The Gist

  • Omnichannel integration. Email marketing has become more interconnected with other channels, allowing for better personalization and targeted messaging.
  • AI and ML adoption. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have begun to play significant roles in optimizing various aspects of email marketing.
  • Embracing change. Adapting to new technologies and regulations will only strengthen email marketing and lead to more opportunities for building relationships with consumers.

Anytime I see someone complaining about how email marketing is old and hasn’t changed in decades, it just confirms for me that they don’t know anything about email marketing. The truth is that email marketing has undergone tremendous changes, even just in the past 10 years.

This has been top of mind for me personally as last month was the 10th anniversary of the release of the first edition of my book, "Email Marketing Rules." To mark the occasion, I’ve released an updated and greatly expanded 4th edition, which includes a Preface that recounts 11 major changes that have happened just since 2013.

Here, I’d like to focus in on five of those changes:

1. CASL, GDPR and CCPA Have All Gone Into Effect

Privacy and anti-spam laws have made huge strides over the past decade, pushing marketers to respect permission and use their data responsibly — or face harsh penalties. Although there were outcries over CASL and, especially, over GDPR, the effect on email and digital marketing performance has been relatively small, while cleaning up the brand behavior in these channels significantly.

Of course, the US has been slow to join Canada, Europe and other countries in increasing consumer protections. However, the eventual replacement of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is simply a matter of time now. That’s because the enactment of CCPA in California has sparked the passage or drafting of privacy laws in numerous other states.

This ever-growing patchwork of state laws will eventually become so onerous for businesses to comply with that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress will become sufficiently motivated to pass a modern national privacy and anti-spam law — whether it’s the American Data Privacy Protection Act bill or something else.

It won’t happen soon enough, but it will happen.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Make Your Marketing Emails More Personal — Without Personalization

2. Privacy Features Were Launched by Apple and Others

It’s tempting to see Mail Privacy Protection as filling the privacy void created by a gridlocked Congress — and that may be true to a degree. However, I see MPP more as a part of Apple’s effort to burnish its image as a champion of privacy while simultaneously building its advertising business at the expense of Google, Facebook, Snap and others.

Whether you’re skeptical like me or see Apple’s motivations as pure, the impact of MPP on email marketers is undeniable. Now, over a year since MPP debuted, marketers are still wrestling with its impacts on email analytics, deliverability and design, although Oracle polls show most brands have managed the worst of its effects. However, it will likely take many years for the industry to truly adjust to MPP.

3. Cross-Channel Customer Data Can Be Centralized in CDPs

As an industry, we’ve been talking about creating a 360-degree view of our customers since well before I published the first edition of my book in 2013. But with the arrival of customer data platforms (CDPs) over the past few years, we’re now in a position to finally not only construct a holistic view of our customers’ behaviors, but use that data to serve our customers better via email and our other channels.

Learning Opportunities

That’s an exciting innovation that’s breaking email marketing free from its silo — indeed, that’s breaking every marketing channel free from their silos. This innovation has us in the early stages of the adoption and maturation of omnichannel marketing and orchestration.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Review and Improve Your Automated Marketing Emails

4. Orchestration of Email With Other Channels Has Become Much More Common

Only the most sophisticated marketers are using behaviors and insights gathered from one channel to inform the personalization, segmentation and automation of messages in their other channels. While that’s the long-term vision for omnichannel orchestration, brands can benefit greatly from low- and no-tech omnichannel synergies. These synergies include:

  • Using one channel to build the audience of another channel.
  • Sharing the content from top-performing campaigns in one channel with other channel leaders so they can leverage that content directly or indirectly.
  • Using faster, less expensive, and more measurable channels to explicitly test content to be used in future campaigns in slower, more expensive and less measurable channels.
  • Coordinating the content and delivery of campaigns across channels to create a critical mass of messaging to gain more attention and drive action.

All of those are ways to deliver better customer experiences, regardless of the channel being used.

5. AI and ML Have Gained Roles in Email Marketing

It’s also only in the past decade that artificial intelligence and machine learning have gained meaningful roles in selecting audiences, determining email content, picking send times, writing copy and more. That said, it’s still very early for these technologies, which are in the adolescence of their development, at best.

For example, according to the most recent Email Marketing Trends survey, our consultants see AI-powered product and content recommendations and AI-powered subject line and copywriting tools as having below average adoption, but making above average impacts. They also see ML-driven send time optimization as having an above average impact, although that solution has been around long enough that it has above average adoption.

With all five of these changes, as much as they’ve impacted email marketing already, they are part of trends that will continue to impact marketers for years to come. While some of these bring challenges, they are net positives for our industry, ushering in many opportunities to strengthen our relationships with consumers.

I encourage you to embrace these changes, as well as the changes that are out of sight just over the horizon. Like all of these changes, future changes will only make email marketing stronger.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.