These days consumers know exactly what they like and what they want, and thanks to all the information floating around on the internet, they are savvier than they have ever been before. And when it comes to marketing, 72% of all consumers have made it clear that they prefer to be contacted via email than in any other way!
To use email marketing to its full potential you have to be sending relevant messages to all of your subscribers, plus those messages you are sending need to be fully functional. And by fully functional we mean that they are easy to read, to interact with and do NOT make customers unsubscribe or immediately hit ‘delete’ in irritation!
So if you’re on a mission to grow your sales, increase your profits and improve your return on investment then this article is for you. Why? Because in it we will be introducing everything you need to know about using email marketing in 2016!
Why email marketing? Well because it has an ROI (return on investment) of 38-to-1, in other words, you make $38 for every $1 you spend. And that makes email marketing the digital marketing channel with the HIGHEST return on investment – DESPITE how much it has evolved and changed in the last year alone!
Microsoft/Windows changes affecting email marketing
Outlook has gone mobile
According to Microsoft, the new Outlook App released in January last year is designed to bring those handy Outlook features you use every day (such as email, calendar, contacts, and files), to every device so you can get more done every day – no matter the size of your screen! This makes it great for users but there are some features email marketers need to be aware of!
- The Outlook app inbox is now automatically sorted into two groups – Focused and Other, with an algorithm determining which emails go into which group
- In the inbox view, users will see the sender name and the subject line as usual, but they will also see TWO lines of preview text from the body of the email
- The Outlook apps email rendering is far better than normally found in Outlook clients, with great support for common HTML and CSS techniques such as animated GIFS, web fonts (definition at end of page), CSS animation and media queries
- The Outlook app also supports divs and displays images by default but does NOT support HTML5 videos
Windows 10 is using universal apps
The new Windows 10 Microsoft operating system was launched in July of last year and while Microsoft has said the Windows 8 and 8.1 issues are now a thing of the past, we’ll have to wait and see just how true that is. The default mail client is Outlook Mail, and it is a ‘universal’ app which means that it will be exactly the same on every platform – whether desktop, phone or tablet.
- All the issues that email marketers love to hate about the desktop version of Outlook are now present no matter the device your subscriber is using – including no support for divs, CSS3, HTML5 or media queries
- There are scaling issues with the viewports on mobile devices, so images don’t properly adjust to fit their smaller screens
- Subscribers using Office 365 or Microsoft Exchange have a different rendering engine which offers LESS support for CSS and HTML techniques
Microsoft Office Suite has ALSO released an update
You can be forgiven for thinking that Outlook 2016 and the Windows 10 Outlook Mail app are the same thing, but they are not. The design of the two is similar, but Windows Mail is actually a stripped down version with fewer features. Outlook 2016 is available as part of the Office 2013, Office 2016 or Office 365 suites – but purely as a desktop application.
- Microsoft has not really improved their HTML and CSS support since Outlook 2007 was released, so rendering in Outlook 2016 is as bad as it has ever been
- Outlook 2016 does not support animated GIFs, although it will display the first frame as a still image
- Not only does Outlook 2016 block images by default, it displays a security message that basically obscures any meaningful ALT text
- The inbox view includes the sender’s name, subject line and preview text from the email body
Office 365 will soon be replacing Outlook.com
Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud-based version of the Microsoft Office Suite that allows users to access their Office software from any device, while Outlook.com is the web-based suite of email, contacts, tasks, and calendar services from Microsoft. Now they have decided to replace the Outlook.com interface and technology with the Outlook Web Access platform used by Office 365.
- While significant improvements have been made on the old OWA rendering engine, it still lacks support for more advanced techniques including HTML5 video backgrounds and CSS3
- The inbox view has been updated in order to emphasize the senders name and highlight the subject line, while showing just 50 characters of preview text
- The content blocking options in the new Outlook.com have are similar to the old ones, however, they appear to be allowing some images to display, even when content has not been unblocked
Apple changes affecting email marketing
Apple has launched a smartwatch
For those people who prefer not having to actually reach for their phone and trying to remember their lock code every time their phone buzzes, the convenience of just glancing at their wrist to read a message is ideal. But with smartwatches having email capability, there are some unique challenges that email marketers need to keep in mind.
