Email marketing, at its core, seems easy, but to do it well or even best in class is hard work. Email marketing trends have come and gone and boomeranged again during my 22-year career, making deciding and writing about trends difficult. In researching this post, I saw posts from 2018-2022 in which organizations rehashed the same trends repeatedly, without substance and very little guidance on how to pull them off.
Anyone with a keyboard can write about digital marketing trends. Still, it’s another thing to write about email content trends that are actually doable by organizations at all levels on the spectrum of programmatic complexity from small businesses all the way up to fortune 500 companies.
For 2023, I hope to give you some pragmatic and feasible email marketing trends that, no matter how basic or complex your email marketing campaigns are, can be implemented and show results immediately.
Disclaimer: Mileage will vary on these trends, with the key dependencies being your organization’s vertical and level of sophistication.
Grab your favorite beverage, and let’s dive into 8 Email Marketing Trends for 2023:
Trend #1 – COI Email Optimization
The debate for explicit permission using COI (confirmed opt-in) has raged on for years, and while I am an advocate for COI for some programs, I also believe that many organizations simply don’t need it.
In recent years, we have seen many email programs move to COI but what is truly astonishing is seeing brands who are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to make their COI emails amazing and more effective.
A few years ago, I did a four-month strategy engagement researching over 75 brands using COI and can confidently say that a lot of optimization can happen. I looked at things such as word count, cadence, frequency, branding, tone, and, most importantly, the place and messaging of the links needed for the subscriber to confirm their email address.
Given that COI emails tend to be the first interaction a subscriber has with the brand, they are sometimes created by the IT department and sent thru another system. They are often devoid of personality and lack effectiveness in many cases.
If your organization uses COI, 2023 should be the year for your review the how/why/what is being sent and improve it. Your conversion rate will thank you.
Trend #2 – Email Unsubscribe Pages (Subscription Form Page)
Organizations fear the unsubscribe button so much that sometimes they hide their unsubscribe link somewhere in the footer. When the subscriber eventually finds the link and clicks on it, they are often met with a bland and usually clinical subscription form page that acknowledges the click.
Case in point, look at Figure 1 below and ask yourself if this last interaction is one that your organization would be proud of. (Caveat: this is a major retailer with an international presence)
In Digital Marketing Institute’s email marketing trends post, one trend they call out is to look at email examples from your industry competitors. Here, we will take a page out of that book and look at some email unsubscribe page examples.
Email Unsubscribe Page Examples:
Now, look at Figure 2 and notice the tremendous difference in the experience of unsubscribing with Redbox. The email unsubscribe page is branded, the copy is on point, and you can tell they took the time to make it an experience and offer an unsubscribe option before saying goodbye. This is a fantastic unsubscribe page.
We are so insanely focused as marketers to generate revenue from our email mailing lists that we often forget about the subscription and unsubscription experience.
Here are a few ideas to help make this trend a reality at your brand:
- Make it authentic
- Give choice
- Brand the page
- Write non-clinical copy
- Never guilt
Your current ESP should help provide guidance on unsubscribe experiences and if they don’t consider someone new. Lastly, if you already have a page like Redbox, consider testing the ability to retain subscribers through copy and choice.
Here are some other unsubscribe pages that you can use as inspiration to do or not do:
Simple and clean with branding.
As soon as I unsubscribed and got one message, a pop-up appeared for me to get % of my order and to re-enter an email address. Well played?
A major B2B publisher that is actually in the email marketing industry. You be the judge.
The New York Public library is off to a great start with this experience, but I would love to see them not center everything and simplify.
A great B2B unsubscribe page where all the recommendations are hit. Also, notice the various options for email preference which helps improve the experience for the end user.
Trend #3 – Re-Welcome Series
As an email marketer, we should all know the virtues of a solid welcome email campaign. But what happens when those onboarded to your email list 60/90/120 days ago have done nothing regarding engagement or conversion?
Some might argue that a well-thought-out re-engagement series will work, but if they have done nothing, why try re-engaging them the way you put them to sleep? It’s not re-engagement if they haven’t done anything, so enter the re-welcome series.
A re-welcome series should only be reserved for those new to list in the last XX days (your brand needs to choose) that re-introduces the brand they signed up for. This is an excellent opportunity to share your brand value, social justice, and anything you see as a brand lifter.
