Email in 2016: The year in review

McKenzie Gregory


If you’re a part of the email community, you know this year was one for the books.

Our industry moves so fast (and inbox competition is so fierce) that it’s easy to lose track of how many exciting things happened in 2016. Now that it's coming to a close, here’s a quick look back at what changed, and more importantly, where we’re headed moving forward.



1. The resurgence of the long-form newsletter

Long considered an inbox no-no, the newsletter regained some momentum in 2016 – and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Newsletters like The Hustle and Lenny Letter are some of the most wildly popular sends out there, and it’s demonstrated that despite shortening attention spans, many people still appreciate the convenience of news delivered straight to their inbox. 

[CAVEAT ALERT!] The reason these newsletters have been so successful is because in every case, they’re hyper-relevant and catered to an incredibly specific audience. Sending a wall of text to your subscribers isn’t likely to be a hit for the majority of brands out there, so be careful before you attempt it yourself. 





2. GIFs on GIFs on GIFs

Once considered a fleeting trend, the animated GIF has officially become a staple of email design. You’d be hard-pressed to find a brand that doesn't include a GIF in their email campaigns every now and then, and many brands (lookin’ at you, retailers) include them in every single campaign.

The reason for the rapid rise? People love them, and they really work: GIFs can increase click rates 42%, conversion rates 103%, and revenue 109% (MarketingSherpa).



3. Contextual experiences

From geo-targeting to live social feeds, marketers worked hard in 2016 to build real-time inbox experiences. It’s yet another step away from “batch and blast” and toward serving up the most relevant content possible to our audiences.



4. Simplified design

For many brands, email content got hyper-focused, often centered around a single CTA. More frequent, more targeted sends increased in popularity, keeping the “ask" in any given email crystal-clear and laser-focused. 



5. Trailblazers experimenting with interactive email

While it certainly hasn’t become the norm (yet), brands like Burberry helped set the stage for 2017 to be the year of interactive email. What does that mean? Think completing a purchase, taking a quiz, or navigating multiple tabs WITHIN an email. It’s all possible, and it’ll fundamentally change how people think about email as a marketing channel. 


6. Big industry changes

Microsoft Outlook + Litmus partnership:

Back in August, Litmus and Microsoft announced they were teaming up to make email better for thousands of email marketers – not to mention  the hundreds of millions of people who use Microsoft Outlook.

Through the partnership, Litmus will help Microsoft prioritize email rendering bugs in Outlook, identify issues faster, and announce improvements and fixes to the community.

Gmail going responsive:

The email design and development community has been petitioning Gmail for years to make these changes without hearing much back. So when they finally made an announcement that they would start supporting embedded style sheets, media queries, and a small host of other code the day before Litmus’ Email Design Conference in San Francisco (not a coincidence) AND sent their product owner and software engineer to attend the conference, it was a really big deal.

Not only is the mobile experience in Gmail’s app greatly improved, it also means that we're inching a bit further towards a common code standard for email.



Can you think of any noticeable trends or big developments we missed? Share away in the comments!


About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

Follow on Twitter Follow on Linkedin
Previous Article
Staffer Q&A with Talent Acquisition Specialist Priya Pappu
Staffer Q&A with Talent Acquisition Specialist Priya Pappu

In our series, Staffer Q&A, we sit down with members of our crew, interview-style, to find out the "who" be...

Next Article
Connect Emma to virtually any online service
Connect Emma to virtually any online service

Think about all the online tools and services you use to get your job done. Slack, Gmail, Google Docs — and...

Want to engage your audience and grow your brand? Try Emma’s robust, easy-to-use product today.

Get a Demo