When I envision my ideal setting for greeting the upcoming year, it's in a place far removed from the typical confines of an office. Imagine being nestled among trees, with a gentle blanket of snow adding to the serenity. It's a whimsical thought, but it captures the essence of what I seek in the New Year: bi-directional clarity.
Reflecting on the year that has passed is an integral part of this process. It's not just about counting our blessings, but also embracing the lessons learned along the way. This dual approach of gratitude and learning shapes my perspective and prepares me for the future.
Looking ahead, I strive to have a clear understanding of the direction I want to take, both in my personal life and professional endeavors. Establishing this baseline attitude is crucial. It helps me navigate through the year, ready to adapt and shift as needed, regardless of the surprises - good or bad - that may come my way. This approach doesn't just prepare me for what's ahead; it empowers me to embrace it with open arms.
Welcome to the future of marketing, where AI, data analytics, and machine learning are not just buzzwords but real game-changers. For many years, the idea of predicting the future seemed like a distant dream. Questions like "What message should Customer1 receive two days or thirty days from now?" seemed almost unanswerable. But now, we're on the brink of a breakthrough. As marketers, we're learning to read the signals our customers give us, using cutting-edge tools to craft messages that resonate and deliver content that truly reaches them.
2024 is set to be a pivotal year in this journey. The landscape of customer engagement is transforming, with technology enabling us to support and enhance the customer's journey in ways we never thought possible. The ability to anticipate needs and preferences is becoming a reality, and as someone who has worked in this space for nearly 20 years, it's thrilling to be a part of this evolution.
Another trend that's been gaining momentum and one I'm particularly excited about is the integration of marketing channels. Gone are the days when SMS, email, and paid search operated in silos within a marketing organization. We're now seeing a beautiful synergy where email content complements SMS, which in turn enhances the onsite experience. rAt Cordial, our clients expect—and deserve—a seamless experience, where data-driven components like loyalty points and product browsing history are consistent across all channels. The integration of these channels is not just a convenience; it's a necessity in creating a cohesive and effective marketing strategy - leveraging a marketing platform that supports this is imperative.
Looking ahead to 2024, it's thrilling to anticipate the continued growth and integration of these trends. As marketers, we're not just following the path; we're actively shaping it, using technology to create more meaningful, personalized, and effective experiences for our customers. The future is bright, and I can't wait to see where these advancements take us.
To kick off the new year in email marketing with a deliverability focus, I recommend starting with a comprehensive approach. First, undertake a thorough list cleaning to ensure your email list is current and free of inactive or unengaged subscribers. Utilizing tools like Bouncer is essential for validating email addresses, maintaining a high sender reputation, and avoiding known spam traps.
Next, conduct a detailed deliverability audit. This process involves verifying that all your email sending tools are authenticated with standards like SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. It's also crucial to regularly check your status on platforms like Google Postmaster and SNDS. Additionally, performing inbox placement tests can confirm that your emails are effectively reaching their intended destinations.
Finally, an analysis of the previous year's engagement patterns is invaluable. By identifying which content most resonated with your audience, you can tailor your strategy to maintain a healthy engagement rate. This is not just about reflecting on past successes but also about adapting to evolving subscriber preferences. Such a strategy is vital for ensuring ongoing email deliverability and setting a strong foundation for your email marketing efforts in the new year.
As we approach 2024, the landscape of email marketing is undergoing significant transformations, demanding adaptability and a keen understanding of both legal and practical aspects of email communication.
One major shift is the tightening of data privacy regulations, which will profoundly impact email marketing strategies. This change goes beyond mere legal compliance; it's about fostering trust and building lasting relationships with subscribers. The reason? Spam filters and inboxes are setting the rules. Practices that may be legal in the country where senders operate can still be rejected by inboxes if they don't comply with best practices and each inbox's specific rules. The digital landscape is evolving to prioritize data privacy as a cornerstone of consumer trust, likely leading to more rigorous consent mechanisms and a need for transparency in how subscriber data is used. Marketers will need to refine their segmentation and targeting strategies to be both effective and ethically sound.
Simultaneously, we're witnessing a significant evolution in spam filters, with a heightened focus on user engagement. Email service providers are intensifying their scrutiny of recipient interactions with emails. Metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and the duration an email is viewed are becoming critical in determining an email's deliverability. This shift makes creating engaging, relevant, and valuable content more crucial than ever.
