Welcome to the future of email marketing and Marketing Automation. My annual review of all email marketing trends and predictions.

In this post, you’ll find all trends of today about email marketing automation tomorrow…

  • How will marketers win in the ever-evolving email marketing landscape?
  • What are the new trends to look at in detail?
  • What about those pesky prospects, customers, leads, subscribers, and their behaviour?

There is cause for celebration as this is the 10th email marketing trends outlook. Yes, my first ever edition was back in 2011!

Let’s dive into the email marketing and automation tactics you’ll need to succeed in 2021 and beyond.

– your guide, Jordie van Rijn

Martech 2030: 5 Trends in Marketing Technology for the Decade of the Augmented Marketer

A close look at individual tools and technological innovation is interesting. Or when we put categories on a timeline of a hype cycle – looks impressive. 

But more helpful for long-term strategies is uncovering the underlying patterns (fed by technology and trends). Those will show how marketing organizations change in a digital world.

Scott Brinker & Jason Baldwin researched 5 emerging trends, all of them already in practice. So you can start crafting strategy based on them today. Time to listen up, because we can expect exponential growth in these areas over the next 10 years.

Defining and redefining the nature of MarTech and MarOps (marketing technology and Marketing Operations are the following:

1. “No Code” Citizen Creator

More and more specialist superpowers are being bottled into software that everyone can use. These products aren’t all called “no code” — yet they all substitute common programming tasks.

Think about creating websites, databases, workflows, integrations, mobile apps, web apps, chatbots, voice assistants etc. Take a look at these “Jobs to be done” and sample of no code tools that go with them.

All no-code tools fit the spirit of the citizen creator revolution. The order-of-magnitude expansion of creations and creators will drive huge changes in marketing operations.

2. Platforms, Networks & Marketplaces

The dynamics of the Ecosystem Economy will shape marketing strategies going forward. Brands and agencies will operate in dynamic structures and processes organized around platforms, networks, and marketplaces.

You will (need to) participate in many of these ecosystems at the same time to reach and serve the customers, but the most strategic opportunity will lay in creating your own.

Marketplaces thrive when they match supply and demand and have built-in trust and delivery assurance mechanisms.

3. The augmented marketer Human + Machine

AI will shift the allocation of marketers’ time to higher-level work on strategy, innovation, creativity, collaboration, and deeper customer empathy and understanding. (Can I hear a loud “maybe!”)

Most AI applications in marketing use narrow machine learning models highly dependent on data quality. Marketers will have to continually learn new (AI-powered) tools, ushering in the era of the augmented marketer, more human and more automated.

Increasingly we will market to machines, in other words, “bot commerce.” This means selling through data and APIs to software agents (bots) that are  working on behalf of customers.

Imagination, resilience, and a sense of adventure, marketers who are willing to lean into these changes will pioneer the future of marketing and lead a decade of incredible innovation.

4. The Great App Explosion

As software becomes easier and cheaper to create, and monetize, the landscape of commercial MarTech tools will continue to grow.

Major marketing platforms allow plug-and-play specialist apps to hop on. This means that agencies can build their own martech apps to collaborate more deeply with clients through MarTech stacks and differentiated software-powered offerings. Software intelligence and interactivity will inspire a wave of advertising and marketing creativity.

5. From Big Data to Big Ops

Big Ops manages the enormous volume and variety of apps, automations, processes, and workflows operating in brands and agencies on top of their Big Data universe.

Organizations that get to have the competitive advantage from Big Ops:

  • Distill data into insights (data intelligence), and
  • Activate data in real-time (data reflexes).

Data alliances and data ecosystems will play a  larger role in marketing operations.

The email marketing trends to impact your strategy 2021

In 2020 brands had to quickly switch gears as buying changed with the Pandemic. Email marketers show time and again they can adapt in innovative and inspiring ways. Five smart minds provide their insights on key email marketing trends for 2021

1. Your email marketing route depends on your industry COVID-19 recovery

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to managing email marketing in 2021. Some companies Thrive while others took a nosedive. This directly impacts the way budgets in email and automation are trending. Chad S. White calls it the K-shaped recovery.

