2019: The Year to Make Your Email Strategy Stand Out

It’s that time again! The end of another quarter and calendar year means it’s goal planning season, baby. And what better way to plan for those end-of-year meetings than gaining some serious knowledge about the top trends in your industry?

Out of all the different digital marketing channels that strengthen the relationship between brands and consumers, email is the best (I only have a small bias). Not only does email have the opportunity to be your organization’s most intimate form of digital communication, but it also continues to outperform other channels, and not to mention, be integrated with those channels to improve metrics all across the board.

Industry Trends

Looking back, 2018 was a big year for marketing — especially email marketing. Even for an industry that’s always changing, it’s still crazy how much has happened for email since our last trip around the sun. From the dreaded GDPR deadline in May to various ESP acquisitions, to software updates on various email clients, 2018 gave us just a small taste of how and what to expect from the email industry in 2019. So prepare for even more ESP changes, privacy laws and a greater focus on the customer’s lifetime value.

  • ESP Updates | Since 2012, there’s been roughly $10 billion in mergers and acquisitions in the email service provider industry. Not only are ESPs acquiring each other left and right, but they are also constantly updating their interfaces, rolling out new features, rolling back current features, and keeping us marketers on our toes with the good, the bad, and the ugly. You should expect nothing less in 2019. When it comes to working with your ESP, be confident, adaptable and prepared to submit a support ticket when the software decides to go rogue.

  • Privacy Laws | In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year and haven’t heard of GDPR, it was a pretty big deal in 2018, and privacy is expected to be a strategic trend throughout 2019. The California Consumer Privacy Act (aka America’s GDPR) is expected to go into effect January 1, 2020, if there are no amendments made. This means you have one year to get your sh*t together, if you haven’t already. It also means that you’ll have another thousand “We’ve updated our privacy policy” emails in your inbox next New Year's Eve.

Source: GIPHY 

  • Focus on the Customer’s Lifetime Value | Throughout 2018, organizations have been focusing on the customer’s lifetime value rather than viewing email simply as a direct response channel. Finally. While 2018 was the year of discovering this new trend, 2019 will be the year where it becomes the new norm. However, with so many opportunities to use dynamic and personalized content, it can be easy to overdo it. Make sure that every decision you make when creating your campaigns has a clear strategy behind it, and focuses on what the customer wants — not what you want them to want.

Strategy Trends

Before diving into the details of your brainstormed campaigns, it’s important to have clear goals for your overall strategy. While organizations are always going to care about revenue and metrics, like open rate and click-through rate, how we handle subscriber engagement, unsubscribes and integration with other digital marketing channels will be integral for email strategy in 2019.

  • Subscriber Engagement | Subscriber engagement matters now more than ever. Not to be a pessimist, but have you ever thought about how your amazing open rate of 30% means that 70% of your subscribers did NOT open your email? Yikes. Sure, you can just say you’re never going to please everyone, but as marketers, it’s kind of our job to try. Take the time in 2019 to examine your audience and see who is and isn’t engaging with your brand, and then find out why. Segment based on behavior, and make your emails so relevant to your audience that they jump for joy whenever they receive a new one.

  • Unsubscribes | Now that email clients are offering consumers additional and easier ways to unsubscribe from emails they aren’t loving, some email marketers are freaking out and anticipating a mass exodus from their audience (I’ve yet to see that actually happen to any real email program). But you know how the old saying goes. “If you love someone, set them free and then ask why they unsubscribed.” Rejection can be tough, but if you understand the why behind it, it can teach a very valuable lesson. If you dive deeper into why your subscribers aren’t interested anymore, it shows that you’re not only looking to improve how you communicate with them, but that you also value what they think.

Source: GIPHY


  • Incorporate Other Channels | Yes, email has been a consistent top performer in the digital marketing realm for a while now, but it’s not just great on its own. It’s considered one of the strongest pairings in digital marketing when combined with paid social media advertising. Paid social gets your brand’s name in front of new faces, drives traffic to your website and familiarizes users with your organization. When email steps in at the perfect time, it nurtures that relationship to create a long-term bond between brand and client. Companies are realizing the value of this partnership, so expect to see many more integrated campaigns next year.

Content Trends

But what’s the point in even sending a marketing email if you don’t have anything valuable to say? Quality content is the backbone of all digital communications. What you say and how you say it are what make your audience decide if they love your brand or not. So make it a priority in 2019 to show users you value them and their time by using personalization and snackable content.

  • Personalization | Personalization is now the status quo in email marketing. It's no longer this mysterious new thing that brands are experimenting with. It is 100% already expected by consumers, so don’t let them down. Just make sure you aren’t creepy or annoying, or you’ll send your audience running for the hills.

Source: Twitter

  • Snackable Content | The average person’s attention span is only 8 seconds long. That’s 8 seconds for someone to decide whether they want to open, read and act on your email before they get distracted by some shiny object in the distance. Not only are smaller sections of text easier to read and digest, but they are also better for the growing number of mobile devices now used to read emails. This trend may seem difficult to act on because there’s so much you want to tell your audience, but remember that people interested in your offer will act on it, so keep your messages short and sweet.

Design Trends

In addition to content, some brands have done an amazing job executing high-quality design and craftsmanship in their email campaigns. Unfortunately, most have not focused on this until recently (and some have not at all). However, in 2019, anticipate more companies taking time to create interactive, colorful emails that are accessible to everyone.

  • Interactive Emails | While not all email clients fully support interactive elements, they’re getting closer every day. This means that when they are fully able to support this new feature, consumers will expect it immediately. Eighty-one percent of users feel that interactive content is more engaging than static content. So if you haven’t already, start exploring how interactive design can improve your email program. I promise your competitors are already working on it, just like Nike and Taco Bell.

  • Color | While 2018 was the year of minimalistic white, black and gray emails, expect 2019 to be saturated with vibrant colors. If you’re worried about bright colors appearing too busy and crazy for your campaigns, don’t worry! This wouldn’t be a trend if it couldn’t be done right. And if you need some inspiration, check out this and this.

Source: GIPHY

  • Accessibility | People with disabilities represent 12.6% of the American population, and chances are most of those people have an email address. In the past, brands have spent hours focusing on email clients with less than 1% market share, but, unfortunately, have completely ignored this large portion of consumers with visual, physical or cognitive and neurological disabilities. Making your emails accessible isn’t very difficult — and that’s a big reason why it’s been overlooked. However, 2019 is the year the accessibility conversation becomes mainstream, so start making it a priority today.

  • Responsive Design | In the last year, mobile devices have claimed half of all email opens, so it’s more important than ever to ensure your emails are responsive to different devices and clients. Move away from desktop-centric designs and instead, go towards a desktop/mobile combo approach, so your emails are optimized for both viewings. For beautiful emails on every device, use media queries and other coding techniques to adjust your content and layout to fit every subscriber’s screen.

All of these trends are intended to strengthen the brand-to-consumer relationship — something that’s unfortunately been broken in the email industry for quite some time. And although email is moving at such a fast pace, it’s important to slow things down and make sure that all of your goals and decisions regarding your email program are intentional and strategic. Take the time in Q1 to focus on what trends will be the most beneficial for your brand, and prioritize what will build a stronger connection with your audience. Now it’s time to set your intentions and make 2019 your email program’s best year ever. Cheers to that!

Written by Mollie Hady on January 4, 2019


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Not only are smaller sections of text easier to read and digest, but they are also better for the growing number of mobile devices now used to read emails.

Written by
Mollie Hady