Email Marketing in 2016: The Best, The Worst, and What’s Next

By Olivia Dello Buono

What does the future of email marketing hold?

Great question! If we had a crystal ball, we’d be able to tell you. But since that wouldn’t be the most accurate, we asked five email marketing experts to share their data-backed predictions.

In this week’s #EmailChat, we looked back on some of the best email trends of the year (along with some not-so-great ones) and what it means for marketers moving forward.

Special thanks to our friends at AddThis, Litmus, MailCharts, Movable Ink and Express Writers!

The biggest email updates in 2016

  • GIF usage went way up (just take a look at Mailchartβ€˜s data below)
  • Gmail announced responsive design support, email designers around the world cheered
  • Email automation became a household name – here’s how to get started

Q1 What were the most prominent changes in email this year? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/AfIJgCVfq5

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A1: An increase in animated GIF usage which leads us to heavier emails being sent: https://t.co/VS9BLoPVxK #EmailChat

β€” MailCharts (@mailcharts) December 1, 2016

A1. Personalization has been a trend for a few years, but I felt like 2016 was the first time I really felt it in the inbox #EmailChat

β€” Tom Tate (@tnrt) December 1, 2016

A1: Gmail finally supporting style in the head and media queries. Opening up new doors for email designers. #EmailChat ^JM

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A1 Email became a lot more contextual. It was all about serving people the right message at the right time. #EmailChat

β€” Olivia Dello Buono (@oliviadello) December 1, 2016

A1. GIF usage! I think we have to also mention the changes in support from Gmail and Microsoft. Promising news going into 2017. #EmailChat

β€” Sean Kennedy (@Sean_Kennedy) December 1, 2016

A1. Automation has also pushed its way ahead! #emailchat

β€” Monica Montesa (@missmontesa) December 1, 2016

The email design trends we saw everywhere

Q2 What were some popular trends in email design? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/7078QeCyEM

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A2: Brands are recognizing that email experiences go well beyond the email. The full omnichannel experience is important. #EmailChat ^KL

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A2: As mentioned earlier, an incredible growth in GIF usage and a continued focus on mobile optimizations #EmailChat

β€” MailCharts (@mailcharts) December 1, 2016

A2a. Design that includes user generated content! Using live @Instagram feeds that let real customers show off your brand. #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A2. Emojis in subject lines and CTA buttons, more GIFS, and more interactive elements. #emailchat

β€” Liz Willits (@lizwillits) December 1, 2016

A2. I’ve actually loved seeing people go back to basics – simple, concise, and not overproduced. Feels more authentic! #EmailChat

β€” Rebecca Pollard (@_RebeccaLex) December 1, 2016

A2b. In general, brands have been less afraid to take chances/try new design + email technology. #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

The way we consume email has changed

  • Mobile email consumption increased year over year
  • Consumers became more selective about who they let into their inbox
  • Millennials checked their email all day, every day (and everywhere)

Q3 How has email consumption changed over the past year? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/SGLosPugtd

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A3: People have read emails on mobile devices for a long time, but there’s been even more of an increase each year. #EmailChat

β€” Express Writers (@ExpWriters) December 1, 2016

A3: Subscribers are becoming more savvy on the types of email they want to see in their inbox. #EmailChat ^JM

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A3. Customer expectations are higher than ever. Brands are adapting their campaigns to meet those needs (finally!) #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A3. Subscribers call the shots. Brands follow their lead. #emailchat

β€” Monica Montesa (@missmontesa) December 1, 2016

A3. #Millennials are checking their email from… anywhere & everywhere! Bed, bathroom, car (yikes!). How can we use this info? #EmailChat

β€” Rebecca Pollard (@_RebeccaLex) December 1, 2016

The way we sent email changed, too

  • Brands used automation to create live content experiences
  • Marketers became more strategic in how they approach email
  • Email became more personalized for subscribers

Q4 What new email marketing tactics did we see in 2016? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/bf4VxAh1dK

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A4: As mentioned earlier, an increase in GIF usage #EmailChat

β€” MailCharts (@mailcharts) December 1, 2016

A4 More collection, more data, more personalization, more segmentation, more automation #EmailChat

β€” AddThis (@addthis) December 1, 2016

A4: Many brands have been offering a “choose your own story” approach to emails to customize the content their audience sees. #EmailChat

