The State of Email Automation

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Craig Smith  |  Founder & CEO

Email marketing continues to be one of the most popular and effective tools to reach consumers directly. From seasonal promotions to direct recommendations, brands continue to hone their email marketing efforts to better reach their customers.

One option that has significantly improved the industry is email automation. Automation tools can engage customers, increase opens, and drive sales — when used correctly. Check out these eight trends in email automation that are changing how we send emails in 2018.   

1. Segmentation is the Norm

Email segmentation is one of the most powerful tactics you can use to reach your audience. According to MailChimp, email campaigns with segmented audiences saw a 14% higher open rate on average than non-segmented campaigns.

Email clicks were also 55% higher for segmented campaigns versus non-segmented ones.

Automation allows businesses to take email segmentation to the next level. Not only does it remove the manual work of checking on accounts and lists, it also creates lists and moves users around depending on their behavior. You could have a dozen email segments with an automated system — a number you couldn’t keep up with manually.

Automated email segmentation is also more diverse. Instead of segmenting customers by demographics, past purchases, and other criteria, automated systems can store data on customers and use several factors to create a list. They can pull a new segmented list together in a few minutes to match the criteria of people you’re trying to reach.

2. Customers Increasingly Accept Personalization

A few years ago, email recipients were wary of overly-personalized content in their inboxes. However, as the practice became more common, more consumers started accepting personalization, if not preferring it to generic email blasts.

More than 75 percent of consumers say they want personalized content, reports ProOpinion.

The same study found that while customers want personalized content, few are willing to give up the information to receive it. While a third of customers didn’t mind providing personal information, 45 percent didn’t want to give that information up.

This is why AI in automation is important for email personalization. AI tools can collect data from a variety of third-party sources and “micro-moments,” to build a profile based on generic demographics and customer behavior. This creates added personalization without violating customer privacy.

3. Automated Tools Can Find the Best Time to Hit Send

There are dozens of studies that claim to know the best time to send a marketing email to customers. Some tell you to send messages to customers in the morning when they get to work, while others recommend sending content in the evening as customers wind down. The real answer is that there is no universal best time to send your email messages. Even if there was, your company could be the exception to the rule.

This is where email automation comes in. Automation tools can track open rate information and conversions based on the time and date the email was sent. While you can always override the system, these tools can find the best time to send emails for your brand — not the best time that worked for a marketing agency that ran an internal study.  

4. Companies Save with Re-Engagement

One of the most powerful tools in email automation is the ability to re-engage customers who have stopped opening your emails and connecting with your brand.

According to SmartInsights, your email list decays by 25% each year, and 75% of total subscribers are inactive.

At the very least, you need to grow your email list by 25% each year to keep up, and you will still only reach a fraction of the people who you want to.

Side note: this is exactly why you should avoid vanity metrics like the number of people on an email list. Instead, ask about engagement metrics like opens and click-thru-rates.

Re-engagement emails work to reach the 75% of audiences who tune out your brand. They try to cut through the noise and bring people back into the discussion. One of the main reasons why re-engagement emails are so effective is because their results are long-lasting. Almost half of all recipients who received re-engagement emails opened subsequent emails sent by the brand.

Email automation tools track the activity of email recipients and set timers to auto-send re-engagement messages. This reduces the number of customers lost to decay and makes your email list healthier and more engaged.

5. Brands Shouldn’t Fear the Unsubscribe Button

Companies are so afraid of customers unsubscribing from their email list that the FTC had to create guidelines forcing brands to offer opt-out options. For years, companies have fought unsubscribers in hopes of winning them back.

It’s 2018 and time to face your fear: an unsubscribed customer is a good thing.

Marketing Sherpa found that the main reason customers unsubscribe from emails is because they receive too many messages in general. This accounted for 26% of customers. Meanwhile, 19% of recipients say they receive too many emails from a specific company.

Customers are becoming increasingly discerning about what they want in their inboxes. Consider that 67% of customers actively unsubscribe from content they don’t want to receive instead of just ignoring it.

Instead of wasting your email marketing efforts trying to reach people who want nothing to do with you, focus your efforts on those who want to hear your message and buy your products.

6. Consumers Want Brands With Personality

Email automation doesn’t mean handing the keys to your communication off to a software program. Demand for creative email designers and developers is still high as customers increasingly expect more from their email communication. Remember the statistics earlier stating that customers want personalization? They also want brands with clear personalities and an approachable demeanor.

Almost 90% of customers say they want to buy from brands that are honest, and 83% want to engage with brands that are friendly.  

There is a caveat to this. While 75% of customers say there is value in brands using humor, only 36% of customers are willing to buy from brands because they are funny. Humor is tricky. At best, you see a bump in sales, at worst, you have the power of the Internet mocking you, unsubscribing, and even boycotting your brand.

While email automation is powerful, you’re better off keeping the content creation and management at least somewhat manual.

7. Inboxes are Increasingly Visual

The internet is becoming a visual place. It’s not that people don’t read or avoid important brand messages, but rather that they simply prefer visual content. We gravitate to it like a moth to a phone screen.

For example, simply putting the word “video,” in an email subject line can increase open rates by 19% and click-thru-rates by 65%.

More than half of customers want to see at least some video content from the brands they follow and support. Video even beat out email messaging, which 46% of customers want. The only thing better for your customers than successful email automation is a captivating visual or video within the body of your email.

Brands of all sizes and industries can use creative visuals in their email automation. Ecommerce brands can share brand photos featuring top products, while lead generation companies can share tutorials or video testimonials.

The brands that engage the most with customers and give them what they want will have the easiest time retaining subscribers on their email lists.  

8. Email Automation Improves Data Collection

Email marketing requires a delicate balance between strategy, creativity, and smart software tools. Data collected through email services can help designers create better emails that engage users because they can clearly see what customers respond to. Meanwhile, automation tools try to get your message in front of as many people as possible to improve the data collected and to help you learn more.

Some email automation tools pull from big data sources and apply new lessons through machine learning. They can use data collected from third-party sources or through your Google Analytics and even internal systems to analyze purchase behavior. This creates endless pools of information that are then sorted and applied to automated systems.

Your marketing efforts are still a human process. There are humans guiding where the company should go and real people making purchases through your brand. The best marketers will use the data collected through email automation and make their own decisions about the future of the brand. While machines still offer valuable suggestions, it’s only 2018. We’re not ready to completely hand over the work just yet.  

If you’re still manually juggling your email list or mass-blasting your customers, step into the modern era with email automation tools.

Contact Trinity Insight today for a free email marketing maturity assessment to see where you can improve your email advertising efforts.

Cutting Edge Methods to Grow Email Sales Faster in 2022

Drive campaign results and automation excellence while taking your email to the next level with our 2022 Email Playbook (PDF).

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