As ubiquitous as email marketing might be today, its beginnings were quite humble. Just a few decades ago, nobody even knew what “electronic mail” is, except for those in the army or computer labs. While email came to be used by the general public in the early 1990s, it wasn’t until 1996, when AOL and Hotmail launched their web-based email clients. This was the moment of revelation for marketers, who foresaw that email marketing was going to get big, and that it was here to stay. Yet, the beginnings were so humble that marketing professionals often did not take email marketing seriously if their colleagues mentioned it during brainstorming sessions.
In this article, let us take a look at how email marketing evolved from its initial days to what it is now, and what we can expect to see in the coming years.
The beginnings of email marketing
In 1998, Outlook launched HTML support for emails, which allowed marketing professionals to create beautiful emails and send them to people’s inboxes. It was around the time that email became ubiquitous and even those who did not have computers or internet connections at home used it in libraries, cafes, or at work. Even schools began to offer their students to use email, giving marketing professionals a unique opportunity to directly target customers based on their demographics.
Unfortunately, this led to the problem of spamming and marking emails being tossed into junk folders without ever being opened by the addressees. To tackle this issue, the American Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act, which brought in regulations related to spamming. This helped to reduce the clutter and once again, revived the respect that customers had for email marketing. As more people started to use BlackBerry devices, checking email on the go became the norm and marketing became easier than ever.
The smartphone revolution changed the way email marketing was done
In 2007, the world as we knew it changed forever with the introduction of iPhone. iPhone changed the way people confused emails and helped spur the modern email marketing industry. In no time, businesses started to create beautiful email marketing campaigns based on data stored in CRM and other tools. While this did result in the resurgence of the spam issue, spam blockers and marketing repeat offenders helped to quell this problem to a certain extent. Email marketing became the mainstay of marketing professionals, replacing telephone calls, snail mail and other forms of direct marketing.
Only when Facebook and Twitter became huge towards the late 2000s did email marketing see a rival in the form of social media marketing. However, social media and email came to be clubbed together under the digital marketing umbrella, and every business that is worth its salt now engages in some form of digital marketing. Email marketing is currently the most valuable form of lead generation. By 2015, people opened their emails on mobile devices more than they did on desktops and this gave rise to the importance of responsive and fluid emails. Though email marketing is often viewed negatively by recipients, voluntary subscription has resulted in successful marketing campaigns.
In fact, there are several factors that need to be taken into account currently, with respect to email marketing:
- Businesses have accumulated so much data, that much of it is unorganized. Data from social media and email lists need to be structured and classified into different marketing segments.
- Most emails are outdated and you may be witnessing a lot of emails returned your way. It is important to conduct an audit of all the email addresses you have on your lists, and make sure that they are updated with correct email addresses and contact details.
- You need to seek consent before you continue sending marketing communication to your audience. Make sure to integrate a GDPR-compliant plugin or tool to ensure that when people subscribe, they also explicitly consent to be contacted. This is important for regulatory compliance.
The future of email marketing is bright
Email marketing is here to stay, whether a new disruptive innovation comes or not. Here are a few things that we expect will happen in the email space:
- Email is the most simple yet effective form of communication, and will continue to be a favorite of marketing professionals.
- The coming months will see emails becoming a lot simpler and minimalist.
- Businesses will engage in hyper-personalization of email content to ensure that each individual receives only the marketing message that matters to them.
- Businesses will invest in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize email marketing campaigns
- Tracking email marketing KPIs will be aided by human analysts, as they are more capable of putting data into context than computers
Audit your email data
Email has come a long way since the 1990s and is currently the most preferred marketing platform. It consistently helps businesses to find leads and nurture them all along their buying cycle. Yet, there may be some fundamental changes that can be expected in the future. These changes include compliance with GDPR, updating contacts and cleansing email data, and segmenting emails into different groups. All this can take a long time and hurt your temporal resources more than you can ever imagine. Hire an external agency to unburden yourself from the responsibility of managing email marketing campaigns.