β€” Express Writers (@ExpWriters) December 1, 2016

A4. More brands are using content automation to pull live content from their website into their emails, a la @Bloomingdales #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/laj20yeAvY

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A4 We saw some bad Re: and “Internal Memo” emails. Definitely wasn’t a fan of those! #EmailChat

β€” miah roberts (@miahsix) December 1, 2016

A4. Marketers are taking more time to think about the whole experience, not just sending out β€œblasts”. (This makes me happy! 😊) #EmailChat

β€” Sean Kennedy (@Sean_Kennedy) December 1, 2016

These subject lines stood out in the inbox

  • Everyday we brusselin’ (via Sweetgreen)
  • πŸ‘†πŸΌ Better than their dealsπŸ‘‡πŸΌ (via Topman)
  • Beach, please (via Everlane)
  • When you wanna Rock Out with your Dog Out (via BarkPost)

You might also like: 51 Subject Line Ideas

Q5 What was the best subject line you’ve seen this year? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/J6PR1CbmOg

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A5a. So many good ones! We loved this one from @sweetgreen: every day we brusselin’ #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A5b. Another great one from @highheels: Happy Halloween to Our Boos from https://t.co/EkKDq6sI6h #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A5: Sneak peek of our #BlackFriday roundup: Brilliant emoji usage from @Topman. #EmailChat ^KL #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/6CUg15R1ez

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A5: @Everlane had a good one with a double meaning β€” “Beach, please.” #EmailChat

β€” Matt Byrd (@mparkerbyrd) December 1, 2016

A5. I love a good, funny subject line. This one from @barkpost was my fave, hands down: #emailchat pic.twitter.com/AXyxiaNEEs

β€” Monica Montesa (@missmontesa) December 1, 2016

A5 Every @Glossier subject line reads like a text from your BFF, i.e. “Did you wash your face last night?” They get it. #EmailChat

β€” Olivia Dello Buono (@oliviadello) December 1, 2016

And these brands killed it with their campaigns

  • Collaborative Fund’s magazine-style newsletter
  • Spotify’s β€œMost Listened to”
  • Movember’s fundraising campaign

You might also like: 11 Email Ideas to Inspire Your Next Campaign

Q6 How about the best email campaign (i.e. design, content)? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/YVBpL9phIQ

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A6: Collaborative Fund emails are fantastically designed, breaking out of the usual email design box https://t.co/0CmXQlRZ3d #EmailChat ^JM

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A6. @Spotify sent a campaign targeted to customers based on their most-listened to artists. SO GOOD. #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/6NxEYehZrx

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A6: @neilpatel‘s emails are great because they’re focused on content. There aren’t any over-the-top design elements. #EmailChat

β€” Express Writers (@ExpWriters) December 1, 2016

A6. @Movember‘s campaign is awesome – they show live fundraising results right in their emails! https://t.co/iWPNoGtRuh #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

This is what we predict for 2017

Q7 Where do you see email going in 2017? #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/7Sbo5TAiWn

β€” AWeber (@AWeber) December 1, 2016

A7: I feel as though subscribers have a much lower tolerance for generic, irrelevant, emails versus just a few years ago #EmailChat

β€” MailCharts (@mailcharts) December 1, 2016

A7: Data will play a bigger role than ever in building in greater personalization & relevance. #EmailChat ^KL

β€” Litmus (@litmusapp) December 1, 2016

A7. Customer-centric campaigns. Lots of UGC. Elevated design. Mobile optimized everything. #emailchat

β€” Movable Ink (@movableink) December 1, 2016

A7 Shopable emails! #EmailChat pic.twitter.com/X66awBhhtH

β€” Olivia Dello Buono (@oliviadello) December 1, 2016

A7 Really Good Email, Stronger Community, and More Email Love. Hoping for more highly dynamic, personalized, catered email. #EmailChat

β€” miah roberts (@miahsix) December 1, 2016

And that’s a wrap!

How did these changes impact your email marketing strategy? What are you looking forward to in 2017? Let us know in the comments!

We’ll see you back here on Thursday, January 5th for more actionable insights and tactics from the experts. Be sure to follow us on Twitter to stay updated on the latest news and events from AWeber.


The post Email Marketing in 2016: The Best, The Worst, and What’s Next appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

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