Trends in email and SMS, some predictions!

Communication channels such as email and SMS continue to evolve, so here are some trends that will impact the way you work in the future. 
Sophie Lamarche
19 November 2020
Omni-Channel Marketing Campaign
13 min
Tendances en courriel

Are you ready to hear it? We’re almost at the end of 2020, which brings us to the traditional year-end charts and predictions for the year ahead. It’s a different story though, as 2020 has certainly been a special year. We will enter the new year still in the midst of a global pandemic, and the impacts it will have had on companies, markets and individuals will still be very real.

From a marketing point of view, the pandemic has certainly made you think about your ways of working, even going so far as to completely reinvent these methods to better communicate with your customers. After all, online communications, for now, is pretty much all we’ve got.

With this in mind, I think an article on communication trends (email and SMS) to keep an eye on and integrate into your future practices is very much in order!

 

 

Emails

Let’s start with traditional email, because yes, there is still changes in this channel of communication.

 

1.    Better accessibility

Accessibility encompasses many aspects of your email creation, from design to content. The issue of accessibility is becoming increasingly important as the contexts in which individuals consult their emails tend to change. Whether it is through mobile consultation, smart watches, or even a voice activation tool … we must consider that in the coming years, technologies will continue to intervene differently in our daily lives.

This is why it is important to ensure that your e-mails are concise and precise. Research conducted by Litmus suggests that the average attention span in an e-mail is only 13.4 seconds. Since the average adult reader can read between 250 and 300 words per minute, the ideal length of an e-mail is about 50 words.

As a rule of thumb, the previous paragraph has 56 words … if your e-mail contains more than that, the chances of it being read beyond the first part are slim. It is therefore important to minimize the length of the sentences, and especially to remove unnecessary content.

Another aspect of accessibility is directly related to the fact that reading emails on cell phones has surpassed (by far) those done on the desktop, as shown in the image below.

However, it should be mentioned that the majority of purchases are still made on the desktop (56%), so emails that encourage purchases may have more effect when read on the desktop. On the other hand, the percentage of mobile revenues increased by 23% in 2019 compared to the previous year. If this continues, the percentage of mobile sales will continue to increase, which should have a positive impact on online sales and promotional communications read on mobile. In addition, this continues to accelerate mobile optimization across almost all digital marketing channels.

With this information in mind, ask yourself the right questions about whether you are optimizing your communications for this channel (but refer to your own statistics to get a clearer picture, since this may differ in a B2B context, as is the case with Dialog Insight. Our e-mails are consulted by customers mainly on the desktop).

In fact, you want your email to do just enough to encourage clicks, but you also need to ask yourself what information is essential for your message to be viewed properly on a cell phone. After all, most emails essentially lead to external sources, such as landing pages, blogs or product pages. Do you really need to include all the information at this stage or could you keep a lot of it once you get there?

 

 

2.    Business intelligence in emails

Artificial intelligence is a term that seems to scare many marketers, especially if you have spent most of your career in traditional forms of marketing and advertising.

In fact, we can simplify the impact of artificial intelligence on a few key elements of marketing, since it is mostly about automating processes. Simply explained, automation is about delivering the most relevant content at the most appropriate time to a specific individual or group, whether they are existing or potential customers. The intelligent part comes mostly in the way systems draw conclusions about past behaviors to shape future actions.

Among other things, in the coming years, we will increasingly see AI replace the traditional (somewhat painful) segmentation processes currently in use, but also transform our ability to deliver relevance when it matters, especially as marketers.

Artificial intelligence should therefore be seen as the solution to many of the processes that are currently manual, which prevent many companies from reacting more quickly, and especially from personalizing communication efforts.

 

Automated intelligent segments

As mentioned, the segmentation of customer databases will be increasingly automated, and managed mechanically without human intervention. In this way, there will be a good mix of campaigns that are aimed at a few people versus personalized to the profile of one. Campaigns for a few people will be chosen based on decision tools such as algorithms and other defined business rules, while campaigns for one individual will be triggered according to specific actions. Here, AI will be able to influence the choice of channel, the allocation of content, and its timing. This will facilitate personalization efforts, improving ROI since teams will not waste time.

In terms of content, in parallel with intelligent segmentation, we will see more and more automated attribution models to choose which segments will receive groups of offers, or personalized offers specific to them. Dialog Insight will soon launch a tool to help us do this.

In the meantime, on the other hand, the rise of dynamic content is particularly noticeable.  

 

Dynamic content

Dynamic content may be an approach you are not familiar with, but one you could certainly use. Depending on your existing processes, you accumulate several key pieces of information about your contacts, allowing you to segment them by interest, location or demographic group. But this data becomes especially relevant if you have dedicated areas in your emails to modulate content based on customer data.

For example, a promotional zone for a product could contain rules that ensure that depending on a contact’s interests, he will not receive the same proposals as another contact. This mechanism is called dynamic content. And to follow up on my point on AI, the more we advance in business intelligence, the more these attributions will be done by a machine and not by humans!

 

 

3.    The shell before the content

Dynamic content may be an approach you are not familiar with, but one you could certainly use. Depending on your existing processes, you accumulate several key pieces of information about your contacts, allowing you to segment them by interest, location or demographic group. But this data becomes especially relevant if you have dedicated areas in your emails to modulate content based on customer data.

For example, a promotional zone for a product could contain rules that ensure that depending on a contact’s interests, he will not receive the same proposals as another contact. This mechanism is called dynamic content. And to follow up on my point on AI, the more we advance in business intelligence, the more these attributions will be done by a machine and not by humans!

