by Anna Wybieralska Feb 12, 2021

Finally, we can say goodbye to the year 2020. However, that means we’re currently in 2021, and it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna be much different. So brace yourself for impact and prepare for another trying year in the marketing industry.

Let’s be honest - it was not an easy year. With everything going on around the world nowadays, it seems we slowed down and we grew tired and unmotivated. Sadly, not everyone can be a celebrity figure spending this time taking a break in the jacuzzi or singing uplifting songs on the streams. Most of us have to power through and get ready to fight for our businesses. One way to stay relevant is to always be on top of the latest trends. Make sure you apply them to their campaigns - in email, for example. So, what are the latest email marketing trends that will keep you afloat for 2021?

Navigating through COVID-19

The pandemic taught us some important lessons. Firstly, companies are no longer allowed to remain anonymous and detached from their customers. They need to showcase their charitable side. Show that they care about the environment, society, oppressed groups, and current global issues. The best example would be how companies cared for their employees during the pandemic. Remote work, additional supplies, or some extra benefits were something most companies broadcasted across their social media to show how they adapted. By showing support to their employees and advertising it, brands gave their customers the idea that they care more about mental well-being than revenue. 

Secondly, businesses started being vocal about all the non-profit charities they support. That resonates the most with young people who see the world a bit differently. More like a community than a standalone entity that doesn’t care about anything that does not directly impact them. This topic is so important that it can affect consumer behavior and most brands recognize that. Thus, email content changed to inform people rather than to advertise their product. If you want to score some additional points with the younger generations, it’s well-advised to mention all the charities you support and talk about them in a less salesy manner.

The most important tip for your email marketing campaigns in 2021 is that the social commitment must come from the heart. If you do it just to get some brownie points from your recipients, they will see through the curtain and call you out on it. Make this your goal. To actually help organizations that are close to your heart. Also a helpful hint - preferably have a way to show everyone exactly how you support them. Transparency will make it authentic. It will show that you walk the walk instead of just getting clout.

The last thing that relates to the pandemic and the upcoming 2021 email marketing trends is linked to remote work. Most people either completely stopped coming to the office or they work partly from home. It means that the visuals and the way we try to communicate with customers have changed. People no longer resonate with the outgoing, party atmosphere in the era of social distancing. You need to personalize the content based on their recent behavior. And what behavior is it? Staying at home, drinking tea, hiding under blankets, and chatting with people online. By adding visuals and references that remind people of the cozy feeling of home and the current reality, they will connect with your brand more. After all, we are trying to build a relatable environment where customers go back to because it’s familiar. Not because it does not correlate with their perception of the world.

Campaign automation in 2021

This is by no means a new trend - it’s been around for quite some time. However, it is still as relevant if not more. Every good email marketer tried to experiment with email automation to make it easier and faster to send relevant messages to their recipients. Every great email marketer already has some automation set up that was tested to perfection and now helps them in their day-to-day tasks.

In the past, emails weren’t that complicated. Usually setting up a specific time to send an email and leaving it be was enough. Nowadays though, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Nearly enough to make your email seen by large numbers of people. Good email campaign automation will react based on the users’ behavior. Their routines, activities, and how they actually read and react to the content. It will operate based on triggers, and you can make them as simple or as complicated as you like. The best way to start working with email automation is to start setting up purchase confirmation or activation links based on what users will click on the landing page. Once you start feeling comfortable, you can branch out. Set specific emails based on the recipient’s behavior, like if they opened a newsletter, discarded it or if they clicked on a specific link. 

One way to start working with automation is also to do some A/B testing, to make sure you deliver the content people want. Use all the tools you have to your advantage to send truly well-made and relevant emails. Trust me, your recipients will thank you.

AI and interactive content

Wait, weren’t we just talking about this? Isn’t email automation and AI the same thing? You might think that, but no. Seemingly similar terms are actually wildly different when you actually search a little bit more about the subject of this peculiar 2021 email marketing trend. We already spoke heaps about email automation and what it does, but how about machine learning?

The topic that sparks interest in most developers. While still in progress of getting polished, already has a lot of interest especially among start-ups and small companies. The newest trend is to integrate AI and machine learning into email campaigns, making them basically study the recipients and adjust the content accordingly. For example, artificial intelligence can establish the best time of sending messages, not just to large groups but to individuals. It would mean that when you send an email in real-time, the AI will optimize your delivery based on each recipient inbox behavior. Similarly, it can help you optimize your subject line, which is the star of your message. If it’s weak, the message will simply remain unopened and that means you’ll be losing a potential customer.

Another incredible potential AI has with email marketing is that it can make predictions. Based on the data it already collected, it can figure out how certain content or graphics will be received. As a result, it will make you a better marketer.

Gated content

In the world where subscription is the king email marketers thrive. After all, the email is the original subscription in the online world. However, because so many different companies offer the subscription feature, brands that relate mostly to gathering contacts via emails struggle. Here is where the gated content comes to play. Online newspapers already do it, hiding some articles or special features behind a paywall. Email marketers can use this technique to obtain additional contacts. They ask for email addresses in exchange for case studies, infographics, exclusive content, and more. Truthfully, it’s a win-win for both parties, as consumers get the data they care about and marketers have more contacts that they can later use to further promote their products or services.

Furthermore, this relates directly to the feeling of FOMO, where people don’t want to feel excluded from the premium articles and want to be kept in the loop. Promoting a new feature where users can give something so simple as an email address (wherein the online marketing world is the most valuable currency) can result in a major boost on your list and filter out people that simply are not that interested. Instead of building a large list of unresponsive recipients, you create quality customers who will engage with your emails and build up your brand reputation.

Psychology in email

The final trend that seems to be on the rise is using psychology from the relevant field to tap into the psyche of potential consumers. We already covered some of the aspects of psychology. How using the trends proven effective by therapists and psychology majors can benefit your 2021 email marketing campaigns

This simple yet powerful trend helps you get into the head of the consumer and make sure that you stay there in a positive way. Some of the tactics would be to use FOMO as a way to trigger the anxiety of being left behind, using social proof to create a sense of being a part of something bigger, intelligent framing to boost how other people view your brand. Even more simple, yet elegant ways, like using persuasive language and colors to convey a message.

In today’s world, it’s not enough to write good copy, add a visually-pleasing graphic, and call it a day. You need to tap into the primal emotions of people, their fears, and wants to make a lasting impression. Using psychology to make people subconsciously think about your company as if they are the ones in control is the end goal here. You can call it manipulation, but let’s be honest. Advertising is a very mild form of manipulation, no matter if you’re working for a certain business or if you’re trying to sell your talents and skills. The most important thing is to do it intelligently and do your research. There is nothing worse than trying out the psychology tactics and realizing that you’ve done so poorly, everyone will see through it.

Anna Wybieralska

Anna is working as a Content Manager in Elastic Email. An email marketing enthusiast with a millennial approach. She's either writing, buying plants or avoiding social interactions.

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