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LET'S GET IT ON
MARKETERS SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ATTEMPTING TO FIND CUSTOMERS' LOVE LANGUAGE — WHAT DO THEY WANT? WHAT MAKES THEM TICK?
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AREN'T YOU CURIOUS
I DON’T HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL, BUT I DO HAVE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA OF WHERE EMAIL IS HEADED IN THE NEAR FUTURE. WE ARE ON THE CUSP...
5 YEARS FORWARD: EMAIL
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WE GIVE BRILLIANT CREATIVE A FUNCTIONAL, TECHNICAL BACKBONE THAT MAKES IT FEASIBLE IN REAL LIFE, NOT JUST COOL TO TALK ABOUT IN A KEYNOTE.
LOVE COFFEE? OR MARKETING? OR DEBATING WHETHER HAN SOLO REALLY DID SHOOT FIRST? WE’RE ALWAYS DOWN TO GEEK OUT, TALK SHOP, TALK SHIT, AND CO-CAFFEINATE WITH LIKEMINDED PEOPLE. FIRST ROUND’S ON US.
5 YEARS FORWARD: EMAIL
THE FUTURE OF EMAIL MARKETING
One of the most common questions I get from colleagues, clients, peers, mentors, interns, and my manicurist: what will email look like in the future? (okay, my manicurist probably didn’t ask me, but rest assured that everyone else in that list sure did.) we are on the cusp of some powerful technology. For marketers, it’s a pivotal moment. The truth is, everyone wants to know what’s going to happen in five years, but few are talking about what we actually need to be doing now to make use of that technology.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do have a pretty good idea of where email is headed in the near future — and more importantly, how marketers can lay the groundwork today to best maximize the developments of tomorrow. Here are the three big ones that will define the next generation of email:
We ask Alexa to tell us the weather and play our favorite songs. We get our driving directions from Siri. As smart devices become more commonplace in our homes and workplaces, our interactions with technology is becoming more like a dialogue. And as our reliance on screens begins to shrink, email will change, too.
When Alexa is reading our email to us, images will matter less and truly compelling copy will matter more. Our understanding of structure — headline, subhead, body text, CTA — will change. Calls to action will be amplified by utterances, and they will become more fluid. Opportunities to act will be interwoven throughout the message, rather than presented as a static punctuation point. I should be able to say, “hey Google, buy that” or “add that to my shopping cart” rather than scrolling and clicking. Email will become more like a dialogue than a medium through which to speak at customers — less “reading to you” and more a conversation. Consider the fourth wall broken.
So, how can marketers get ahead of the screenless curve now? Stop thinking about your copy as a one-way message, and start thinking about it as a conversation: think about how input from your customer, like voice commands, can be used and maximize to drive engagement. Dedicate some time and brain-space to broadening your own ideas of what’s possible in screenless email — think music, audio overlays, conversational cues. Start practicing thinking this way now, so that by the time this shift happens, your thinking isn’t stuck in the past.
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Email is the single best method for stitching together your customer’s “golden record” of data, and it will only continue to become a more powerful tool in creating a holistic understanding of your customer. With email, brands can identify and authenticate their customers’ device ids, with no site-side authentication required. In other words, if I visit the Anthropologie site for the first time in 30 days on my smartphone, the brand has no idea who I am until way too late in the process (and that’s if I decide to make a purchase). I could be anyone, and the brand has no way to talk to me until it’s too late. But if Anthropologie sends me an email, from which I click through, they know exactly who I am and can tailor the content and the message accordingly. As consumers add more devices to their homes and workplaces — smartwatches, virtual assistants, google glass — email will still be the single best way to stitch together all of those device ids holistically. Think of it as an instant dossier on everyone engaging with your brand.
But you won’t be able to take full advantage of all these sweet, sweet marketing possibilities unless you’re pro-active now. Make sure you’re laying the groundwork with an eye toward this future: pass tracking information from email to side, consider turning on cross-site/browser tracking, and understand how platform and device ids are assigned to activity data. These measures will set you up to reap the full benefits of email as a data tool, but you can’t retroactively go back and do them. (I mean, unless we have time machines by then, but probably best to just do them now. The future waits for no one.)
I, for one, welcome our new ai overlords. But seriously: harnessing the power of machine learning means ai-composed content. And ai-composed content almost certainly means exponentially better performance metrics, not to mention exponentially less time, effort, and cost to achieve those results.
What does this look like? Let’s say a fashion retailer sends me an email about their new arrivals, but it knows all of my preferences, based on the data I’ve been giving them for years. The email, which will be different from the one my neighbor or my coworker or probably anyone else gets, will reflect that: mostly black clothes, more dresses than pants, the exact sleeve length I prefer, the exact incentive they know I’ll respond to, the clothing modeled on women who wear my size. Maybe it even knows one of these products will be a home run with me, and will add it to my cart instantly.
Sounds pretty sexy, right? But the unsexy part is the most important and urgent: you have to feed the machine. In order for any of this to be useful in the long run, marketers need to be prepping now. You can’t go back and retroactively add metadata to all of your emails from the last five years. Start now. Get better at describing your imagery. Get better at writing your content. The machine will have the ability to get very smart, but it can only get as smart as what we start putting in. And we need to lay this groundwork today. (well, preferably 5 years ago, but today is our next-best option.) this level of precision will make a/b testing look like an ancient abacus: it doesn't matter what the majority of people like; it matters what every individual likes. We’ll collect the data that tells us what we have to say to this specific customer to get her to change her mind — and the machine will be able to say it. (if you want a deeper look at how this might work — and how it might go awry — I highly recommend “Avogadro Corp” by William Hertling. We’re closer to “open the pod bay doors, Hal” than we might think.)
"This level of precision will make A/B testing look like an ancient abacus: it doesn't matter what the majority of people like; it matters what every individual likes."
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