I can already feel it: 2016 is going to be an exciting year for email. There's no way to know exactly where the market will go, nevertheless we've made some predictions based on current market trends. Of course, we can hope that Gmail will start supporting styles in the head section, or that Outlook will finally move away from using the Word rendering engine, but from our current vantage point, those seem like just wishful thoughts.
So, let's take a look at a few things that were gaining speed in 2015 and may well define the year to come.
1. Animation/interactive elements will become more popular
Interactive navigational menus and animated transitions bring a huge experience improvement to mobile users. 2016 may be the year that techniques like this start to go mainstream.
Email Monks and FreshInbox have both been blogging up a storm about interactive elements in email. Be sure to check out how to make email interactive in Gmail, and flip and scratch in email, as well as our blog on alternative uses for hamburger menus in email.
Though some mobile inboxes can't take advantage of interactive elements yet, those who use the iOS native Mail app will benefit from the extra effort. As cutting-edge developers explore these techniques, interactive elements will become more common in templates for purchase and even those provided by some ESPs.
Will 2016 be the year that interactive goes mainstream? Not quite. But it may just be the push that Gmail needs to start accepting media queries and animation effects, along with the rest of the style block in the head section.
2. Fluid hybrid design will become the new normal
On the other hand, as long as Gmail doesn't change its tune, the fluid hybrid technique will become more and more popular. Fluid hybrid design enables emails to be responsive in the Gmail app, as well as the iOS native mail app and almost everywhere else. Read our primer to get fully up to date on this technique.
If you're not using fluid hybrid design techniques, now is the time to start. Don't worry, it's not too hard to code. Nicole Merlin has an excellent guide to building your own fluid hybrid email, or you can download our free template. With only 8 seconds to make an impression, having a perfect email on mobile really matters.
Fluid hybrid design came about as a band-aid for the shortcoming of Outlook and Gmail, so we don't think it's exactly the "future of email design." But 2016 may be the year it takes center stage, as we all wait for these two email juggernauts to come around.
3. Hyper personalization will continue to perform well
As savvy marketers have abandoned "batch and blast" for segmented, targeted offers, personalization is more important than ever. If used properly, data about the customer experience can be used to create highly personalized offers that convert at a much higher rate. In fact, the Aberdeen Group found that personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14%, and conversion rates by 10%. So, how can you send personalized emails to every contact on your list? Dynamic content is the way to go.
You can personalize around anything that makes sense for your sales cycle or customer journey, but here are 10 great ideas to start making your content custom-tailored. And, if your sending service is not be able to handle complex personalization, check out our list of the 15 best dynamic content tools for email.
We expect to see more companies adopting hyper-personalization tactics in 2016. For large retailers, this could mean one-off emails sent based on browsing behavior. For mid- to small-sized businesses, this personalization may be achieved through the acquisition of better customer data which facilitates more intricate segmentation. As long as the numbers show that there's value in personalization, companies will keep helping us make it easier.
4. Permission-based spam laws will become stricter
With each passing year, governments are being more and more restrictive about unsolicited email. Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which was enacted in 2014, requires that marketers send email only to people who have opted in to receive them and threatens millions of dollars in fines for violations. Though CASL has only begun to bare its teeth (the "transitional period" ends July 1, 2017), it is just the beginning of stronger anti-spam legislation.
When it meets this month, the European Union Parliament is expected to approve a comprehensive piece of privacy legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This overhaul of the EU Data Protection Directive is expected to become law across all 28 EU Member States in 2018 and contains very specific requirements about obtaining consent to collect an individual's information as well as guidelines about how that information is to be stored and used.
Spam costs American firms and consumers almost 20 billion annually. With such a serious cash incentive to combat it, you can bet that permission-based anti-spam laws will continue to get more stringent. Get ahead of this trend now by moving to the double opt-in method of list building. Not only are double opt-in lists compliant with international spam laws, but they can also help boost your open rates.
5. The struggle for inbox attention will only become more real
Email business is good right now. Actually it's really good. With up to $38 made for every dollar spent, email is getting a lot more respect and attention. According to The Radicati Group, Inc., total worldwide email volume will increase by 5% every year until 2019. This will accompany growth in the number of email accounts (6-7% per year) and email users (3% per year). While this growth is great news for email marketers, it also presents us with a challenge: how to get people's attention in an increasingly crowded inbox.
Not only is there just more email being sent all the time, but inbox organizational tools like Gmail tabs and Unroll.Me are also changing the playing field. With so much email going around, users need new ways to control how much email they get and help them to manage what's in their inbox. But these aforementioned tools are just the beginning. New apps like Inbox and Alto are raising the bar for inbox management features.
Despite all the change, the solution is the same as it has always been. Send email people want to receive! Make sure that your mailings are full of useful content or persuasive offers and you'll find that the increased volume doesn't impact your bottom line at all.
What do you see in the cards for 2016?
Did we miss anything in the world of email that could be HUGE in 2016? Let us know in the comments below!