What we got wrong (and right) with our email marketing predictions for 2018

Making predictions is almost always risky. No one has an all-seeing crystal ball and so no one can be right all the time.

We made some big email marketing predictions for 2018 near the end of last year. The nice thing about predictions is that, when you’re right, you look like a genius. 

Of course, sometimes you get those predictions wrong. The safe thing to do would be to not make any predictions at all, but what's the point of that?! 

Email marketing predictions for 2018: The hits and misses

Now, it’s time to face the music and assess our predictions from late last year. A lot happened in 2018, and this is our chance to look back and see if we were ahead of any of the latest email marketing trends. It’s also your opportunity to hold our feet to the fire and see just how accurate our predictions were.

Ready to go? Let’s jump in, take a look at our email marketing predictions for 2018 and how things actually played out.

Was engagement more important than acquisition?

The first one of our email marketing predictions for 2018 was a bigger focus on engagement, rather than acquisition. The advice was to avoid chasing subscribers and, instead, focus on the subscribers that are actually engaging with your brand already.

It was really a fancy way of saying, “Quality over quantity.”

This is a tough one to measure and it may vary among brands and the different ways they chose to engage their subscribers. Some may have found very effective engagement methods, while others may still be testing new copy, email layouts, and campaigns.

However, the implementation of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU this year showed the value of having engaged subscribers instead of big lists of non-engaged subscribers. 

Brands were required to ask subscribers in the EU to confirm that they opt-in for receiving email communications. For some brands without engaged subscriber lists, this was a big wake up call.

Some companies lost 50% of their email subscriber base. However, the news wasn’t all bad. This was an opportunity for brands to see who their engaged, dedicated subscribers were.

While the email lists may have become smaller, the potential for great results is still there if you have a list of dedicated subscribers. As you look to build your list further, work hard to earn engaged subscribers rather than simply names to add to your list at any cost.

Image: Really Good Emails


Did accessibility make a difference for marketers?

This is a prediction we think we nailed and it will be a prediction that only becomes truer as the years go by. 

Accessibility, also known as inclusive design, means thinking strategically about things like alt text, contrast, legibility, and markup so that everyone in your audience can access and interact with your content—regardless of disabilities or assistive devices.

In 2018, more marketers challenged themselves to think strategically about designing emails that work for their entire audience, but there's still a lot of work that can be done. Here's a checklist we put together for email designers who want to make their work more inclusive.

In 2019, it will be important to remember that email design is all about function—not just style. Thinking about the content of your emails is important but you also have to consider how that content is going to be experienced by your subscribers. Great content loses its effectiveness if it's not accessible for all subscribers. 

Does sending fewer promos deliver results?

Send fewer promos as part of a marketing plan? 

It sounds crazy, right? 

However, one of our email marketing predictions for 2018 was that sending fewer promos would help drive engagement. 

We suggested that brands instead focus on offering value through their email campaigns instead of simply pushing promo codes and discount offers.

This kind of ties in with the recommendation to look for engaged subscribers rather than simply a big list of names. Delivering great content that people actually look forward to reading will drive engagement much more than just another sales message. 

People are already inundated with marketing messages. In fact, some office workers receive upwards of 120 emails per day.

Can you imagine if all of them were pushing sales and coupon codes? Delivering something other than a promo email can make you stand out among the hundreds of other emails vying for the attention of your subscribers.

Try thinking about different ways to deliver interesting content that will appeal to subscribers. This could include a weekly newsletter with interesting updates, a style guide for the season, or some other form of content that is exciting to enjoy.


IMAGE: Really Good Emails

Did minimalism and simplicity win this year?

This year we predicted that simple emails would become the trend. 

People have a fixed amount of time and only so much of that can be dedicated to browsing emails. When subscribers are met with a wall of text, they may simply move on to the next email.

This means fewer clicks through to your website and, ultimately, fewer sales.

So, did simplicity win out over walls of text this year? 

It’s hard to say if people prefer the simple email design but a lot of major brands are following that trend. As an example, look at this email from Peloton. This brand is huge right now and expanding to worldwide markets. 

Their marketers likely have plenty to say and there are so many cool things to learn about this product and service, it would be very easy to write a long email with all of the details. However, they resist that urge and send out very simple, clean, and effective messages. The layout is easy to read, the text is short, and the call to action is clear. 

You can read the whole email quickly, get some important information, and then click through to the website right away. 

No wasting time scrolling through a long, complex email.

IMAGE: Really Good Emails

Getting permission was important in 2018.

We predicted last year that it may be important for brands to explicit permission from subscribers to send them email messages. New regulations in some areas of the world that made brands verify permission for existing subscribers kind of made this prediction a slam dunk.

However, even if new laws and regulations had not been put in place, this is still good practice. People want to know who is sending them emails and marketers should want to be invited into email inboxes rather than force their way in.

This is why we always recommend organically building an email marketing list rather than purchasing a list. 

Not only can purchasing a list get you into some serious legal trouble—but they simply do not offer true engagement. You may have a big list of emails that you can send messages to but if no one actually wants to receive those messages then the email list isn’t worth the USB drive it’s stored on.

IMAGE: Really Good Emails

What about contextual email?

Of all of the predictions, this one is probably the hardest to nail down regarding whether or not we got it right or wrong. 

Frankly, brands are only beginning to scratch the surface of contextual email and there is still a lot of untapped potential. The data isn’t there to call this prediction correct or incorrect.

However, with that said, we do still feel very strongly that contextual email will become the wave of the future. As mentioned several times throughout this article, marketers need to look for a way to set their email campaign apart from the hundreds of other campaigns someone may see throughout a week.

Contextual features are a great way to accomplish that and we think that contextual email will only continue to grow.

Wrap up

Overall, our email marketing predictions for 2018 turned out pretty well. 

Some of the predictions may lack hard data to back them up right now but we do believe the predictions were still very good and marketers can make use of all of these predictions to up their game in the remainder of 2018 and beyond.

Want to put some of these predictions to the test for yourself? Let us know, and we'll help you get started with your first email campaign! 

About the Author

Lane Harbin

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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