This is your chance to get them engaged and perhaps give them a choice, but instead of the standard “we miss you” tone, a more vibrant and engaging voice can be instilled by simply “checking in.”
Trend #4 – User Sentiment
People love giving others their opinions, and email is no exception. I love asking the question, “How do you know your content/offers, etc., is working beyond engagement numbers” to clients. It put things into perspective by taking a client-centric approach to success vs. just looking at numbers.
Surveys work, to a degree, but asking for user feedback often and in every email you can, should be a goal. Capturing user sentiment either through a homegrown system or via a third party should be something you look into in 2023. There are plenty of user sentiment tools for every budget, so get after it and start identifying what “they” really think.
Learn what “they” have to say.
Trend #5 – Reject The Dumpster Fire Mentality
To do email amazingly well, you need to be patient, yet it is sometimes lacking across organizations because of the mentality that it’s “just email.” When there is a lack of patience to do things right, it leads to issues and mistakes, and the channel is riddled with a “dumpster fire” mentality. I recently read a survey of email people who claimed that the number one thing they dislike about their roles is that dysfunction in the channel that is caused by people who look to create chaos because of the “email is easy” mentality to push an agenda quickly.
This limits optimization and growth while also contributing to the email marketing manager or director’s high turnover.
It’s time to put a stake in the ground at your organization and reject that everything is a dumpster fire and needs to happen immediately. The environment we live in is different than it was 28 months ago, and while email marketing is cheap and immediate, there is no benefit for companies to work at such a hectic pace.
Embrace a more controlled flame.
Trend #6 – Use Email Deliverability Services
I mentioned this in the email marketing trends for 2022 post and am repeating it for 2023. Email deliverability is the gateway to program success, and there are no shortcuts.
The bottom line is that you are in charge of your deliverability. It’s time to make email deliverability services a line item in your budget.
Trend #7 – Five segments
Segmentation. Segmentation. Segmentation. We have had this trend for what has seemingly been for the last 12 years in email marketing. I am not disputing that segmentation is important, but it isn’t a trend anymore, as it should just be standard practice. When people speak of best practices, they should just be considered fundamental best practices such as permission, privacy, and authentication.
That said, where organizations fall down is having too many segments with insufficient content and insufficient data to justify the statistical significance of having that many segments. If your struggling with this, then a trend you should consider is pairing down your segments to just five. An example of five that I have used with success in the past are; New, Active, Pre-Lapsed, Lapsed, and inactive. You can swap out pre-lapsed for something related to Trend #3 above.
Simplify your segmentation.
Trend #8 – Remove Unengaged Subscribers
Bigger is better right? We have been led to believe that someday someone on your list will convert if you keep emailing them. C-Suite people love to dream, and product people want to cast the widest net in hopes of a conversion. Sometimes it works, but I hate to break it to you; there are subscribers on your list who have yet to open/clicked/been to your site or convert EVER, and it’s time you do something about it.
It’s time to either create an opt-out campaign where you tell them you are removing them from the list and allow them to stay on or simply drop them from ever sending an email again. It’s hard to let go, but there is no reason to keep emailing people if they have done NOTHING for your organization.
Let’s be clear; we are not advocating just looking at email engagement before torching them from your list. You have to look at influenced attribution that email can have (e.g., website visits, conversions, heads-in-beds, butts-in-seats, donations, online plays, social engagement, etc.) before you decide that they are simply not engaging with your brand.
No one likes to lose people, but in the long term, your brand will be better off, and perhaps they will come back to you, where you can welcome them with open arms.
Cut your losses when you can.
The Final Word
Email marketing trends come and go and then come back again, so whenever you read general trend posts that talk about things like interactivity, mobile-first, AI, and my personal favorite, personalization, always approach these with caution and intrigue. Look inside your organization and ask what dependencies and inhibitors are there to start and then implement them along with long-term ROI. I have seen AI and data projects last for years with thousands of resource hours and hundreds of thousands in costs, only to be scraped or modified, causing more and more delays.
Sometimes macro-trends are fantastic to think and dream about but are the hardest to implement. Take the micro-trends listed above, decide which ones are best for your organization, and go to town.
PS: This article was honorably included in the famous future of email marketing trends post, the 2023 edition at emailmonday. Definitely worth checking out if you are a trend hungry email marketer, looking for predictions from more industry experts.