Thriving:
Thriving Industries like Grocers, e-tailers, digital entertainment, and tech providers will focus on:
Better personalization, segmentation, automation, and achieving 1-to-1 marketing. Improvements come from advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning used for send-time optimization, RFM- and activity-based modeling.

Surviving / Diving:
Nosedive industries like airlines, hotels, cruise lines, traditional retailers, and other hurting companies will focus on improvements to efficiency, essential optimizations, A/B testing, and analytics to try to adapt to changing customer behavior. In addition, there is a push to reduce production times and offer different omnichannel experiences like curbside pickup. 

2. The AI hype is quietly replaced by an underground AI revolution

We already suspected it: AI isn’t the answer to everything – and could never substitute a sound strategy.
 
“Right message, right person, right time” is a fundamental principle behind email. That won’t change. But man is unpredictable and they started to behave differently. So Tim Watson asks: So what is the right message, for whom and when? 

The AI hype is quietly being replaced by an AI revolution. AI solutions can be very powerful, but only for the specific niche tasks they were built for. What is the revolution then? Existing and proven email marketing solutions are being upgraded under the hood to work with AI-based methods.

After the AI hype, the trend is back to strategy first. Find the right solution to aid your goals, rather than buying something because it has an AI technology sticker.

3. Email marketing will be a CX startpoint

Customer experience (CX) is the brand impression customers gain throughout their whole customer journey. Studies show that 68% of customers say their expectations of brands’ digital CX has taken an elevator ride up.    
Marketers aim to create memorable online experiences that say “ditto” or even call shotgun to the offline buying experience. A fantastic CX boosts how customers see your brand, right across the customer journey.

CX marketing can be defined as putting your customer first throughout their customer journey. Email, being a push channel, is often the beginning of a customer’s journey with you. 

Kath Pay’s three pillars of CX marketing: 
1. Be Helpful
2. Put the Customer front and center
3. Personalise the Experience.

Consider their needs and make their journey as seamless and as easy as possible. Don’t just stop after removing barriers. Shape the Customer experience through your brand’s tone of voice, messaging, and the helpful email programmes.

4. Real personalization is creating connections

Cultural tectonic plates have shifted. Consumers look for a personal brand connection on a human level. Marketing holds the key to create that connection, says Joolz Joseph.

Be interested in your customer, Send deeper personalized emails. If you aren’t personal you aren’t connecting. So get personal.

Think dynamic content, behaviour-based personalisation. Let your email streams reflect shared values to encourage engagement and it will pay dividends in conversions. Every communication must become more personal and relevant. 

5. Plain and simple email is special

Plain-text emails save time versus fully designed pieces – and the recipient often feels like they are more personal, authentic.  

It appears much more personal than an email that clearly comes from a team of email marketers. Contributing to the email marketing trend of Authenticity,

Sapph Li predicts more companies will minimal designed emails and a casual, conversational tone to make the email feel like they were written one-on-one.
Plain emails tend to convert better vs. overly salesy messages. Say no to marketing speak and ask yourself: “Would I really say this to someone one-on-one?”

As you may have noticed by now, this overview is “Trendslated”.
I capture and compress the essence of trends and predictions spotted by experts, and trendsplain it using other words, and adding an observation and joke here and there. All for your “ultimate trends overview” reading pleasure.

Email design trends to turn heads in 2021

New year, new you, new email design? Yes! Businesses count (even more) heavily on email marketing – and the email design continues to be essential to that success. But..
The face of email marketing has changed. So, time to get ahead, put on your designer design cap, and start turning heads.
Increase your engagement with the biggest email design trends in 2021 from Hailey at BEE.

1. The (bare) minimalist design

Simple, uncluttered emails get your point across. The art of less is more.  Lose distracting design elements and direct attention to the CTA.

What you DO want to use;
White space,
Readable typography,
A Light and Airy or muted color scheme. 

I am all for marketers pressing delete, so the reciepients won’t want to. Less words, more meaning.

