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Email Marketing Trends Marketers Need to Know in 2021

7 Hottest Email Marketing Trends You Need to Know About

July 22, 2021
8 MINUTES
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Danica Popovic

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Email marketing is one of the most important digital marketing tactics you can employ. Learn how to do it right in 2021.

With the emergence of social media and the development of refined algorithms to advertise online, some people suspected email marketing might become obsolete.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Email marketing still has the highest ROI: as big as 4200% in fact! As many as 87% of marketers use email marketing and 73% of customers prefer emails as the main channel for business communication.

So, whatever your industry or type of business is, you should definitely include emails in your marketing efforts. Here are the tips and tricks that will help you increase open rates and conversions.

Hyper personalization

Emails that have a personalized subject line have 50% higher open rates and personalized calls to action convert a staggering 202% times better than basic ones.

Personalization has been a long-standing trend and most marketers are aware of its benefits, but in 2021 you need to take things up a notch.

It’s no longer enough to use personalization tags, such as data your subscribers entered to create personalized subject lines or greetings. Hyper personalization means tailoring the entire content of the email to the specific user. Here are a few simple personalization tactics to employ.

Email segmentation

Getting personal data such as location, age or industry can be a great way to ensure your emails provide the most value to a specific user. Sometimes it can be difficult to get users to share their personal information (we’ll discuss this in the section on privacy later), so another thing you can do is gather data on their interactions with you.

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Have they joined your email newsletter through your blog or social media? Can they be categorized as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or are they a sales qualified lead (SQL) that knows enough about your company to receive a sales pitch?

Proper email segmentation can save you a lot of time and work later on and make email automation (also, more on that later) much more efficient.

Personalized email content

This is a very common tactic used in abandoned cart recovery emails, such as this example from Everlane. It’s simple and effective and the casual copy with a conversational tone with a dose of humor helps to encourage the user to complete the purchase rather than pressuring them into it.

everlane email.png Really Good Emails

Another way to make great personalized content is through data visualization. We all know how popular Spotify’s Wrapped campaign was, in large part thanks to the beautiful design that prompted people to share their unique music listening experiences. Another lovely example from the world of email marketing is this wonderful 2017 example from Lyft that provides an in-depth look into the use of their service.

your-2017-with-lyft.png Really Good Emails

Social media integration

What better way to get up close and personal than social media, right? It’s probably more common to rely on social media for lead generation, but employing a different approach can also be very useful. For example, if you want to create a community for your customers where they can share their experiences and interact with you and others directly, emails are a great way to encourage them to do it.

Moana is a swimwear brand and since many women find it very stressful to find and choose the right bikinis or swimsuits, Moana created a Facebook group that allows people to support and encourage each other and share products they like and tips on topics like sizing and fits.

join-the-moanaarmy (2).png Really Good Emails

User generated content

User generated content (UGC) is by no means a new trend, but it’s certainly one that’s getting even more traction. An overwhelming majority of consumers (78%) say UGC highly impacts their purchase decisions, so when it comes to increasing your email conversion rates, there are few tactics as effective as this one.

Again, user generated is often closely linked to social media, but it can be very helpful to conduct an email marketing campaign that supports your social media campaign and directs people to it.

Social media is overwhelmed by content and information and so people are more reluctant to follow brands on social media to get deals (20%) than they are to subscribe to a company newsletter for promotional messages (60%).

So, sharing UCG to your email lists can mean reaching more people (and of course reaping the numerous benefits of UCG such as free advertising or building brand awareness or trust).

Here’s an example from oVertone that used email to promote their new hashtag and social media campaign. The call clearly worked as they got tons of responses and a huge library of UCG.

overtone instagram.png Instagram

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Email marketing automation

Back to the technical side of things, it’s time to talk about email automations or drip campaigns. If you haven’t yet considered this as part of your email marketing strategy, it’s high time to do so.

Some of the benefits of email automation are:

  • time and cost saving;
  • lead nurturing (higher conversion rates);
  • increasing brand awareness;

Traditionally email marketing campaigns have have created separately and on an ad hoc basis but this is changing. People are used to getting tons of emails everyday so the only way to ensure that your message doesn’t end up in the trash folder is to nurture communication with your leads/customers.

This means sending regular, bitesize updates or news, again tailored to the customer/their behavior.

Use of color

A subject line makes all the difference in an inbox, but once opened email design is the thing that can really make or break the success of your email marketing campaign strategy.

Using bright and bold colors can really help to impress viewers instantly and encourage them to read the email through. Ideally, your email design should correspond to your brand guide and use colors that you employ elsewhere such as social media and blog post visuals, as this will help build brand awareness.

In addition to that, make sure that your bold design isn’t too loud and makes the information difficult to read. You should still use negative space to ensure the users have a positive experience and can spot clear CTAs.

For example, this email from Spotify is bold and colorful, but the minimal copy and clear call to action ensure a great customer experience.

On the other end of the design spectrum is the growing popularity of dark mode, which was first introduced to Apple users in 2016, and subsequently adopted by big players like Gmail and Outlook.

Essentially, dark mode is a reversed color scheme that uses a dark background and light text which is less straining for the eyes and can mean reducing screen brightness and extending battery life.

Depending on which email client your readers use the emails might appear exactly the same as in light mode or with partially or fully inverted colors. Creating a custom dark mode email might require a lot more work, but if you feel that either most of your clients use dark mode (note that it’s more common with mobile devices) or believe a custom dark mode theme will better cater to users suited to this kind of display, you should give it a go.

At the very least, make sure that your logo is optimized for both uses.

Interactive emails

Let’s put it simply: if the only interaction a recipient can have with your email is replying, you’re not doing it right.

Interactivity has already become pretty standard in email marketing, but in 2021 there are even more innovative ways to get users to actually engage with the emails in their inbox.

You might opt for an animated CTA button to inspire a sense of urgency. Or better yet, allow users to explore different variations of your product.

google store email.png Really Good Emails

People are so used to everything being interactive that the latest trend in this area is gamification, or the process of adding gaming elements to non-gaming tasks such as email marketing (a famous example is Google’s offline dinosaur game). Using gamification elements (competition and prizes) will help keep users engaged and invested in your emails.

Of course, remember to keep it relevant to your industry and audience. In this case, since the restaurant chain is particularly popular with younger people and families, the game makes a lot of sense, getting people to keep the email open long enough to start craving.

happy-holidays-we-made-you-a-game-want-to-play.png Really Good Emails

Optimize for all platforms

So, many people use their mobile phones to access emails. How many again? Over 80% of users. That means if you can’t provide the same experience on mobile devices as on a desktop, you’re making a huge risk.

If you’re not willing to pay for a designer and/or developer to ensure this is the case, you’re probably better off using a pre-designed template. You can always make it your own by using your brand colors of course.

Privacy matters

Of course, you don’t want people to unsubscribe from your mailing list. Or cancel your service. But if your email design makes it nearly impossible to do that, you may land in some legal trouble (like Amazon’s “dark pattern” which was deemed unfair in preventing users from canceling their Prime subscription).

Since it wasn’t that long ago that the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into force (2018), many people are still sometimes failing to comply with the rules. Your subscribers have a right to know how their personal data is being used, and also they have a right to opt out of it.

Your job is to constantly check for updates on data privacy regulations, and any changes you wish to make in your own handling of data need consent from the people it affects.

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Danica Popovic

July 22, 2021

Having lived and studied in London and Berlin, I'm back in native Serbia, working remotely and writing short stories and plays in my free time. With previous experience in the nonprofit sector, I'm currently writing about the universal language of good graphic design. I make mix CDs and my playlists are almost exclusively 1960s.