Updated May 2023
Email Marketing is competitive. Brands compete for inbox attention, and marketers are as busy as ever. In my 21 year career in email, I have always read about and watched the current email marketing trends that shape our industry, and for 2023, I thought I would give the email world a bit of the Andrew Kordek vision on email marketing trends that should be top of mind in 2023.
Please understand that mileage will vary on these trends, depending on what vertical your brand is in and your major corporate initiatives for 2023.
Trend #1 – Stop It With Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection
It’s time to stop talking, blogging, webcasting, and solutions for Apple’s MPP. It is here to stay in the digital marketing industry, and learning that the adoption rates are 97% is only fueling the fire. Open rates are on life support and trying to find a solution for it only takes more valuable time from your otherwise busy schedule to segment and come up with some arbitrary number to make you feel better.
Don’t get me wrong, MPP is an excellent thing for the industry, but we need to focus on stuff that will move the needle, and the last time I checked, open rates generally don’t pay the bills.
Suck it up and boycott those who constantly want to talk about it. It’s time to opt out of the MPP conversation.
Trend #2 – Using Data Like You Mean It.
We have first-party, second-party, third-party, and zero party data all over the place. Our data overwhelms us, yet most email marketers don’t use it correctly to raise the bar and move the needle. The time to use this data in email marketing strategies has never been more critical, so the old trend of talking about it has to stop, and the new trend of actually using it needs to happen.
Do an inventory of the data you have that you believe will have the most significant impact on the bottom line of your email program, and carefully draw out a plan to execute against it. The data can be as simple as the sign-up date, last interaction on the site, last-click, geo, or even previous conversion. Use something in a test with a higher than average impact with a lower-than-average internal level of effort to pull off. Then, benchmark it, move on to the next test, and use the winner as the new control.
Stop waiting for the white coat analysts to conduct quarter-long data analysis and be bold enough to try something new with data.
Take control and ask for forgiveness later.
Trend #3 – Email Sign-Up Process
I have signed up for thousands of email programs in my career and have found that maybe 5% of the experiences are pleasurable. People complain about the amount of email they get, but I bet they are even more frustrated if the process you have to get on your lists is fragmented and fraught with ambiguity around what they will get from a brand.
Take a morning and spend 2-3 hours watching people sign up for your email program and ask for feedback. These people should not know your brand or work in your department since they already know the process and experience. You want to see what they do and how they react to the steps in the email content, along with the first email they receive.
Then once you do that, ask yourself if that is the user experience you want your subscriber to have. Chances are, it is not, and your new task/trend will be to make it unforgettable.
Your brand is judged from the moment they get to your site to the first email and the 34th email in their inbox. You have to make it amazing and transparent; otherwise, your subscribers will be silently opting out of your program with reckless abandon.
Trend #4 – Unsubscribe Links At The Top & Bottom of The Email
Stop playing hide and seek with your unsubscribe links in your email. The 3pt grayed-out font design trends conveniently placed in the sea of legalese or disguised as “preferences” update is so 12 years ago. If you hide things from people these days, they will inevitably find out and make an example out of you, which can cause brand damage or, at the very least, embarrassment on a few levels.
It’s time for you to put your unsubscribe link at the top and bottom of your email and make it obvious and intuitive for the subscriber to get off your list. It’s time for brands to become more transparent and give options to people that have typically not been there. Don’t fear the unsubscribe; embrace it.
Trend #5 – Three Word Subject Lines
For years, ESPs and thought leaders had debated the character/word length of subject lines with really no conclusive winner. It’s time to start a new trend around subject lines in email marketing campaigns, and that trend should be to use only three words max. You can get your point across in around three words, trust me, but you have not wanted to in the past.
Let’s take a look at 4 subject line examples I have recently received (knowing the brands content) with the revised subject line following this new trend:
Pop Culture Apparel Industry
Original Email Subject Line: 25% OFF – time’s running out
Recommendation: Flash sale now.
Online Gifting Company
Original Email Subject Line: There’s Still Time To Save $$ On Holiday Shopping
Recommendation: There’s still time.
Original Email Subject Line: New Flavors for the Season
Recommendation: mmmm… new flavors.
Original: Want To Smooth Your Wrinkles Away? Then Do This
Recommendation: Wrinkles? Do this..
Trend #6 – Triggered Re-Engagement Emails
Your email program likely has a triggered welcome email, an abandoned journey, or some post-purchase/download email sent. However, most brands treat the re-engagement of their subscribers or customers by sending one-off emails using an arbitrary time frame of “no-engagement” and hope that their efforts pay off in the form of an open, click, or conversion.
For 2023, brands need to create triggered-based re-engagement journeys that start with the early to late-term streams of emails. Each journey needs to be unique regarding the messaging and CTA while providing value to the recipient.
Automating re-engagement affords you more time to test what works on a grander scale because you have put forth the effort to start, but now the actual race begins.
Trend #7 – Eliminate Distractions
Bright shiny objects are fun to look at and think about but are distractions. As marketers, we always love neat things, but they tend to pull us away from doing some basic blocking and tackling that usually needs to run a successful email program.
Here are the top 5 distractions in email marketing now:
5. AI (Artificial Intelligence): As an industry, we are nowhere close to implementing AI on a mass scale to be a game-changer.
4. BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification): In my opinion, BIMI is shaky and not widely proven to have a long-term impact
3. Micro-Segmentation: Why have so many segments if you can’t message differently to each of them?
2. STO (Send Time Optimization): STO is an educated guess at best and with open rates on life support, it will be harder than ever to determine the best day and time to send
Number 1 distraction in the email industry today
1. The $42 to $1 rule. Don’t believe it, don’t aim for it, don’t talk about it…. get better at delivering value to your subscribers, and the ROI will play itself out.
Trend #8 – Make Everything Clickable
It baffles me that big and small brands don’t make some of the most obvious things clickable in their email creative. Let’s be clear that the subscribers we have in our program are not all marketers and always don’t know where to click in an email. You have to guide them or at the very least make the CTA as much as possible.
It may seem silly to make sure that you have to make everything clickable as a brand, but don’t ever assume people know what you want them to do. This trend will always be because you can never have too many links or CTA’s for the customer to convert.
Trend #9 – Deliverability A Budget Line Item
If you clog a toilet, chances are it was something you did, and deliverability is the same way. ESP’s provide you with tools to get your email delivered, and if you start to see your emails being delivered to the bulk folder, something happened, and it was likely something that you have done or are doing. However, there are some rare instances where your ESP will mess things up, and then it’s time for them to put up or shut up, but in my 21-year career, a majority (like 99%) are client-created.
Email Deliverability is a tricky part of email marketing success, and it’s time to set aside some of your email budgets to monitor and mitigate the deliverability of your emails, especially to the top 5 domains in your subscriber base. Getting into the inbox is a privilege and not a right, so you need to make a line item in your budget for deliverability services and no longer treat it as a “free” item.
Trends come and go in email marketing, but it seems like year after year, the trends of personalized emails AI, empathy, segmentation, interactivity, humanization, etc., tend to play well in the marketplace. The problem with some of these “trends” is that they tend to de-focus marketers on stuff that matters, like experiences and deliverability, the building blocks of a solid email program that provide iterative gains to work on some of the sexier stuff.
Over the years, I have spoken with thousands of marketers, and in quite a few cases, they struggle with base-level optimizations for their email campaigns.
It’s time to put on your big professional pants and work on stuff that matters, and hopefully, these 9 Email Marketing Trends For 2023 reflect that.