Insight January 13, 2021

Evolutions in Email Marketing for 2021 and Beyond – 4 Trends to Watch


Over the last year, widespread stay-at-home orders and the accompanying economic turmoil have changed the game for marketers everywhere. Rapid lifestyle changes brought about by COVID-19 have also produced new and unpredictable consumer behavior. And many marketers are still trying to catch up.

Throughout the pandemic, there’s been a lot of talk about essential businesses – the businesses that keep us going. The ones we can’t live without. As consumer behavior has shifted, email marketing is the channel that has risen to the top. It’s essential for business in 2021.

Why email marketing?

As lockdowns and self-isolation decreased opportunities for in-person touchpoints, organizations turned to email marketing to build relationships and drive sales. But how exactly did businesses decide to focus on email marketing?

Direct access to customers. Where consumers go, marketers will follow.  Studies show 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media. It’s where consumers go to find the latest sales and promotions from their favorite brands.

More importantly, it’s the one marketing channel where you can speak directly to customers. Unlike other communication channels, your customer’s inbox is accessible only to them. Also, the average American spends 2.5 hours a day in their personal inbox, so there’s a good chance that your targets will immediately view your message, and they’re more likely to see the message than they would in a social feed or a digital banner.

Relief from social media fatigue. Social marketing can be highly effective. But if users become overwhelmed with the time and energy spent interacting on social, they take a break from their feed. This social media fatigue can cost you opportunities to engage with your customers.

New research from Brandwatch shows that “mentions of social media fatigue (e.g., being bored, tired, or exhausted with it) increased 41% in the last 10 months compared to the 10 months prior.” Focusing on email marketing gives businesses another touchpoint to reach customers when social media fatigue sets in. After all, one of the many things people do after getting tired of scrolling through their social feed is to check their email.

Increased ROI. Online consumerism has seen unprecedented growth across a variety of industries, but consumers also have less money to spend. According to a McKinsey report, “Personal disposable income is not expected to recover to pre-crisis level until Q2 2024 in the U.S.” As businesses compete for shrinking consumer dollars, increasing your marketing ROI is essential – and email delivers. For every $1 marketers spend on email marketing, they receive an average of $42 in return.

4 trends to keep in mind as you create your 2021 email marketing campaigns

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that plans change. Email marketing, much like our work and personal lives, has evolved to meet the changes in consumer behavior. But to stay ahead of the competition, you need to keep an eye on the latest trends and be prepared to adjust your strategy along the way.

As we continue to adjust to the new normal, there are a few trends you should keep in mind while planning your email marketing campaigns for the new year.

Trend 1: Hyper-personalized content. Personalization is something that we talk about a lot when it comes to email marketing. Delivering tailored, relevant content to your customers pays off. Research shows that personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend and lift sales 10% or more. It’s how we turn potential leads into customers, and customers into brand advocates.

Basic email personalization uses the demographic information you collect about consumers, such as age, gender, location, and anything else they might add to their Census form. This is the information you can use to fill in your customer’s name in the subject line of an email or create segmented audience lists for your campaigns.

Hyper-personalization takes this concept a step farther by incorporating elements like a custom call-to-action button, product pages based on shopping history and interests, or personalized landing pages based on a customer’s stage in their journey.

You can take the personalization even farther with dynamic content. It allows you to tailor the campaign messaging and imagery based on different audience segments. For example, you could serve up a slightly different message or call-to-action for prospective customers or current customers without sending a separate email.

Trend 2: Email marketing automation.

In a traditional email campaign, marketers control when an email goes out to their subscriber list. Email marketing automation, or drip campaigns, work differently. This strategy uses a sequence of emails triggered by a specific action a user takes. Information comes in “drips” across a series of several emails, which gently guide the user into making a purchase decision instead of insisting that customers make a purchase.

Trend 3: User-generated content.

One of the benefits for businesses during the pandemic is the fact that more consumers are comfortable shopping online. Research also shows that 37% of shoppers say they now shop with more brands than they did a year ago. As consumers feel more comfortable with the options available online, they have become more willing to branch out and try new products and services. That’s great news, but how do you entice new customers?

Adding user-generated content, such as product photos and reviews, to your email marketing can serve as social proof for new customers. People trust other people more than they trust brands. Plus, ads based on user-generated content receive four times higher click-through rates and a 50% drop in cost-per-click compared to average ads. User-generated content does more than just build trust. It can help you:

  • Save time. Supplement your original content with crowdsourced content from customers who love your brand.
  • Reach more customers. When you encourage your customers to share content featuring your brand, their network is also exposed to your brand.
  • Engage your community. You can create stronger relationships with customers by inviting them to participate in your marketing.

Trend 4: Interactive content.

It’s likely that you have already heard about interactive content. This type of content requires your customers to tap, click, swipe, or engage actively with your marketing content. According to MarTech Advisor, “Interactive email content increases the click-to-open rate by 73%, and adding videos to your email content can boost click rates up to 300%.”

Incorporating video into your email marketing is one popular type of interactive content, but there are so many other opportunities. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Animate call-to-action buttons to draw attention.
  • Use a hover effect on images to provide more information.
  • Include a quiz within the email that shows results immediately.
  • Add a game to the body of your email.
  • Include an image carousel for new products.


Are you ready to launch your next email marketing campaign? Let’s talk.