Every January, we ask ourselves the same question: “Is this the year email will die?”
Fortunately, the answer is always a resounding “Not any time soon!” But this resilience is also what makes email so challenging. The ongoing quest for greater relevance, stronger engagement, and larger ROI means the channel innovates at a ferocious pace. It’s hard to keep up with what’s happening today, never mind tomorrow.
In our January edition of State of Email Live, we asked Validity’s global email experts to gaze into their crystal balls and predict the future of email.
Based on their insights, we identified these top 10 predictions for email in 2022.
1. We’ll see increased adoption of digital experience platforms.
Over the past few years, we’ve watched the rising popularity of omnichannel marketing strategies and increased use of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). The two have converged steadily as marketers seek the data capabilities of a CDP (leveraging powerful artificial intelligence) to drive real-time, hyper-personalized cross-channel communication.
This year, we’ll see increased adoption of DXPs as marketers seek to acquire these capabilities.
2. B2B marketers will go further with personalization.
B2B email marketers are starting to take a page from the B2C playbook and develop more sophisticated personalization strategies. This means less relying on “lookalike” audiences, and more harnessing first-party and zero-party data.
In 2022, we’ll see more true personalization, more creative design and content, and greater focus on list hygiene and deliverability from B2B senders.
3. We’ll see more plain text emails.
Richer, more interactive content will be a key email trend in 2022. But counterintuitively, we’ll also see increased use of plain text, especially as B2B brands strive to build more authentic relationships with their subscribers.
Using plain text and generous white space eliminates distractions and lets subscribers focus on the sender’s message. Unreliable open rates (caused by MPP) also mean some senders will prefer subscribers to click straight through to their websites.
4. Senders will prioritize accessibility.
Increased use of plain text aligns with new laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Reading email or browsing the web can be difficult for people with certain disabilities. To make their messages more accessible in 2022, email senders will use larger fonts, more white space, and live text that voice assistants can read.
Color contrast is also important. Dark mode is already a key part of email production and is quickly becoming a must-have for senders. And many mobile phones also offer well-being features that automatically invert colors.
These features make email more accessible for a wider audience, but pose new challenges for senders, especially as they work to keep logo display and branding consistent.
5. Global privacy will remain a hot topic.
Global privacy will remain a hot topic as the EU revises ePrivacy, the UK reviews GDPR post-Brexit, and China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) takes effect. The United States has several new privacy bills in progress and is augmenting existing legislation (e.g., the California Consumer Privacy Act leading to the California Privacy Rights Act.)
This year could be particularly interesting for Canadian email marketers, considering the proposed Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA) on the way.
6. We’ll see more email bombing.
A new tactic we will (unfortunately) see more in 2022 is email bombing. Email bombing occurs when fraudsters access personal data and immediately subscribe the hacked addresses to hundreds of email programs.
The sudden flood of emails creates a smokescreen, burying genuine alert emails informing customers their information has been stolen. Email bombing also has negative implications for legitimate email senders—complaint rates will surge when their programs are used in this way.
7. Social proof will gain more power.
The customer’s voice is every brand’s biggest marketing asset. Consumers are becoming more cynical than ever before. As a result, social proof is an important lever brands can use to positively influence buyer behavior.
Since consumers have nothing to gain from promoting a brand, their word is seen as credible. This year, senders will increase their use of real-time feeds in marketing emails to share product reviews and customer testimonials.
8. Brands will use email to build awareness of ethical positioning.
Consumers care about the products and services brands sell—but they also care about brand values. These values include how brands source their materials, safety conditions in their working environments, and their committment to reducing waste and pollution.
An authentic ethical stance drives loyalty. In 2022, brands will use email to build customer awareness of these initiatives.
9. Brands will look to partner with “local heroes.”
COVID-19 has engendered a stronger sense of community—which caused a shift towards more local shopping. Consumers are eager to support their neighborhood retailers by purchasing local products in stores or online. To take advantage of this opportunity, small businesses need to learn basic e-commerce skills quickly.
One way to fast track the learning process is to partner with established retailers. This year, we’ll see an acceleration of initiatives like “eBay Your City,” which helps communities create local marketplaces online.
10. There will be a greater need for humanity in email.
The COVID-19 pandemic taught us important lessons about achieving the right balance of commercialism and empathy. The current surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant makes this balance more relevant than ever.
It takes minimal effort to be kind, respectful, and loving to another human being—and people never forget who looked after them during tough times. In 2022, email senders will look for ways to showcase their brands’ human faces and adapt their strategies to sell with sensitivity.
Other Core Trends to Watch
The aftermath of MPP
While nearly all senders saw inflated open rates following the introduction of Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), senders saw limited actual impact on their email program performance. However, this will start to change as 2022 progresses.
- Degraded open rate signals mean established best practices like recency management and list hygiene will become progressively less accurate. As true Apple Mail engagement declines, deliverability to these subscribers will become more challenging.
- Validity’s email analytics data shows MPP already caused unexpected side effects. Global spam complaint rates have increased sharply since September 2021. While it’s unclear what’s driving this behavior, these trends suggest a lackluster subscriber experience for Apple Mail users.
- Apple’s “Hide My Email” functionality provides users with randomized “burner” addresses that are different for every program they sign up with. Users can disable these addresses at any time, meaning bounce rates are likely to increase as a result. This in turn will impact sender reputation metrics.
- Increased focus on zero-party data as an alternative to first-party data will put a new spotlight on preference centers. Brands will actively promote these centers and encourage subscribers to provide and update their personal data.
Going big with BIMI
Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) isn’t new. However, now that Gmail supports BIMI, this protocol will become much more interesting to brands.
During COVID-19, year-over-year global email volume increased sharply as senders relied on the channel for business-critical communications. These “new normal” volumes show no signs of decline in 2022.
As a result, senders face massive competition in subscribers’ inboxes and increasing prevalence of email fraud. This year, BIMI adoption will increase as senders seek to drive more brand recognition and reassure customers the emails they receive are legitimate.
The arrival of AMP
Increased inbox competition means brands will push for hyper-personalized emails that generate strong engagement and better deliverability. Email marketers will spend more time analyzing how their subscribers engage with email content. Use of artificial intelligence will increase as senders use contact properties, behavioral data, and predictive eye-tracking to provide hyper-personalized email experiences.
Dynamic content is a highly effective engagement driver. As such, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will play a key role in email marketing efforts in 2022. AMP is several years old, but adoption has been slow—likely because implementation is resource-intensive, and it’s unlikely Apple Mail will ever support it.
However, crowded inboxes mean interactive elements like live forms, carousels, and hamburger menus can provide real competitive advantages. By making it easier to respond to calls to action, early adopters of AMP have seen significant increases in engagement (>20 percent click rate uplift) and sales revenue.
As the old saying goes, “The only constant is change.” That will certainly remain the case in 2022. Luckily, Validity has your back.
Our monthly State of Email Live webinar series features insight from email experts, actionable tips, and fresh data to help email senders stay ahead of developing industry trends.
Check out our latest installments here.