 

 

4.    User-generated Content

Our latest email trend has a lot to do with the omnichannel approach that takes a very important part of the strategic thinking of companies. Indeed, it is more and more important to connect the different channels on which individuals connect with a brand, but more importantly, to invite them to engage on these same channels. This is why we talk more about user-generated content as a good way to improve engagement, especially when combined with a social media strategy. It’s also a way to generate content without it being a job done by marketing teams, and this external content has much more value than anything that could be done in a promotional way by a company.

This means more than just adding icons and social links in the headers or footers of your emails. An integrated campaign can use tactics such as inserting user-generated content directly into emails, to encourage social content, word-of-mouth, or even purchases given the influence of online recommendations.

The Warby Parker email below demonstrates this trend with great success. The brand created a hashtag (#seesummerbetter) and then encourages its Instagram community to use it to post photos related to Warby Parker. The photos posted are also visible in the email. Two CTAs appear at the end of the message, one leading to a gallery powered by the use of the hashtag and the other to Warby Parker’s online store.

 

SMS

A second popular channel for the future is definitely SMS. If you send SMS messages to 100 customers, 98 of them will open them, on average. This means that you will send this message or information to most of your customers. This makes sense, because the message is sent directly to the customers’ phones, who will see it quickly (there is no SPAMS management for this channel yet, which is an advantage for companies).

In addition, 6 out of 10 customers have a positive impression of the brands that contact them through offers sent to their cell phones. This is more convenient than sending an email and hoping your customers will see it in time. They see the offer immediately and can take action within minutes of receiving it.

To further convince you, on average, businesses get an interaction rate of about 40% with contacts who receive text messages. I’m pretty sure that’s higher than your average email engagement rate.

 

The use of the channel in itself

Even before I talk about the new developments that are emerging in terms of SMS, I can’t help but mention that the main trend surrounding this channel will be seen in the increase in its use, especially in Quebec and Canada. We see more companies using SMS in Europe and the United States. So before you even embark on overly complex SMS campaigns, start by implementing it and using it for simple mailings that seem obvious, such as sending invitations to events, tracking a package, etc.

Once you have it in place, you will be able to improve the content according to the interests of your contacts, and here too you will be able to do more and more personalization.  

 

Use of a short code number

Speaking of implementation, we see a significant change on the horizon. A few years ago, any company could send this kind of message with a number like any other, as if it were one person communicating with another. This number is called “long number”, and it looks like the one in your area.

On the other hand, given the craze for this channel, this method is less and less prioritized by SMS providers, since it is not governed by an institution and does not follow any ethical rules regarding its use. This is why we see more and more companies setting up short numbers.

This method is the official way recognized by all providers for SMS mass mailings. This is possible because the number is registered differently, and is directly associated with the organization.

In Canada, for example, this association occurs when the number is registered with the official organization Text.ca, which is the umbrella organization for all service providers.

 

Why the short code number have a guaranteeof delivery

Because it is unique to a customer and has a unique identification of the sender with the authorities. Thus, in case of complaints, they recognize the organization behind the program and can intervene and even sanction in case of non-compliance. There is therefore a withelisting of these shipments.

In return for this guarantee of delivery, there is a commitment on the part of the organization to respect certain rules, such as dealing with the keywords Stop, Arrêt, Help, to collect consent and to conduct an ethical commercial program.

In the end, it’s like pretty much everything else in communications, the more companies use it, the more regulations are put in place. This shift in the use of SMS as just about to happen.

 

 

Integration to the purchase process

As mentioned, 6 out of 10 customers have a positive impression of the brands that contact them through offers sent to their cell phone. That’s why we see more and more consumers accepting to receive notifications to get information about their orders. SMS enables companies to provide near-instantaneous value through transaction updates such as order confirmations and shipping/delivery notifications.

What’s interesting is that this type of sending leaves room for encouraging cross-selling or giving discounts on future orders when customers are already committed.

 

 

Automation, even for SMS

There is a lot of talk about automation for email, but the same goes for SMS. SMS messages with triggers also offer an advantage to marketers. It’s possible to trigger mailings to celebrate milestones, inform potential customers of an abandoned shopping cart or even request feedback when necessary.

SMS also brings a more personal touch to automation, so your audience is more likely to interact with the message.

 

 

Rich SMS

Another trend that is not new, but which is worth knowing, is Rich SMS. A simple SMS is just text in a bubble, and we are very limited by the number of characters allocated.

That’s where Rich SMS can come in, since they enrich your mailings with a link to a 100% customizable destination page, which contains dynamic content that your customers can interact with. We’re talking about a revolving card, a countdown timer, a scratch card, content that appears when you “shake” your cell phone, or a barcode as shown in the image below.  

This information-rich content can give more value to your SMS messages, while leading to personalized offers, account codes (like the bar code above) and much more!

 

Conclusion

Here they are! In the end, for emails, the trend is mostly towards simplifying content, since the attention span of individuals on this channel continues to decrease. It is therefore necessary to go straight to the point and be as relevant as possible. This is why email is the channel that sees the most improvement in terms of personalization.

For SMS, the evolution of the next few years will be mainly in its usage rate, and not so much in content personalization. It will be more of an integration into the company’s global strategy, so as to aim for a channel that makes people react, but which should not be abused.

There are certainly others out there … which ones have you identified?

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