2. Customer Experience Boosters

It’s your job to customers with their  buying and services process. And first time buyers and ecommerce enthusiast alike, need a bit ‘o extra service. Inject customer experience boosters into your emails:

  • Answer FAQ’s about buying your products online
  • Offer tips for navigating your website
  • Provide a direct link to open a support chat

When your customers have an amazing digital experience, they’ll return to buy from your site again and again.

3. Broken grid email layouts

Oh, oh we broke the grid layout (on purpose). Email doesn’t have to always be neatly columned. One of the major email design trends for 2021 is a broken grid layout. Broken grid email design feels as if the email doesn’t have columns at all, switching up the structure for a fresh, stylish and surprising look.

4. Video in email: video content is booming – so will email

The breakthrough of video in email has been atop email trend lookers wish-list forever. Now with online conferencing, online events and (video) Podcasts on the rise, video in general is getting popular. We’ll be seeing much more of that reflected in email.

Video can increase click rates by 65%. Many big-name email platforms don’t allow video playback in email. Best to embed a link to the video in your message so your reader can open the video on your website, YouTube or a landing page.

5. Dark mode compatibility

It’s absolutely essential to shine a light on dark mode email in 2021.
Every day, more people use dark mode to view email, so optimize your email design to be dark mode read. Use transparent images, outline black text in white and test your dark mode emails. A few ways to make sure your emails are dark mode compatible.

Read all of the trends: Connect and Emphasize, Collaboration, Bold designs, bold colors, bold statements.

The 2020 journey and Future of email marketing

The extraordinary email reality of 2020 means a lot to email marketing in the future.

InboxArmy and Jenna Tiffany describe the changes of email in lockdown and the biggest changes in email marketing are.
Lockdown emails take 5 main forms: The first Lockdown emails, The ‘Changes to Our Service’ Email, The ‘Reassurance From an Authority’ Email, The ‘Camaraderie’ Email, The Mixology email. More details and all about email marketing in crisis and coronavirus in my big overview.

The Biggest Changes in Email Marketing though 2020:
1. People want more – not less – email content
2. Empathy and Adaptation Are an Issue
3. Non-peak times are best for sending
4. Essential industries got more engagement than ever

How Will 2020 Affect the Future of Email Marketing?
2020 demonstrated that email is effective. People rely on email to stay up to date with guidelines and health advice; email became the primary brand communication channel. Many changes from Covid-19 will likely remain. For instance, more remote work and online buying will stay to maintain a place in this market, email marketers will have to be more innovative than ever before.

8 Email Marketing Experts Predict the Future of Email in 2030

What Will Email Be Like in 10 Years? This is exactly what these marketing experts slash part-time futurists love to share at enventys. What email automation trends will prevail and all of communication look like on a 10-year horizon?

  • Adam Q. Holden-Bache: The future of email will include fully automated,100% personalized messages driven by artificial intelligence. Batch and blast will be a thing of the past and email will be a direct result of your behaviors, history, preferences, and interests.
  • Doug Dennison: Mailchimp and other ESPs will create their own email inboxes to bring the experience to one place and counter the limitations of Gmail and Outlook.
  • Amy Hall:  With people using platforms like Slack and Facebook we’ll go much more platform-centric in our communication and use email for more important conversations from businesses and colleagues.
    We’ll have a central platform or app so all communication  “lands” in one place, making it easier to see all of your communication at once.
  • Nick Beuzekamp: We’re finally on the doorstep of personalization. Content is shifting. Emails are more personalized to the ‘needs’ of the receiver. In 2030, email is still one of the greatest tools for direct selling. Streaming video inside a mailing would be nice.
    In 2030 social media has been regulated and email is still the most direct, private, and effective way to communicate with your customers.
  • Glenn Edley: Even though your inbox throughput won’t be going down, expect future emails to be more useful, interesting, personalized, and interactive.

The email innovations consumers want to see

As an email marketer you want to know views and behaviors of consumers that have the greatest impact on your marketing results. so I couldn’t exclude our own Email Addiction research. Here we asked consumers about use and attitude about email marketing.

email marketing innovations

One of the questions goes into the email marketing innovations that consumers are most interested in.