The implications for email marketers are clear: it's not just about legality; it's about what's acceptable to inbox providers. Sending emails without proper consent or failing to comply with inbox rules can lead to significant deliverability issues. Therefore, the focus must be on aligning email marketing practices with the evolving standards of inbox providers, including obtaining clear consent for email communications, closely monitoring engagement metrics, and continuously adapting to the changing rules of various inboxes.
As we navigate these changes, the mantra for 2024 and beyond is clear: adapt, engage, and respect. By embracing these principles, marketers can turn these challenges into opportunities for deeper connections with their audience and stronger campaign results. This dual focus on compliance and engagement will not only enhance deliverability but also elevate the overall effectiveness of email marketing campaigns.
For the majority of my career, I've worked in industries where the beginning of every year was really "Busy Season Part 2." So, in terms of a true beginning of the year start point, I haven't really been able to "come up for air" until February/March.
That said, when given the opportunity, the beginning of the year is a great time to take stock of the previous year and look at Year-over-Year performance, expected changes for the coming year, and at least loosely map out the initiatives I want to tackle in the coming year.
I have a couple here:
The Gmail/Yahoo deliverability guidelines changes coming in February will have a big impact on the B2B lead generation world, particularly here in the US. It will also make it even harder of even the reputable senders in the tougher industries to send email for.
It remains to be seen just how strict Gmail and Yahoo will be on their self-declared thresholds. Regardless, email service providers will find their own deliverability teams impacted as they may need to provide guidance and help around setting up the one-click unsubscribe and ensuring the proper authentication requirements are in place.
Between apps and mobile, email marketers must become adept at SMS and push marketing as well. As stewards of the data, it makes sense for us email marketers to own all "owned" marketing channels. With the coming potential addition of RCS to Apple devices in 2024, building knowledge and experience around all three channels will make email marketers even more indispensable in the coming years.
January is my time to revisit the basics of my email strategy. Does my welcome series need updating? Do I want to add any new A/B tests to the mix? How well are my growth levers working? I like to do a self-audit and identify areas of improvement.
With Gmail and Yahoo requiring a handful of deliverability updates in 2024, including that brands set up DMARC, I expect to see more brands taking the next step of implementing BIMI. Thanks to Apple's Mail Privacy Protection updates, it's tougher to know if BIMI is actually leading to a significant lift in open rates — but it's still something that can help emails stand out in the inbox and give readers comfort that your emails are trustworthy. With DMARC in place, I believe more brands will take the next step to implement BIMI, too.
Every new year I like to do an audit of our programs-especially behavioral and transactional. How are things performing? Are our templates more than 2 years old? Do we need to refresh photography? Doing this during a time that is less busy will make for more brain power and you get a fresh set of eyes on everything.
I hope that marketers start moving away from big data and start focusing on small data. Consumers are very aware that we collect data on them, but are we using it for good? Small data is more precise, concise, and provides the ability to do more in real time. Big data can be broad, expansive, and not always strategic. Consumers will provide information that will make their communications more relevant, all we have to do is ask.
I like to review the accomplishments from the past year, think about how we could have done better or build upon those, and draft plans for the new year. I like to plan many months in advance—and shift things around and replace things if necessary. But it’s great to have a rough plan for the year, especially around big projects and goals.
Every beginning of the year is a good time for analysis and reflection.It's essential to plan and set email marketing goals for the coming year. It's a good idea to analyze campaigns from the previous year, draw conclusions and build ideas for optimizations, such as taking care of your deliverability, optimizing messages for both humans and robots, increasing audience engagement, or at least visually improving emails, which will improve the perception of our brand. It is also important to position the email channel in the overall growth machine and reflect on what business goals it will fulfill. We can only set specific goals and tasks and plan the campaign over time with such a complete picture.
Predicting the future can be tricky. Besides, for the last few years in email marketing, we have been dealing with similar trends, which continue to grow but are not a total game-changer. Indeed, a significant change for Email Marketers, especially in the B2C segment and all those where the databases and sending volume are huge, will be the fact that Google has introduced a new policy regarding removing inactive accounts. This will result in a large increase in "zombie accounts," which can significantly affect email deliverability. Therefore, I believe that the main trend will be to take care of the deliverability and hygiene of email lists to prevent reputational disasters or decrease a sender score. This will reflect positively on the engagement of the recipients, so the industry-wide statistics of engagement in the email marketing channel may improve.
