It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The last few Cyber-Week emails are dropping out of my promotions tab, meanwhile the requests for 2017 email predictions are lighting up my work inbox.

I’ve thought long and hard about what hot takes I’d like to share, and what the company message should be, and to be honest, I can’t really come up with much.

I don’t expect a sweeping change to happen, because the fundamentals of email haven’t really changed in the last 10 years. HTML support has got both better and worse, design styles have changed a bit, and mobile has happened. But even when it comes to mobile, probably the most seismic shift in our space, most emails are still made with some text and images, with some kind of click through (there’s more we can do here, but I’ll get to that).

And that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Email works for that. It’s a great medium for communicating a message to someone, and the way we do that hasn’t changed. Doing that continues to drive great results.

So my prediction for 2017 in email marketing (🔥🔥🔥 hot take alert) is that things will mostly be the same.

But one day

Ok — I get that annual predictions aren’t actual facts, and they’re more about ideas and directions that we’d like to explore.

So this is where I’d love to see our industry go:

Easy segment of one marketing—when it works.

There are two uncomfortable truths about big data driven intelligent segmentation; 1) sometimes, the segment of “people who are interested in our brand”, i.e. the entire list, is good enough and 2) it’s difficult to achieve in most platforms (Hi ESP friends👋, I don’t mean your platform, obviously). There are some amazing things we can do with hyper personalised email, but we have to work out when and where to use it — often it works best when combined with other, simpler techniques.

Let’s make it easier and do it better.

Fixing the email production process.

Yes, I’m well aware that these pieces are also about shilling whatever it is you’ve got to sell, but I’m really passionate about this. The process of making a marketing email, from managing it to producing content to QA to personalisation, is disjointed and inefficient. Everyone on the team is involved and they’re busy, but they’re focusing on the wrong things. A lot of the reason why, despite years of predictions for cool stuff, we’re still only scratching the surface, is that we spend 8 hours a day on the basics. Fixing this will enable everything else, and we’re working on it.

A focus on brands and experiences.

Here’s the thing about our audiences — They don’t throw money at us solely because we use nicer HTML, or snazzy widgets, or we remember the name they told us when they signed up. You don’t buy a car because of a specific manufacturing technique, you buy reliability. If we use technology to improve our emails, it’s imperative that it improves the experience — so we need to think in those terms. Countdown clocks drive scarcity. Better HTML makes it easier to comprehend the message on devices. Things like user generated content drive social proof. Technology for the sake of it achieves nothing — so whenever we look at cool things, we should ask ourselves why and how it helps our audience.

The good news is, being a marketer that can evaluate precisely when to use a certain idea or piece of tech, is rapidly becoming incredibly valuable.

Truly considering mobile.

It’s a bit of a running joke that every year is the year of mobile, but really, aside from tweaking the design a bit, what do we really think about when it comes to mobile email?

Mobile massively changes the entire experience for our users, not only because they’re taking email out into the world but also because so much of the mobile experience is shaped by social media cues, some of that behaviour translates directly to the email experience. Some of the smarter brands are considering this, and this thinking is starting to come through, but it’s far from de rigeur.

So back to 2017, what can we do? It’s easy to get seduced by snazzy, headline features that will save everything, but in truth, a lot of innovation is in improving boring things — and you get there over a long time by taking lots of incremental steps. So let’s get started.

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