38% wants to see emails that include product ratings.
35% wants offers based on their past purchases.

This shows that consumers are looking for qualification and relevance to help the decision to click (and convert). Surprisingly, the enthusiasm for location based email is also high with 31% seemingly no big concern of brands being too intrusive.

Native video in email, with 14%, is generally not thought of as the killer consumer innovation. Email marketers have been raving about video being the upcoming trend. But according to the popular opinion it is not a winner compared to a good relevant offer with supporting information.

Download the full Email Addiction Report here.

11 email design trends that will reign supreme in 2021

Expect email design trends to mix old favorites like minimalism, pastels, and static images with new creative and emotional designs. Here are the new trends in email design Uplers foresee for 2021.

1 Bold Typography

Email designs are evolving. An innovative copywriting trend is to highlight BOLD TYPOGRAPHY as the HERO lately (as compared to an image)

Bold headlines and custom fonts make the email more appealing. And draw the eye to the main message you want to highlight. Easier to skim emails that have neatly placed BOLD text to draw the reader’s attention.

2 Emotional Design let’s your email speak to the heart

Marketers need to hit the right emotion with their email design. The 9 main emotions types to  trigger for maximum conversions through emails are: Belonging, Greed , Guilt, Trust, Curiosity, Fear (of missing out), Hope or Optimism, Love/Lust, Vanity.

Evoke emotion with your design with colors and images. Blue means serenity and peace, red is excitement, passion, and urgency. Orange is the color of creativity, energy, and freshness. Promoting a discount or offer with images that bring excitement. Thanking your subscriber for a purchase with images of gratitude.

3 The Dawn of Dark Mode

With more of our face glued to devices, eyes are strained. Luckily Dark Mode comes to the rescue, sort of.

Google introduced Dark Mode on 24th September 2019. Dark mode is a reverse color scheme. Light text, icons, and UI are put in a dark background (instead of the other way around). The idea is:
It is easier on the eyes.
It minimizes blue light impact
It’s more convenient to use in a low-light environment
It saves mobile charge by 50% for Android devices with OLED screens

Email developers have to design their emails compatible with Dark Mode, so it stays readable when we turn to the dark side.

4 Muted Colors

Bright and bold colors were the go-to before. Now, many designers shifted to muted color palettes. These are desaturated by adding white, black, or other complementary colors. (including pastels).

Muted colors will be very popular in 2021, and are extensively used by health and wellness brands as they convey a sense of safety.

5 Mood and images Collages

Expect more of 2021 emails to convey a special mood based on image collages in the email design.
A collage is made from multiple (parts of) images merged into a single image cluster. Creating a collage of the right images can convey a feeling and quickly give an impression (eg how was an event). Image compositions can amplify your brand image as well as pique the subscriber’s interests.

6 Add an extra dimension to your emails with 3D  Images

3D can make your email come to life. Add an extra dimension and pull your subscribers in. When we say 3D…  I understand for many creating your own professional 3D images is a bridge too far. (although you could with tools like Blender) Instead think about ready-made stock 3D images or even easier effects like overlapping images with shadow to create a sense of depth.

Other email design trends are: the use of Gradients, Neumorphism, Textured illustrations, Monochrome Layout, and Illustrated Animations.

Synthetic Buyer Personas and Creating Buyer Simulations

Alex Carnegie had a lucid dream with a mix blade runner, dark mirror, and day-to-day creation of Electronic Marketing Personas. Turns out it wasn’t a dream. Persona buyer simulations are endlessly fascinating and much closer than we might expect. (I’ll blend in some of my thoughts on the matter. )

Bundling customer insights is a process to create comprehensive marketing personas.  Take a step into the life and mindset of your customer. It is vital for marketers to understand, connect, and engage with their (target) audience.

Our physical and digital lives increasingly blur with each other and big data is only going to become bigger as a result. How much more valuable is it when AI takes today’s data goldmine to help with persona creation?

Building a synthetic person out of all the data they emit day-to-day is way closer than you think. Many of the puzzle pieces are here already.

