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10 Email Marketing Trends in 2016: To Make Your Strategy Perform Better

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Read Time: 11 min

Email marketing is a popular way to promote products and services, but does it work?

Statistics say yes. According to data from Campaign Monitor, email marketing is crazy effective. Email marketers can claim a return of $38 for every dollar spent. When you compare that figure to the return on advertising spend for other media, the difference is astonishing. Figures from Nielson Catalina Solutions show that the return on advertising dollars spent for other marketing methods ranges from $1.53 for digital video to $3.94 for magazine ads. 

As a business owner who wants to get the most from their marketing dollar, consider email marketing. If you’d like a primer on the basics of email marketing, then read our Tuts+ tutorial, What Is Email Marketing? Or, get a head start on your email marketing campaign with our tutorial, How to Build an Email List: Get Your First 500 Subscribers Fast.

Now, let’s take a look at ten hot email marketing trends for 2016. We’ll also share some resources to help you make the most of those trends.

1. Aesthetically Appealing

How an email looks is more important than ever in 2016. Email is not just about the words anymore. Good emails also feature an attractive, professional design. A visually pleasing email is more likely to get a response than a plain text only message.

Some things to consider when designing your email:

  • White Space. The email shouldn’t be too cluttered, but there should be enough there to attract attention.
  • Font. Use a good, readable font that also attracts the eye. Don’t be afraid to use bold, but don’t overdo it either.
  • Color. The colors you use in your email marketing campaigns should reflect your branding and company image.
  • Images. Pictures are still a good way to get your reader to notice your message.

One good way to ensure that your emails appear professional is to use a template. With a template, you don’t have to be a professional designer to create an aesthetically appealing email.

You can find many helpful email templates at Envato Market.

One of our best-sellers is Moka. This modern email template includes a responsive design and online builder, making it easy to work with and craft a stylish result. It’s also compatible with a wide variety of email marketing software tools. Here’s a closer look:

Moka Email TemplateMoka Email TemplateMoka Email Template
Moka email template

2. Animated

A fun new email marketing trend is animation. Smart email marketers are incorporating animation into their messages and newsletters. There’s a good reason to do so.

An animated email attracts and holds the reader’s interest. If used properly, an animated email can result in a higher reader response rate. An animation can also convey your message in a clever, unforgettable way.

Plus, it’s easier than ever to create animated emails. With popular email marketing software, like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, or ActiveCampaign, you can add .gif files to your emails just as you would other image types. And the latest versions of many email tools—including the latest versions of Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook (Office 365)—allow your readers to open animated .gif files as they read your emails. 

Here are some guidelines for effectively including animation in your email marketing campaigns:

  • Size. Smaller animation files work better. Larger files load slowly and may even be flagged as spam by your recipient’s email system.
  • Brand. The animation should fit with the brand you have developed for your business.
  • Be Sparing. Don’t overwhelm your readers with too many animations. One or two .gif files are enough.

Remember that recipients with older email systems may not be able to view animations. Include text in your email messages to reach these readers.

Following is example from a recent Envato Market email with a .gif at the top of the email. It immediately grabs the readers attention, but being just one stylish .gif it's not overdone. The rest of the email includes just static images.

Envato Market Email Gif ExampleEnvato Market Email Gif ExampleEnvato Market Email Gif Example
Example of .gif in an email. See the email as published online

3. Automated

Email automation has been around for a long time. If you’ve ever set your work email to send an “out of office” message while you’re on vacation, you’ve used a form of email automation.

Traditionally, the downside of email automation has been that automated messages have been impersonal. With more detailed filters and better targeting tools in email marketing software, email marketers are now able to send messages that are truly relevant to their audience.

Instead of getting a generic email that asks you to consider buying a product that obviously went out to everyone on the company’s mailing list, imagine getting a personalized message wishing you a happy birthday. Or, imagine getting an email when your favorite brand of jeans goes on sale. That’s just the beginning of what the current email automation and segmentation can do.

Modern email automation builds customer relationships by treating the customer like an individual.

4. Compliant

Email marketing regulations are a key area for email marketers to consider. Recently, laws have been passed that affect email marketing. Compliance with these laws is more important than ever in 2016.

Of particular interest to marketers are laws that govern who you can send email to and under what circumstances, as well as what data you may collect and use. Here are just a few examples of such laws and where they apply:

  • CAN-SPAM Act, United States. One of the oldest of the acts listed here, the first CAN-SPAM act was passed in 2003. It establishes requirements for commercial messages, including email opt-out and other email restrictions.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), European Union. This legislation deals with the use of personal data. It was passed in 2016 and takes effect in 2018. It replaces an earlier law.
  • Spam Act, Australia. This law was passed in 2003. It makes unsolicited emails illegal without consent and sets other marketing guidelines.
  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), Canada. This law was passed in 2014. Like the U.S.-based CAN-SPAM Act, it requires email consent. It also lists other standards for email marketers to follow. 

