It’s easy to get swept up in industry buzzwords and high-profile announcements. But beyond the hype, there are some fascinating disruptions right now that get us excited.
In our 2017 predictions, we discussed identity matching — how unifying data will help marketers provide an improved cross-channel experience for their customers. Before that, we anticipated that personalization and context would make messages stand out in a crowded inbox.
Thanks to improved technology, our past predictions are converging. A marketer can now leverage identity matching and personalization for a more powerful cross-channel experience and better engagement.
In 2018, we predict that email marketers will use these advancements to go beyond understanding their customer. Today, consumers expect to be met with a relevant message in the correct channel — and now, marketers will be able to execute this with ease.
Our email marketing predictions center around three things: predictive analytics, more powerful marketing platforms and nonstop marketing automation. The result? A hyper-personalized, multi-channel experience.
Here are our email marketing predictions for 2018.
2017 seemed like the year that every marketing platform or email service provider acquired or built an AI engine. But as exhausted as you might be from hearing how AI is the new black (or omni-channel, or any other fad), it’s for good reason.
In the past, data was in demand. But now, marketers have seen a tremendous surge in the amount of data they can collect. This is thanks to better data availability, more complete API access and improved data tracking.
AI helps marketers with the “science” of marketing — that is, the number gathering, crunching and segmenting — revealing new insights.
These machines can “identify smaller groups of like-minded people or ‘micro-segments,’ combining elements of a person’s profile and their behavior — so marketers can deliver a message that resonates the most,” wrote Michelle Huff, CMO of marketing automation provider Act-On Software, in VentureBeat.
That’s huge. But what’s next is even bigger: predictive analytics. Now, we can also turn those insights into predictions and recommendations that fuel the automation platforms marketers use every day.
Artificial intelligence and new technology will continue to make automation easier — and much more effective. It’s for good reason too: according to the DMA, lack of strategy and limited internal resources were the two most significant challenges in deploying an automation strategy. No wonder big SaaS platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot and Emarsys introduced AI products this year.
2018 will be the year when marketing automation platforms continue to evolve and make it easier for marketers to build and launch cross-channel campaigns. In fact, Forrester predicts intelligent platforms will directly influence 10% of purchases in 2018.
In the past, the “irony” of marketing automation platforms is that they still largely required human intelligence to power the automation, said Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO of PR 20/20 and creator of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute, during a recent HubSpot Academy livestream.
“Intelligent algorithms have an infinite ability to get better,” Roetzer said. “All it really requires is better data, more data, cleaner data and increases in computational power.”
Now, those improvements are here.
“In marketing, if you look at anything that’s really time-intensive — and especially if it’s data-driven — a machine over time will do that better than a human, as soon as someone sees the reward in solving that to be great enough to put resources to do it,” he said.
In other words: Now, automation platforms benefit by having the ability to truly automate these processes, thanks to artificial intelligence.
Rather than creating triggered campaigns that rely on a few data points and a marketer’s intuition, improved automation platforms (fueled by machine learning) will take the guesswork out of the when, what and where of their messages.
Data means knowledge. An abundance of first-party and third-party data allows marketers to understand their customers better than ever before.
Identity matching means marketers can find their customers and link their customers’ across channels.
Email metrics, along with the ability to identify anonymous browsers through hashed emails, mean marketers understand where their customers are and what they’re doing.
Artificial intelligence and new technology is helping marketers make sense of it all, and use it with ease.
What’s next? Automated, hyper-personalized marketing, delivered easily and at scale. This means campaigns will begin to dissolve in favor of ongoing, perpetual marketing.
You won't stop to build campaigns — you will be able to kick off the next message based on better predictive tools and technology. You don't need to "launch" a re-engagement campaign or back-to-school campaign — it will build itself.
What does this look like in practice?
Say you’re a customer in the market for snow boots. You make a purchase at your favorite outdoors store. The boots fit like a glove — but after a few days of enduring the cold, you realize your hands could use a glove, too.
In the past, analytics engines might have fed you more offers for boots; that is, after all, what you purchased. But that’s not smart or predictive.
Fast forward to you as a 2018 customer.
Lo and behold, that same outdoors store just emailed you a coupon for gloves, along with a link to their guide on how to choose the perfect pair of gloves. Or maybe, its social media chatbot sent you a message and answered your questions. Either way, you buy, your fingers are warm, and you’re a bigger brand fan than ever.
Thanks to AI, the brand’s savvy marketers knew that customers like you — let say, those living in the frigid Midwest who bought boots and are budget buyers between the ages of 25-35 years old — are also likely to purchase new gloves. They paired their own first-party data with third-party demographics to fuel their AI engine, and converted. Those are powerful predictions.
If our predictions come true, 2018 will be a revolutionary year. It will mean a big shift into more empathetic and personalized messages for consumers, as marketers inch closer to the elusive promise of one-to-one communication at scale.
But these changes won’t happen on their own — companies must act. To meet rising consumer expectations, it is critical that companies make smart investments in data and technology. According to Forrester, more than 60% of executives believe they are behind in their digital transformation. It’s time to catch up, or fail.