Additionally, I feel that there is a lot of talk and action in the industry and #EmailGeek community on Accessibility. There might be a stronger focus on creating accessible emails for all users, ensuring content is easily consumable for people with disabilities. This could involve improvements in design, readability, and compatibility with assistive technologies. Last but not least. AI-driven Marketing Automation will become even more sophisticated, leveraging AI to predict consumer behavior and send highly targeted messages. We should expect more automated workflows based on predictive analytics and behavioral triggers.
Trying to relax and rejuvenate This helps me to be able to set my goals for the year and make personal and business plans.
We’ve had so many changes in the past few years in email marketing, including, but not limited to:
In today's digital marketing landscape, the spotlight is shifting to email as we bid farewell to cookies. Brands are doubling down on both zero-party and first-party data, shaping modern strategies by building robust databases.
As the realm of online marketing undergoes significant transformations, the enduring stability of email addresses positions email marketing as a robust and resilient channel. This stability not only makes email marketing reliable but also establishes it as an ideal foundation for shaping the future of digital IDs.
As the focus increases on email, this will bring more challenges to the email marketer as brands start to rely more on email than ever before, such as deliverability issues and crowding in the inbox.
Of course, on a positive note, it also potentially means that as more offers arrive in the inbox, the consumers will continue to look to it as their main source of inspiration and deals.
Ah, the smell of fresh email strategies in the morning!
The start of a new year brings the chance to take a step back and assess the state of your email program. It’s a chance to hit the ‘reset’ button on whatever was going not-so-well and start anew…or double down on the success you were seeing in 2023.
A few items on my checklist:
After many years of waiting in the wings, email security and privacy are primed to take center stage in 2024, driven not only by Gmail and Yahoo's new sender requirements but also by the ever-rising threat of cybercriminals. AI tools have made spam and phishing attacks easier to launch, forcing mailbox providers to enforce stricter rules to protect their users from harm.
In the year ahead, marketers will need to spend time thinking about authentication protocols—which are more technical in nature than most other aspects of email marketing—sending some in search of experts to manage the process for them, while others will finally face up to the fact that SPF is not just a thing you use on a fun day in the sun. (Insert ice cream headache here)
As a result, I expect deliverability experts to be in very high demand for at least the first half of the year to support the influx of technical questions on how to set up DNS records, how to ensure their headers are fully aligned, and so on.
At the same time, email volumes continue to grow while people’s bank accounts continue to decline. Senders will be looking to eke every last dime out of (even semi-) profitable mail streams that were previously set on ‘auto pilot’—welcome emails, drip campaigns, re-engagement efforts, you name it—driving them to also seek out better reporting tools to monitor and improve performance.
Ultimately, the path to success lies in sending emails that recipients genuinely appreciate. It's about nurturing a permission-based mailing list, setting clear expectations from day one, and paying close attention to engagement data to learn and adapt your audience's likes and dislikes. If for no other reason, do it because the biggest mailbox providers in the world require it!
As the new year unfolds, my approach to email marketing is a fusion of art and science, blending insights from behavioral neuroscience with the latest marketing trends.
I've chosen three techniques to captivate consumers and secure their loyalty in 2024:
By incorporating these neuroscience-inspired practices, my email marketing endeavors are poised to soar to new heights of engagement and connection in the coming year.
Email marketers will decrease their reliance on Development and Data teams. One step toward achieving this goal involves a gradual integration of ESP and CDP tools. I anticipate that email platform providers to develop tools tailored to marketers' needs and skills. For example, the seamless integrations between ESPs and data clouds will facilitate easier data analysis and provide the ability to track new events effortlessly.
I believe that in 2024, localization will become a crucial element of email marketing, especially given the widespread global expansion of numerous brands in recent years. Simple translation won’t be enough anymore. As email marketers, our focus will now shift towards managing multi-brand companies and influencing global strategies by localizing email content and design.
Forget Resolutions: Reflect, Learn, and Grow.
While many people jump into the new year with resolutions and goals, I believe in taking a different approach. Instead of focusing on the future, I find reflecting on the past year more valuable. What was awesome, and what sucked? Where did I shine, and where did I stumble personally and professionally?
The "awesome stuff" from the previous year becomes a foundation for growth. It's a reminder to keep learning, iterating, and exploring those areas of fun and success. We're all lifelong students, after all.