Other countries have similar laws. As an email marketer, you need to understand and follow the email marketing laws that affect your business. If you’re not sure whether your email campaign is compliant, consult a legal professional.

5. Interactive

Interactive emails are one of the latest email marketing trends. They are also an effective way to get your reader’s attention.

Interactive emails make creative use of social media, surveys, games, and other means to involve the reader. They allow the reader to respond in the body of the email to perform an action that further engages them with your brand. Often, reader engagement is rewarded by a promo code or other discount.

Your creativity is the limit on how interactive you want your email marketing campaign to be.  One thing is sure, though, an interactive email helps your brand to stand out from your competitors. That’s probably why we’ll see more of this email marketing trend in 2016.

6. Mobile-friendly

Studies show that readers use mobile devices more than any other device to open and read emails. What that means for email marketers is that emails in 2016 need to be mobile-friendly.

What is a mobile-friendly email? It means that the email opens easily and reads well on a small screen.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when developing your mobile-friendly email strategy:

  • Concise. Readers shouldn’t have to scroll down to get your main message.
  • Not Too busy. To look good on a smaller screen, leave some white space.
  • Responsive. A responsive email template is designed to look good on any device.
  • Readable. Use fonts and color choices that are easy to read on a smaller screen.
  • Clear Call to Action. If you can, place the call to action early in the text.

You will find many useful email templates at Envato Market. 

One of our best-selling themes is Monitor. This attractive email template includes a responsive design, many style variations to work with, and is compatible with a wide variety of email packages. Here’s a closer look at Monitor:

Monitor email templateMonitor email templateMonitor email template
Monitor email template

7. No More Blasts

An email blast occurs when a company sends the same email message to a large group of people. The company may realize that not everyone on their mailing list is a good fit for the message, but they hope that at least some are.

You’ve probably been the recipient of an email blast if you’ve received a sales email that wasn’t really relevant to you. And that right there is the main problem with email blasts. They are often received by people who aren’t really a good fit for the message.

No matter how good your message is or how well it’s designed, it won’t be effective unless it’s read by the right people. Sending an email blast to the wrong people could actually have a downside. It may annoy those who received it that shouldn’t have and lead them unsubscribing from your newsletter.

One of the reasons that blasts are going away as an email marketing strategy is that there’s a better alternative—personalized emails to a smaller, more targeted group.

8. Personalized

A personalized email is one that is geared specifically to your profile and needs. A birthday message is one example, but email marketers are now collecting enough consumer information to go beyond simple birthday messages.

There’s a good reason email marketers are moving to email personalization. It works. A personalized email is more likely to be read, and it’s more likely to result in a sale.

With the right tools, businesses today can personalize your email based on your past behavior.  Here are some examples:

  • You have trouble checking out when placing an order. The business sends an email with checkout instructions.
  • You receive a customized email featuring sale items that you’ve looked at on the business’s site before.
  • After buying an item you receive an email asking for your feedback and recommending complementary items.

You can also expect to see your name used in the email, not only in the salutation but maybe even in the subject line.

9. Social

Social media has become an important part of branding. Businesses are generating a lot of content for their social media channels.

The latest email marketing strategy takes advantage of all that social media content. Email marketers are integrating social content into their email marketing campaigns. Here are five tactics to help you make the most of this trend:

  1. Include links with icons to your social media accounts in your emails.
  2. Add an email opt-in link on your social media pages.
  3. Reference and link to social content within your emails.
  4. Use social media to encourage participation in your email list.
  5. Use email to announce and promote your next social media campaign.

10. Targeted

Email automation tools are changing, allowing email marketers to set strict parameters on who receives which email. As marketers learn more and more about their customer, they will better be able to fit the email to the reader.

Customer loyalty, age and other demographic information, even geographic location. These are all types of information that email marketers can use to target their email strategy to the individual.

Personalized discounts are one example of better email targeting. Email marketers can now include exclusive offers based on several factors. Look for offers like “we see that you’ve been a subscriber for six years. Based on your past history as a customer we’d like to offer you 60% discount for your next three months of service.”

How to Use the Latest Trends to Improve Your Email Strategy

Do you want to improve your business’s email strategy? Start by learning as much you can about each new email marketing trend. Stay current to keep from relying on that same old tired strategy that your customers are tired of.

Once you’ve learned the current email marketing trends, choose those trends that fit best with your business mission and customer profile. You don’t have to overdo it and follow every trend. Following one trend well can make a huge difference in your marketing effectiveness.

Remember, your email marketing is part of your business branding. Any email that you send out should reflect that branding. One of the best ways to make sure that your email marketing strategy is professional is to use a professional email template as a base for your campaign.

Need more inspiration on how to improve your email marketing? Here are twenty of our top email newsletter templates to help inspire you:

Let us know in the comments about how you're planning to improve your email strategy in the second half of 2016.

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