What once was a relatively shallow and generic impression of a customer has the potential to turn a buyer persona into a buyer simulation. Open Pandora’s box full of fascinating opportunities that come with Synthetic Buyer personas.

Marketers should realize that this is an extension of what is already going on. We have been building niche buyer simulations for many years with the aid of optimization, analytic, and prediction tools. Churn prediction, A/B testing, lead scoring, and Next Best Action models all count on an insight into the wishes and actions of individuals.
 
But a true buyer simulation will bring insight into what makes customers ‘tick’: 

  • What is the best combination of traits to include in your persona?
  • How risk adverse is your MarSim-Persona? 
  • Which psychological motivators will catch on?
  • What would Persona’s instinctual reaction be to X or Y?
  • Will Persona respond better to one design or another?  

Combined with advanced conversational technologies, such as Pandorabots’ Mitsuki chatbot. Imagine having a full-blown conversation with your synthetic buyer persona. What would a focus group be like, in a (chat)room full of Mar-sim Personas? 

Taking it a step further, we see writers becoming AI’s editors. Designers and developers become art/technical directors. Could you one day even engage the services of a digital agency that’s literally a digital agency?

Email Design Trends to Boom in 2021

Will the inbox be(come) a place of tranquillity and minimalist aesthetics? Hmmm maybe. Here are the email marketing design trends Lily Worth and Litmus expect to hit it big in 2021.  These email designs will be setting our inboxes alight in the coming year.

Tangible visual content
Product photography, 3D renderings and zoomed-in details help customers get a “real feel for a real deal” and experience a product they might want to buy more close up. Interactive emails can dynamically show different colors, versions, and pricing.

Nostalgia and futurism
nostalgic styles and positive futuristic designs, will make email campaigns eye-catching and also trigger positive emotions, of comfort and open imagination.

Get ready for “vintage styles” as an accelerating email marketing trend in 2021. With serif fonts, keylined shapes, off-print techniques, and solid drop shadows getting more airtime in your inbox. Futurism means bright colors, outer glows, dark backgrounds, and space themes.

Fusing nostalgia and futurism brings us retro futurism – will also be popular.

Teeny-Tiny design delights

Simple and subtle application of animations and abstractions will be the bomb.  Use these to accentuate and complement messaging rather than grabbing all the attention. Simple animations to show product use or an animated arrow to highlight important bits are simply delightful. More design examples over at Litmus

Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021

Gartner lays out nine top tech trends in their own buzz-worthy terms packaging. There are three main themes woven into all of these trends:
1. People centricity: People are still at the center of all business.
2. Location independence:  Organizational and customer ecosystems requires tech  to be accessible anywhere
3. Resilient delivery: Be prepared to pivot, adapt, and overcome any disruptions.

Trend 1: Internet of Behavior
(IoB) – putting digital data dust to use.
The  Internet of Behavior (IoB) is about using data to change behaviors. There is an increase in technologies that gather “daily life data” across digital and physical. Think about commercial customer data; citizen data from the public-sector; social media; public domain data, facial recognition and location tracking.  That information is used and presented in feedback loops to influence behavior.

Trend 2: Anywhere operations: bringing remote closer
An anywhere operations model will be vital for businesses to emerge successfully. This operating model allows for businesses to be accessed, delivered, and working from anywhere — where customers, employers, and partners operate remotely.
This is “digital-first, remote-first;” for example, banks that are mobile-only.

Trend 3: Intelligent composable business: Change it because you must
An intelligent composable business can adapt and rearrange itself to a new current situation. Organizations accelerate digital transformation, from a need to be agile and make quick business decisions (informed by current data.)

This requires:
* Open and better access to (augmented) information and insights
* Ability to respond to these new insights and circumstances.
* Increased autonomy and democratization to parts of the business, so they can quickly react without bureaucracy and stagnant processes.

Trend 4: Hyperautomation to break out of legacy tech
Hyperautomation is the concept that anything that can be automated, should be automated. I think that might just be one part hope, one part misguided and one part breaking through old structures with big ambition.

