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The Future of Email: Four Questions and Answers for 2018

Question 1: Email is always evolving. What major change or innovation will alter how we email in 2018?

Better ways to deal with email chaos.

Email is here to stay, and so is the way most people use it. Unfortunately, the average white-collar employee checks email about once every six minutes, and attention-switching resulting from email interruptions is a productivity killer.

A study by the Danwood Group found that it takes on average 64 seconds to recover from an email interruption (regardless of the email's importance) and to return to the same productivity level. Plus, when you add interruptions from real-time communications platforms like Slack and others, people often feel overwhelmed and can stressed out by the sheer number of incoming notifications and messages.

The biggest change in email will come from recognizing the fact that people are bad at managing their emails, and that trying to get them to change behavior won't solve the problem. For example, people aspire to achieve "Inbox Zero," but few have the discipline or time to do what's required to get there—yet alone stay there.

The key is helping people simplify and focus without making them drastically change behavior. Innovative providers will make the entire email experience more intuitive and less demanding while seamlessly dealing with increasing volume and complexity.

Integrating better search and more advance AI functionality are steps in the right direction. As are smarter and more easily customizable notifications that allow you to filter out noise to focus on what's important, overlaying more order on what can seem like a never-ending sea of chaos.

Question 2: In relation to email, what will go away or become less relevant?

The clickthrough.

OK, maybe it won't disappear entirely, and we're not there yet. But as more and more functionality gets pushed into emails and people's inboxes, you won't need to click through to a separate page to perform many tasks or consume additional content.

From embedded videos to surveys and beyond, functionality that once required people to click through to landing pages can be achieved within a person's inbox. This development may have unintended consequences for marketers, who must then balance the value of getting people to more easily engage against removing the incentive for customers to visit their websites.

Question 3: What role will video play in email?

The video email trend been rumored for some time, but it's a trend whose time has finally come.

Apple's renewed commitment to video support underscores that fact, and it means this huge segment of users will continue to have videos play directly from email. However, just because you can include video in emails doesn't mean you always should—and that goes double for the ability to make an embedded video play automatically.

Although video content has proven to be engaging, and auto-playing it even more so, the realities of how people check email can raise some potential issues. That fact that many people frequently check emails on their phones presents significant challenges. People typically spend just seconds reading/scanning an email, which means any video needs to prove watch-worthy in the first 3-5 seconds or it's going to be deleted. And auto-playing a video when a person is checking email in a meeting or another public place can cause problems. Some people may have their sound turned off, in which case your carefully crafted video production becomes a silent movie.

Video should be complementary to the email's purpose, and its inclusion should be necessary; otherwise, video for the sake of video is not a good approach. In short, it needs to add something that can't be communicated in the form of static images.

Question 4: What are some top tips for email marketers in 2018?

Tip 1: Interactive Emails

If you haven't already, start looking for ways to start experimenting with interactive emails. There is no single "right" approach, but you should make sure whatever interactivity you add is appropriate for your brand and your customers.

Also, not every email needs to have interactivity embedded. Keep it purpose-driven, and think of each as a self-contained micro site that allows your customers to do something they find interesting or valuable.

If done right, interactive email is more convenient for the customer and will greatly improve engagement.

Tip 2: Dynamic Content Personalization

The promise of delivering truly personal emails (or any other kind of communication for that matter) has always bumped up against the reality of an organization's ability to deliver. It not only takes a significant amount of data to know each individual customer, and what they would find most relevant, but also a tremendous amount of effort to define all the logic and content required to make the resulting emails seem personal.

Better AI should allow more marketers to take steps toward realizing the potential of personalization beyond the token greeting or account information. Personalization should demonstrate you know your customers. However, doing so effectively requires you to really understand what information they need and in ways it can add value. It also requires you to be able to access that data and incorporate it into your messaging. Which is no easy task.


  • by Michael Shoff Fri Jan 12, 2018 via web

    The following sentence needs to have one word corrected:

    Some people may have their sound turned off so you're carefully-crafted video production becomes a silent movie.

    In this situation, you should use 'your', implying something that you own or have created, instead of 'you're', which implies 'you are' or 'you were'.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Fri Jan 12, 2018 via web

    Michael Shoff. Thank you for pointing that out. It looks we neglected to edit that entire paragraph! Oversight now corrected.