As for the "stuff that sucked," I don't dwell on it. Instead, I use it as a springboard for change. I vow to avoid repeating past mistakes or find ways to influence or alter the situations that didn't work out. This becomes especially important when it comes to colleagues and senior management.
The new year is just that - a new year. There is no pressure to set monumental goals or treat it as some magical turning point. It is a rolling 12 months in a continuous journey of self-reflection, learning, and growth.
Embrace List Shrinkage: It's Not About Size, It's About Strength
For as long as I have been in email marketing (nearly 24 years), a criterion that some companies use as a measure for a successful email program is how big the list of subscribers they have is. Some believe that if you have a bigger list, you will increase revenue, but in a bubble-bursting moment, that is simply not true anymore.
ISPs are tightening their grip on what gets into the inbox and punishing those that send to old/dirty lists. What worked in the past no longer applies. In 2023, many companies learned this the hard way, and more will follow in 2024 if the practice of being reckless in maintaining your subscriber base continues.
It’s time for a wake-up call. Marketing departments must stand up to the outdated notion that bigger is better. Organizations must embrace list shrinkage and prioritize quality over quantity.
Trimming your list isn’t a sign of weakness; it's a sign of strength to those who manage the program. It also demonstrates your commitment to delivering valuable emails to engaged subscribers and not pinning your hopes on “the someday” principle.
The choice is yours: accept list shrinkage and thrive, or continue with outdated practices and risk getting what you deserve.
I like to start every new year with a nice, big spreadsheet to compare year over year performance, and hopefully growth. Making my New Year’s resolution one that is data driven helps me set my priorities for the year which then translate into how I prioritize my time on a daily basis.
Some key numbers to look at for each year will be:
If we look at whether these volumes increased or decreased and to what degree we can begin to see correlations. Did sending more email get you more opens and clicks leading to more total revenue? Did your list grow or did it shrink and what might explain that, sending too aggressively, sending the wrong content, or something entirely external to email or even the business.
Increasingly it’s also common for email marketers to also be responsible for operational and transactional messages that the company needs to communicate to its customers and stakeholders. This is an area where email can really save the company a lot of money versus generating revenue. One way to evaluate this is calculating the volume of automated support messages sent versus the volume of support inquiries requiring an agent, which should then be related back to total expenses and the positive or negative effect on revenue.
Starting a new year is truly an opportunity to come back with refreshed energy, and take stock of the opportunities as well as the issues present within your email program and develop a plan to prioritize and attack them.
I think the Yahoogle changes are gonna be the big story of 2024 in email.
I’m hoping that more ESPs include DMARC validation checks in their authentication set up since it is going to be required now for the vast majority of senders.
Google and Yahoo have acknowledged that securing the email ecosystem is crucial to email maintaining its relevance as a communications channel.
As the calendar turns to a new year, my approach to email marketing involves a strategic blend of reflection, innovation, and a heightened focus on upcoming security updates.
To kickstart the year, I conduct a thorough analysis of the previous year's email campaigns, delving into performance metrics, customer engagement, and feedback to glean insights for refinement.
Simultaneously, I infuse a sense of freshness into my email marketing initiatives – revamping templates, exploring new content formats, and tailoring messages to evolving audience preferences.
Looking ahead to 2024, one of the significant shifts in email marketing is anticipated to be the rise of interactive content. As consumers seek immersive experiences, emails will evolve beyond static messages, featuring dynamic elements like quizzes and shoppable features directly embedded within emails. This not only enhances user experience but also provides valuable data on customer preferences.
In addition to these developments, it's noteworthy that email security updates slated for 2024 will play a pivotal role in controlling spam and fostering genuine, authentic messaging. These updates aim to bolster privacy and data protection, aligning with growing concerns in the online landscape. Marketers, in response, will need to prioritize transparent communication about data usage, offer robust opt-in choices, and ensure compliance with evolving regulations.
This privacy-centric approach will not only enhance security but also contribute to a trusted and authentic connection between brands and their subscribers. In this evolving landscape, every email sent becomes a part of a meaningful conversation, fortified by a commitment to security and authenticity.
The new year is always a time to refresh, whether that’s reviewing strategies for best (or under) performers or reviewing processes that aren’t working for us anymore. Are we doing repetitive tasks? Are we missing deadlines or handoffs? Are we spending too much time on admin that isn’t SAVING us time (or errors) in the end?