Especially organizations that have legacy business processes and a “patchwork” of technologies have immensely expensive issues. An explicit Hyperautomation Ambition means taking big steps for paying off your tech debt and moving toward efficiency, speed and democratization.

No pain, no gain. How to learn and adapt email marketing for 2021

A year like 2020 comes around and you can throw your campaign playbooks out the window. See it as a positive, because it forces us to re-evaluate, redesign, and re-strategize our email program. Kath Pay lays down the biggest ways to turn pains 2020 into 2021 gains.

Customer-centricity wins
Marketers pause business as usual thinking and flip from “What do we want to tell our customers?” to, “What do they want to hear from us?
A newfound focus on the customers’ needs, wants, and situation. The customer-centric movement is paying off. Resulting in sustained higher open rates throughout the year.

Infuse helpful marketing into email marketing
Rediscover good marketing practices –  be a consultative seller: help customers achieve their objectives first, and be rewarded as this is turned into hitting our (revenue) goals and expanding our marketing program. This “win-win” approach is the concept of helpful marketing.

Persuasion: Appeal to a new set of emotions and buying reasons
We need to find new arguments, new frameworks to persuade customers to consider your offers. This year, the emotion leading to act can be quite different from previous years. For instance, in travel marketers swap out discounts and price for self-care and health safety and assurance (refunds and cancellations).

Testing what works now for each customer group
Regular A/B split testing is more important than ever. Discover the newly changed customers’ wants, needs, and motivations (with the right hypotheses). But don’t assume: Some of the customers are in a dire state and under total lockdown while for others life continues pretty much as normal.

Remember: Your email database is the testable slice of your complete customer audience, making it the ideal every channel testing ground.

4 B2B marketing trends for 2021

Which investments in people, tech, and channels will B2B need to prioritize? Elias Crum looks ahead (in dutch) to the B2B-marketingtrends for 2021. Many CMO’s had to deal with budget cuts making it extra remarkable that  68% (!) will be spending more in martech.

1. The rise of sales technology

From prospecting down to closing the deal, the B2B sales cycle is becoming more and more complex. 6-10 decision makers and 10-15 attempts before a conversation are no exception.



Sales tech helps our sales brotha’s out to become Always Be Selling Superhero’s (sort of). Categories that we see: CRM solutions, prospection tools, Sales Automation, Offer and proposal software, Digital signing and contract software, enablement software.

2. From offline events to online events to hybrid events

Oh-oh! No more live events for a while. So we need to quickly switch our mindset of round tables, events, and lunches and embrace online alternatives. Although it isn’t a fair comparison: Online events and webinars are mostly top-of-the-funnel, and B2B live events are often used for bottom-of-the-funnel contact.

The next step in 2021 will be ‘hybrid events‘. Combining the benefits of online events with the personal approach of a live event.

3. Use of personal video in sales and marketing

The barriers and initial awkwardness of personal video quickly disappeared as  nline meetings were Zoom-ified as standard.
When should we use personal B2B video’s? Online product demos, Video in offers and proposals, and Video prospecting.

Salespeople love video, more than other content types, simple to make – not a lot of prep needed (per se). The next step is mass customization and automation of successful video infused flows and snippets.

4. Personalized B2B Content

In B2B expectations for a personal experience are equal to B2C (turns out your B2B clients are also people, who would have thought!). Where will we be personalizing the Customer Experience in 2021? Think about:  Website personalization, Email marketing personalization, Chatbots, and Advertising.

Conclusion: 10 years of the Future of email marketing and marketing automation

As any philosopher, time traveler, or science fiction aficionado will say, nothing as hard to predict… as the future. In the digital marketing world, we will always see change.

Interesting about this year is that everybody lived through the impact of absolute change and felt how it makes a big difference. (In rapid pace).
Futureproofing your business is no joke.

Part of trends are technology driven, part is creativity, part is changing consumer behavior and the a last part: “Why don’t you just start using best-practices?”.

PS: As more and more future of email marketing articles are published, I’ll be updating this post to include all the trends. If you have any additions, comments, questions or just like to say “HI”, post a comment below.