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5 email marketing trends to follow in 2020

When done right, email marketing can reach the right customers and be engaging. Organizations should keep email design simple and easy to read and enclose a unique call to action.

On a daily basis, people see dozens of email marketing solicitations flooding their inboxes. While recipients ignore a good number of them, there are some that are relevant, engaging and receive clicks.

A common misconception is that email marketing doesn't work, but data proves otherwise.

In fact, customer engagement with email marketing during the COVID-19 crisis is on the rise, according to HubSpot research. And, by 2024, the number of email users is expected to increase to 4.48 billion, up from 3.9 billion in 2019, according to a separate study from Statista. The increase in users means more opportunity for marketers to get in front of their prospects. Email marketing can provide positive ROI and is a crucial channel to interact with customers and other members of the professional community.

Here are five email marketing trends to pay attention to in 2020 to ensure customers continue to click through emails to business websites:

1. Segment and personalize content

The sophistication of email marketing platforms continues to grow in 2020, and one feature that vendors continue to roll out is the ability to segment lists. List segmentation helps marketers to create targeted emails and campaigns to speak to multiple audiences. It also enables businesses to more easily collect list-specific data to optimize future campaigns, offers and messaging.

For example, website visitors may fill out a form from which businesses collect user data. The organization can then create rules to automatically add new contacts into an existing segment or list based on title, location, industry or any other number of factors.

Segmentation starts the personalization aspect, enabling businesses to deliver the right message to the right user groups. Within the emails themselves, marketers can personalize content with tokens and provide personalized URLs, driving users to pages that are dynamically built just for them.

To do this, marketers choose how they want to personalize the content, and the marketing tools pull the data they need. For example, a business may want to customize a mass email by using a customer's first name. A token will pull first-name information from a contact record, company name or product a customer is interested in and place it in the first-name field on the email document.

2. Give the email a unique offer

Many businesses send emails that catch people's attention and look visually appealing, but those readers often wonder what to do with the information inside. Emails with multiple offers can overwhelm readers -- and unrelated offers can confuse them -- but emails with attractive offers that are relevant to recipients and in line with the content push them through their journey.

Some offers that catch readers' attention include free demos, downloads for exclusive white papers, registration for a webinar and coupon codes. Businesses will see higher click-through rates and other engagement metrics when the brand messaging and purpose of the email and offer are all aligned.

It's always best to keep this experience consistent with a unique landing page for the offer, as the business's goal with the email is to get users to click through to the website.

3. Make emails easy to read

An organization's email design should support the offer and messaging in the email, and content should dictate design. To design emails correctly, businesses need to be sure the content can easily render on mobile devices and is easy to read and scan. Email is a channel of communication that readers frequently use on the go.

Minimalist design can help businesses create content and imagery that are easily readable. Historically, businesses designed emails like webpages, with lots of content and offers throughout. Taking a more minimal approach to email design can give organizations the opportunity to capture attention with a specific ask and focus the reader's attention.

4. Don't overlook plain text email

While an eye-catching email can be a great way to entice users to click, sometimes, businesses just need to keep it simple. With an increase in email security, many organizations and third-party email monitoring tools are quick to push marketing emails into junk mail folders. Cybersecurity tools, such as Proofpoint, can often label emails heavy with images and custom HTML as spam if businesses don't create them correctly. If a business uses HTML emails over plain text, images should be the optimal size for email templates, and hyperlinks should point to reputable sites.

The plain text email maintains all the email requirements outlined in the Can Spam Act but still looks like a regular 1-to-1 personalized email. These types of emails see higher deliverability and have plenty of use cases. While an e-commerce business may want to send an HTML email with a lot of imagery to display its products, a business sending an invite for a webinar or white paper download may be better off sending a plain text email. Businesses should understand the purpose of an email before sending it. There isn't always a need for heavily designed emails to reach an audience.

5. Use email automation

Another email marketing trend in 2020 is the ability to create and automate email sends and even build in AI rules so emails get smarter. Automation enables businesses to deliver more personalized emails and pick the best times to send these emails. People open email at all times of the day and night, so there really is no best time to send off an email blast. However, for businesses that do want an idea of optimal email send times, Seventh Sense is an AI tool that can help make that determination.

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