I always look back at 3 main reports:
This means I can start my year, knowing where and how to spend my time and my team’s time… and how to get paid correctly for our effort & expertise!
We have to start operating under the consumer’s expectation of permission-based email marketing (even sales automation). Unpopular with my B2B clients, I know, but it’s a foregone conclusion. By the end of 2024, 10 states will have privacy and data laws in effect (California, Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, Iowa, Montana), and another 2 have already signed legislation that will take effect by the end of 2025.
Sure, there are exceptions in some for small businesses and some only apply to data brokers, but It’s time we realize we’re going to have to operate under this particular best practice of asking subscribers to opt in/choose their data preferences.
With a clean desk. Business activity invariably slows down a bit in late December. Grabbing a bit of that time to clear the info-shrapnel off my physical desk makes getting back in the New Year saddle easier. I'd like to say that my digital "desk" and inbox get the same attention but alas...
I'll go out on a limb and NOT say "AI". In addition to AI, I expect "the channel formerly known as SMS" to become a foreground topic for email marketers as Apple adopts RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging. RCS is a rich interactive messaging standard, backed by a significant number of mobile carriers, plus Google. Depending on when and how Apple moves, messaging may explode.
The Apple vs Android mobile platform battle of the last decade left old, creaky SMS in the top spot for interpersonal communication in the US and Canada by accident. Apple innovated Messages rapidly for their user base. The mobile carriers and Google stumbled for a decade, with Google running multiple products (Chat, Allo, Hangouts, Messenger and more). It looks like that's about to change in a big way.
Messaging and email are different animals, to be sure, but email departments, agencies and vendors are the best for handling the new RCS beast. Like email, messaging is a direct, personal communication channel. Running "message marketing" in separate organizations and systems would be nonsensical.
Email marketers — start thinking, planning, experimenting and budgeting for change. This messaging thing is going to land on your nice clean desk.
For brands, the new year it is a natural time to reflect, refresh and update your plan so: New year, new plan. :D (I couldn’t resist, but that is a maybe too deep cut reference to a once famous Amazon new year’s email campaign).
Now, in theory, you’d want to do continuous evaluation or a QBR (Quarterly Business Review). In practice, it is good to set some time set aside for planning and reviewing your overall strategy.
So that is to zoom out and put thoughts to paper at least a few of these:
And part of that is SWOT, some market research, content planning, and review the competition for business success. If that sounds like a lot of work, the benefit is you can cut down in activities by focusing on the 80/20. (and the next part as well).
The biggest change are the massive waves that Generative AI is making. Because of AI, SEO is changing, social is changing, inbound marketing is changing, and email marketing is changing. All because Generative AI is making its way and it is pushing quantity of content produced and office work. And the bar for quality content is getting higher as well.
3 years ago I started mentioning that AI will become part of your email software. It’s happening. What I’d like to see, is what I coined Generative Personalisation with AI. AI is entering the realm. We made an overview of all the AI writing tools here. It makes sense to have those integrated (part of #3 in the image) – and it will happen at some point –that may be 2024.
For marketers now, the best exercise is to list your own tasks and repetitive ones especially, and one by one see which you can (partially) automate or get done with AI. And which ones you won’t.
So for instance I am not using AI to write my own thought pieces and content. Because I think it will be easier and more beneficial to keep a straight line and I see making these as craft and learning while doing. That is totally fine, but you need to make it intentional – and not head in the sand strategy. Every hour you spend learning AI is well spent.
Spend some time making a list of what you’d like to do in your email program as well – adding on the AI based outcomes - even if not possible (well enough) yet. Because the abilities are literally one day and new release away of being possible.
While managing ESP delivery is consistent year-over-year, I do refresh my workflow. I give my inbox a deep clean, deleting old alerts (pre-Q4 2022), closed tickets, and outdated DMARC reports. I also revisit my vetting and testing accounts, unsubscribing from irrelevant subscriptions and failed prospects. This annual purge streamlines my communication and clears my mental space for a fresh start.
The first half of 2024 promises major policy shifts in email marketing, particularly with Google and Yahoo. DMARC, One-Click Unsubscribe support, and stricter complaint handling will be mandatory by early 2024. Expect ESP delivery teams to be in high demand as brands adapt their email programs. Additionally, interactive email formats like AMP and Schema are likely to see further adoption.