Top Email Marketing Trends to Look Out For in 2022

Ah, email, the snail mail of the Internet. The littlest brother of the marketing channel family. Usually overlooked as the least important part of one’s marketing efforts, email is often relegated as a way to amplify a sale, net some easy revenue by upselling existing customers or do some lazy branding through low-effort content emails based around some holiday (and usually connected to a sale).

The reality is that many brands are leaving money on the table by neglecting email’s position as a crucial marketing channel. Not only is it the most intimate marketing channel, where you can speak directly to your customer and earn their business for life, but it’s also one of the most cost-effective channels to put your money into. According to email marketing company HubSpot, email nets $42 in sales for every $1 spent, netting an eye-watering 4200%!!

And perhaps most important of all when it comes to marketing, people just plain like engaging with email. Amongst all generations from Boomers to Gen Z, 68% of people said they preferred email as their way to be marketed to (Bluecore).

The opportunity is ripe to grow your bottom line via a robust email marketing campaign – and it’s not even that difficult. The trick is to understand the trends and regulations that are currently ruling the email marketing ecosystem. Here are some trends you should account for in your email strategy as we move into 2022.

Big Privacy Changes

Marketers will always remember 2021 as the year iOS 14.5 dropped, changing the landscape of digital marketing in one update. Metrics and KPIs that had long been bellwethers for success in terms of engagement suddenly became almost irrelevant overnight as millions of people opted out of sending their data through to brands.

At first, email was one of the few marketing channels not affected by the iOS 14 changes, but then came Apple’s latest update, iOS 15. Following up on their quest to secure data protection for their users, this new update includes Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, which allows users to block their data being shared when you open an email.

All a user has to do is click a button in the Apple Mail app (this feature is turned on automatically in other email clients like Gmail) saying they wish not to share their data. The software then filters out every email you send or receive, sending those emails to a proxy server, before landing in the receiver’s inbox. In other words, the application scrambles your data so that your preferences and demographic data can’t be linked to your identity.

How this will affect marketing long-term remains to be seen, but one thing that is already clear is that the gold standard of email marketing KPIs – Open Rate – is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. 

As 41% of people who use iPhones globally will be able to hide their data from marketers, formerly ironclad metrics like open rate now become skewed, reducing their value to businesses. Some are even calling it the “final nail in the coffin” of open rate as the judge, jury and executioner when it comes to what constitutes successful email marketing (Digiday).

Though it may sound bad, this is actually good news for brands in verticals like Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), who rely on converting customers at high rates and then retaining them through effective email marketing, often keeping them in a subscription loop.

By focusing more on creating meaningful content for the audience vs. creating a clickbait subject line to increase a vanity metric, CPG brands (and any brand, really) can see more repeat customers more engaged as they’re forced to create more targeted, higher-quality content to their email lists.

It’s clear that more substantial measures of success will take the place of open rates, such as clickthrough, conversions, full reads, time spent and so on. This shift away from open rate and towards other, more meaningful metrics can only be a good thing for businesses in the long run. A focus on metrics that signal engagement with the brand and, ultimately, revenue gained will take the place of the now-banished open rate.

Personalization

This may sound counterintuitive due to…everything we just talked about with regards to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection…but the reality is that email is going to get even more personalized in 2022 than last year.

While your specific data may get skewed and scrambled due to Apple’s Data Protection, general data still gets through, so using targeted and specific email campaigns to speak to each individual customer is still crucial for success.

Yes, the data in 2022 will be different and marginally less valuable from the data in 2020, but it’s still useful data. Many Apple users will opt out of sharing data, but studies show that 58% of people will share data if they get personalized shopping experiences (The Drum). And that’s not even accounting for the fact that iPhone users are still in the minority of people!

Going into 2022, brands of all sizes will be pulling out all their tricks to increase engagement (and ultimately, sales) through email. Personalized emails sent to hyper-specific demographics that will respond to said emails is going to be the way forward for many brands.

Tools like targeting, on-site behavior and even AI-generated content are going to be utilized now more than ever to climb the obstacles Apple has laid for email marketers and provide real value to their email audience.

Now that open rate is dead and engagement more crucial than ever, giving the right people the right content in the right way will be paramount to a successful strategy in the changed landscape of 2022.

Interactivity

Another ripple effect from iOS 15, interactive emails are quickly becoming some of the most powerful types of content for audiences across verticals, and for CPG brands in particular.

Hand-in-hand with personalization, having high-engagement emails with interactive content in a post-open rate world, is crucial to maintaining a relationship of value with your audience.

Our simplest, most direct goal as marketers is to get the customer engaged with our brand, and interactive emails are the simplest, most direct ways to get there. Even the simplest 1 question quiz will get more engagement, more clicks, more clickthrough’s and ultimately, more sales, than any email about a sponsored athlete or charity the company donated to over the holidays.

Content like puzzles, crosswords, riddles and other types of simple, understandable, high-effort, high-value pieces can engage your customers in single emails and in multi-email campaigns.  These types of content not only create engagement within the context of the send, but they can also seamlessly be configured to fit in with a sale, an exclusive offer, or other types of revenue-generating activations.

CPG brand Primary Goods is a great example of the kinds of interactive emails that their audience loves, creating highly engaging pictographic riddles that spanned multiple emails and multiple months, tying together sales campaigns from Valentine’s Day to BFCM in a single unified theme that saw high engagement over a long period of time.

The world really is your oyster when it comes to email – it’s a slower, more thoughtful medium that, unlike other marketing channels, gives you the space and time to give your audience something valuable that they can engage with. It takes a bit more effort than a single-image sales email, but it also generates a bigger return in the long run.

User Generated Content (UGC)

2021 might as well have been called the Year of UGC, and it looks like a trend that’s set to continue with the explosion of TikTok as a new marketing channel and companies like Instagram creating whole services to cater to brands and individuals. Email is no exception.

Going into 2022, prepare for a bombardment of email UGC. For many brands in verticals as varied as CPG to SaaS, UGC has become the most valuable format of marketing creative across channels – but the extension of UGC into email has only just begun in recent months.

Again, the death of the open rate comes into play here. As brands seek more engagement from their email communications, they look to the types of content that have the highest engagement. Right now, that’s UGC.

And it makes sense, too; we have spent two years indoors, on our screens, being marketed to from every single angle almost every minute of every day, so it has become extremely easy to tell what is marketing and what isn’t – and take steps to avoid it.

UGC provides a counterpoint to brand speak – real human beings talking about products creates more trust in your brand (at this moment in time – surely audiences will get sick of UGC at some point). Even though most UGC is paid, it can deliver an intangible sense of trust in your brand and eliminates some of the distance between you and your customer.

It is wise for any email marketer to utilize UGC and utilize it liberally, at least until UGC reaches a saturation point sometime in the next year or two. As one of the most cost-effective methods of content, you can even create entire UGC campaigns solely for email to really speak to your customer and entice them to engage with content they relate to.

Going Forward

Yes, email marketing in 2022 is drastically different than it was in 2020, but it’s not that different.

Yes, we used to be beholden to the almighty open rate, but at the end of the day, your email marketing will die in the dark if you’re not providing valuable content to your audience. The reality is people like reading email – as long as it’s worthwhile.

Focusing your 2022 email marketing strategy on giving your audience something valuable, interactive, and personalized to them will give you a leg up on other brands in your space who still treat email like a thing of the past.

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