Despite the fact that we live in a world where email makes headlines when it’s used as part of a large scale data breach, it’s still the world’s number one communication channel. The volume of legitimate email grows every year, reaching a fever pitch in North America around Black Friday and Cyber Monday as retailers pack the inboxes of consumers with once-a-year offers. Despite SMTP, the underlying protocol for email — being born in an age long before the iPhone, Facebook and Twitter (read more in part 1 of this series) — is evolving thanks to the ingenuity of clever designers and mailbox providers who view email as the single most pervasive digital communication medium on the planet.
For those that think email is “set it and forget it,” think again. Email is alive and continues to surprise and delight. The sheer fact that for every $1 of investment there’s the potential for a $38 return should make you stop and think twice about ignoring the power of the channel. If you’re wondering what email has in store in the coming years, then take these points into consideration as you consider where to spend your marketing dollars:
Email’s growth is assured
Based on The Future of Digital Communication study, Gen Z anticipates their email usage will grow in the coming years as they enter higher education institutions and the workforce. As a matter of fact, it is the preferred channel for B2C communications, according to the findings in this study.
The interactive inbox
Google AMP for email will bring interactivity to the inbox. Google has taken its AMP technology—designed to speed up mobile pages—and applied it to the inbox to create interactive elements. Although complicated and rigorous, some large brands are lining up to test the technology to drive higher engagement in the Gmail inbox. Although this is a proprietary Google technology, it will have a marked effect if and when it goes into general availability when you consider that Gmail is the largest mailbox provider on the planet with an estimated 1.4 billion users.
Continued DMARC adoption
The continued adoption and publishing of reject records for DMARC (read more in part 2 of this series) will help clean up the overall email ecosystem. Although DMARC and its underlying technologies have been in production for some years, adoption outside of larger companies and email service providers eager to protect their customers’ brands has been slow.
The benefits of BIMI
Companies adopting DMARC reject records and aligning their email authentication domains across SPF and DKIM will benefit from Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI). BIMI will reward companies that take their authentication seriously and, by extension, contribute to the overall health of the messaging ecosystem by displaying brand logos in messages and webmail clients that support the BIMI standard.
The working group, a cross-industry set of actors including Mailbox providers, has been hammering out the details at industry organizations such as M3AAWG and the IETF to make email authentication more critical to all senders and improve the trustworthiness of authenticated messages for every recipient.
All eyes on deliverability
Deliverability will remain top of mind for email marketers around the world. With more than 90 percent of all inbound email traffic to mailbox providers and ISPs being spam, the job of differentiating legitimate from fraudulent email traffic will fall on the shoulders of seasoned professionals that understand the rudiments of setting up mail systems (commercial and transactional), managing digital reputation and remediating problems that arise.
The personalization of email
Despite the advice of industry experts, subject line personalization doesn’t move the needle as much as you might think. First of all, personalization seems to be more aspirational than an institutionalized practice — based on a 2017 analysis of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, only one in 10 subject lines were personalized and those that were didn’t prove to be more engaging to recipients. Still, this shouldn’t dissuade marketers from abandoning personalization. There are other forms of personalization, such as offers based on past purchasing behavior, similar product offerings, first name calls to action in the email body, etc. that might move the needle more.
The main reason that you should absolutely personalize subject and content, however, is to prevent abuse and promote brand security. One of the distinguishing characteristics of spoofed mail is the lack of personalization — most spoofed messages are addressed to “Dear Customer” and written in poor English. Personalizing things like a subject line helps establish the credibility of the sender even if the customer doesn’t recognize it as such.
Avoiding a bad domain reputation
Managing domain reputation will become more crucial in the coming years as IPv6 becomes more widespread. It became evident some years ago that the world would run out of IPv4 addresses; thus, IPv6 was born to ensure all of the world’s phones, laptops, smart TVs and other digital connected devices could be addressed properly. As a matter of fact, ISPs like Comcast are already accepting IPv6 traffic.
There are 4,294,967,296 IPv4 addresses; in contrast, there are 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 IPv6 addresses. It’s impossible to scan the IPv6 address space in any reasonable amount of time, meaning mailbox providers will rely even more on domain reputations to determine friend from foe.
More and more countries are moving toward creating privacy frameworks that will impact how legitimate marketers opt-in subscribers and communicate with them. GDPR was a tectonic shift in the privacy landscape, but it isn’t the only such measure.
California passed a mini GDPR-like measure called the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018. Meanwhile, countries where no privacy had previously existed, like Brazil, have passed their first privacy rules as well, signaling that the digital age has implications for everyone’s personally identifiable information.
It’s an exciting time to be in email! From the ability to design and craft messages with unique interactive experiences to the interactivity provided by chatbots and AI with hooks into email systems, there is no shortage of good ideas to be tested and applied in order to make every single email feel like a one-to-one experience and continue harnessing email’s power for many years to come.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.