. The greatest evolution will come when email ad­dress will be used to re­target subscribers via social channels and web personalization with the help of Facebook Custom Audiences and Google Cus­tomer Match.

Both platforms allow you to upload an email list and retarget those subscrib­ers — or those that share similar demo­graphics, profiles and behaviors — on their properties. So in 2017, email will not only be used in coordination with other channels, but behavioural data from email interac­tions will power responses in other channels. In other words, with the help of email, driving direct action, other marketing channels will be fueled with actionable data.

4. Millenials: Shaping the real-time communication

Millennials shape most of modern trends by using of more real-time communication. Email, in turn, will become more real time. This will not only change consumers’ medium for consumption but also the frequency of response.

In past, email providers and agencies have been limited by security and function, but technology will evolve to help us create shorter and more instantly consumable message content. Another innovation affected by millennials is HTML5. Marketing experts expect inbox providers like Microsoft will adopt this technology rapidly because of clear and compelling benefits.

With Millennials becoming the top group desired by brands, marketers are going to need to be extremely careful to earn consumers’ trust and keep it. More than any other, these subscribers want personalized, relevant communications at each step along their journey and expect brands to respect their preferences.

5. Machine Learning: The rise of the machines will cause true automation

The role of machine learning will play a big role in the creation and sending of email content in the future. Even in 2016 we’ve seen the beginnings of this trend with predictive analytics for suggested products and content, as well as some of the more advanced data analytics that are able to uncover patterns in complex data sets. Many expect this trend to continue to the point, where most emails are automated and content is drafted by machines.

Machine intelligence will manage and control the messaging to each individual across channels, creating the truly integrated experiences.

Will machine learning ever determine the majority of the content (subject lines, images, copy) in marketing emails?

The email content will be personalized at huge scale with the same behavioral intelligence used to power triggered messaging. This includes providing strongly personalized subject lines, which may in­volve elements of AI to write the cor­rect subject line for each individual in a campaign.

The best marketing is and will always be providing strong customer-centric experiences. However, in 2017, I expect to see much more support within platforms to deliver on the promise of email marketing automation, including:

  1. Automation of benchmarking and recommendations

Given current variable adoption of best practices, in the future systems will step mar­keters through all the best practices for customized lifecycle marketing and delivery. This should be based on ongoing benchmarking and anonymous compari­son against other similar companies.

2. Automation of customer lifecycle sequences for the individual

Platforms will evolve beyond “drag and drop” editors to a platform that automates the creation of lifecycle sequences.

3. Automation of segmentation

By 2020, platforms will automate creation of target segments based on profile, be­havior, and value propositions available from a brand

4. Automation of creative optimisation

Most of the testing of email creativity is still limited to subject lines, but in the future, platforms will better support A/B testing so that it becomes as common as website testing today.


Here are the top 6 trends that will have the greatest impact on email marketing industry:

  1. 2017 will be the year of interactive emails: subscribers will be able to make purchases right inside a marketing campaign, without ever leaving their inboxes
  2. Big data personalization will make possible for email readers to know subscribers and their preferences at a deeper level than search engines
  3. Email market­ing will not only remain the top performing messaging channel but will become a platform for the cross-channel experience.
  4. Millennials will get personalized emails, shaping more real-time communication.
  5. Email marketing will provide strong customer-centric experiences with a help of email marketing automation across various platforms.

Let me know what you think about. How do you see the development of Email Marketing industry? Please don’t hesitate to expres your thoughts in comments!