By James Deeley.
2018 is set to be a defining year for brands and their marketing activity. We are looking towards many uncertainties, from Brexit to a fractured political world. Changes in trade, legislation and technology, will impact on the way people buy and engage with brands. Then there is the elephant in the room: GDPR, which will have huge ramifications, not just in Europe but across the world, and the potential impact of China’s data regulations and security laws that insist on customer information being kept within the country.
The GDPR shadow
Fundamentally ‘resetting’ the way brands collect, use and store customer information, the arrival of GDPR is a watershed moment: the reality is that everyone needs to change the way they work. And that starts before the legislation becomes law in May 2018. One of the greatest effects of this will be the way brands use email in marketing and CRM. Perversely, this could be the biggest opportunity for brands in 2018.
Collectively, around 183 billion emails are sent every day^ (though this number is likely to be an under estimate). The value of these emails varies wildly – just looking at your own inbox will highlight this perfectly. How many emails are left unread? How many are really valuable? How many are from companies you purchased one thing from years ago, or companies you have never interacted with? The fact is that change had to come and, if approached correctly, this change will represent a huge benefit for customers and brands.
Email started out as a genuine value exchange for customers, where they would get access, recognition and exclusivity for their time and data. Over time, though, it has lost its identity, becoming just another way to sell something. Today, email often feels too heavy, long and formal for communication on the go. Our inboxes are stuffed and we just don’t have time to read through it all.
Getting the basics right
At Keko London, we have been partnering with our clients to help make GDPR work for them. We knew that campaigns based on well thought-through segmentation have a higher open rate** and that speed is the key to conversion in that golden first hour after engaging with a brand***. But we also needed to organise our strategy round three key drivers:
- The adoption of technology: mobile changed the rules on email. Content needs to be immediate and brevity is important. Video became an expectation, as did personalisation. Now we are starting to see the influence of voice activation with Siri, Alexa and others in both the home and car, where email may not even be something you read.
- Changes in consumer behaviour: The growth in more nimble, engaging services and apps, from Whatsapp to Slack and WeChat in China, has changed the nature of language (witness the the take up of emojis).
- How a brand manages its own internal systems and processes: there needs to be an editorial planning approach with the right team in place – one that recognises all the events and influences that happen, one that organises email communications with a wider perspective, and that places optimisation of the customer journey at the heart of the plan.
The intention is reinvention
In some ways, email had to die to change. Its gradual decline was brought on by a lack of attention, imagination and purpose, leading to a ‘landfill’ of communications that very rarely said anything interesting (and when it did, it was lost in the sea of other emails). It was a decline that saw value being measured by the numbers on a database, rather than any meaningful value to the brand.
So, why is it such an opportunity? Well, because if companies are predicted to lose in the region of 75% of their customer database˚, what remains will be really people who are genuinely engaged. That’s a collection of customers who have a loyalty and interest in your brand and products. Email users are still set to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019*, so the cleaned list of customers will be more open to new products, new ideas, and probably want to work together for you if it’s worth their time and it feels personal to them.
The coming year will see the emergence of more interactive and dynamic content, emails that are increasingly one-to-one targeted and personal, where the tone is more relaxed and focused, and most importantly, where they are shaped and wrapped around an understanding of the connected customer journey. Rather than a threat, by providing content and features that really tap into your engaged customer, brands should see 2018 as a year of opportunity.
In this case, less really is more.
^ Techcrunch, 2017
˚ Campaign, 2017
* Statista, 2016
** Mailchimp, 2016
*** eMarketer, 2016