- The Apple Watch can ONLY display plain text messages, so this means HTML emails are out: longer messages are cut off, and any HTML messages without plain text versions will simply not render
- Screens are MUCH smaller (38mm or 42mm) so your copy needs to be simple, and things like special characters, extra spacing or other formatting tricks don’t translate well (or at all)
- Because emails are displayed as plain text, hyperlinks won’t work and images won’t load – which means you’ll probably see a drop in engagement rates with users simply deleting uninteresting marketing emails rather than viewing them later on a mobile phone or desktop.
iOS 9 has hit the shelves
Apple released the new version (iOS 9) of the iOS operating system in September of last year, and just like with every iOS version that has come before – how iOS 9 handles email is a delightfully frustrating mix of pros and cons. As always there are some updates that email marketers are excited to see, and others, that are sure to make email marketers tear their hair out!
- The new iPhones have a pressure sensitive 3D touch feature, which allows users to ‘peek’ at an email without actually opening it, or ‘pop’ into the email which would count as opening it normally
- With better support for responsive images, email marketers can now make sure that the appropriate image is displayed depending on the size of a device
- iOS 9 offers advanced CSS support which means that email marketers can take advantage of some great CSS techniques
- There is still no support for the HTML <video> tag, and a common interactive element that USED to work is no longer supported
- There seems to be a problem with iOS 9 adding padding to full-width backgrounds, and the new zooming feature can also cause problems with fixed width email designs
Google changes affecting email marketing
Google launches Gmail Postmaster Tools
Even if Gmail doesn’t represent a large portion of your mailing list, they have some of the most sophisticated email filtering and spam detection algorithms in the industry so email marketers would do well to keep an eye on how their emails are doing and optimize their entire campaign based on what they learn.
Gmail launches new ‘block’ option
Gmail has always given their users a variety of options when it comes to expressing their displeasure with an email or sender, and with the new ‘Block’ option users can choose to NEVER see anything from a specific sender again. Now while this option could help many senders get better deliverability rates because getting blocked is slightly better than being reported as spam, no email marketer ever WANTS to get blocked from a subscriber’s inbox!
Gmail switching back to traditional view for Promotions tab
The grid view in Gmail’s Promotions tab meant emails in the inbox were displayed with a featured image and no preview text, but they have since switched back to their old format – so the inbox view now includes the sender name, subject line and preview text
AOL has reintroduced Alto Mail as an app
Launched in October of last year, the Alto mail app is a reintroduction of AOL’s old webmail app. Because it supports all the major global email providers and allows for multiple inbox management, users can easily combine and view all their inboxes in one stream or switch between them without needing to switch apps!
- With the pinch and zoom functionality, users can expand the preview of an email to include more text so they no longer have to actually OPEN a message to see what it says
- For some reason, Alto seems to have the same blue links issue that iOS has and will automatically turn dates, phone numbers, and locations into links
- The Alto mail app does not support interactive elements such as forms, quick quizzes or anything clickable which means your copy (words) is all that’s keeping subscribers engaged
- All images are blocked by default (although users can change this setting) so that means you will need to make use of defensive design tactics
Yahoo! changes affecting email marketing
Yahoo! Mail gets media query bug fix
While this means you no longer need to include attribute selectors in your media queries, there are still some exceptions that you need to be aware of
Other news you need to know
ISPs reveal that clicks don’t affect deliverability
Because many email clients block images, email marketers often rely on click rates to determine how successful a campaign has been – however ISPs have revealed that click rates don’t influence deliverability
One of the main advantages of email marketing is the fact that the ability to keep an eye on sales and user engagement is almost unmatched. You can measure how successful a campaign is by tracking opens, how many times a mail is forwarded, the clicks to your site or social media, your shares and more. That means you can learn a lot about what your subscribers actually care about and what motivates them to act!
And with the information in this article, along with the information in all the related articles you will be able to develop a killer email marketing campaign – whether you are a professional email marketer or an entrepreneur who is trying to successfully grow their business so they can afford to hire a professional in the future!