7 Key Email Marketing Trends (2021-2024)

by Josh Howarth - September 8, 2021

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Here are 7 of the fastest-growing email marketing trends happening right now.

And the technology, companies and forces behind them.

Whether email marketing is a proven channel for your business, or if you're just getting started with it, these are the top trends to follow.

1. Newsletters add new features

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Searches for “The Athletic" exploded before COVID closures shut down professional sports - and picked up again after the restart.

Newsletters are making a huge comeback.

But unlike email newsletters from the 90s, today's newsletters have modern-day features (like personalized email content).

For example, The Athletic's newsletter measures user behavior and location data.

And uses that data to send their subscribers customized content.

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The Athletic is one of many newsletters that adapts its content to reader behavior.

That same tech is now largely available to small businesses too.

Most (if not all) email service providers now allow for some level of customization and segmenting.

Which makes it easy to send subscribers targeted content that they want.

There's also software like Mailbrew that offers subscribers an email digest of content from Twitter, Reddit, blogs and more.

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Searches for "Mailbrew" since 2016.

For a tool like Mailbrew, the newsletter that it generates is the product. Along with a few interesting features (like dark mode) that aren't typically available in most traditional newsletters.

But email marketers are using targeted newsletters as a way to keep in touch with customers.

Plus, people want to get emails from brands. 

Around 72% of subscribers listed either staying up to date with a company or learning about a topic of interest as their reason for subscribing to a particular newsletter.

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Results from a Disqus survey asking why people subscribe to newsletters.

And modern-day customers favor email newsletters over other ways of staying connected (like Facebook).

When given the option between receiving company updates over social media or email newsletters, 90% of customers chose newsletters.

2. Integrations expand email marketing capabilities

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Searches for video email service “Bonjoro” have growth significantly over the last 5 years.

The average open of a marketing email is 17.8%.

And businesses are relying on a growing network of email marketing integrations in an effort to improve efficiency. And improve customer experience.

For example, email marketing heavyweight Mailchimp has over 170+ integrations with apps including ShopSync, Slack and Canva.

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Mailchimp's integrations are some of the most extensive in the industry.

These integrations help ecommerce businesses track customer engagement. 

They also teams to automatically share information on email campaigns.

And make it simple for bloggers to create professional newsletters.

In return, Mailchimp and other email service providers (ESPs) accelerate the growth of the companies behind the integrations.

Take video email solution Bonjoro.

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Bonjoro grew partly due to integrations with top ESPs.

Bonjoro’s growth is largely thanks to integrations with tools such as Mailchimp, Convertkit and Zapier.

Integrations make Bonjoro available to Mailchimp’s over 420,000 email marketing clients and 63% market share.

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Bonjoro’s top marketing integrations.

In short, integrations give ESPs superpowers they didn’t have before.

This is why the number of integrations is growing so quickly.

3. Email segmentation becomes the norm

Email segmentation (along with marketing automation) has been one of the biggest digital marketing trends over the last few years.

In other words: segmenting email subscribers into different buckets is nothing new.

What's new is how email segmentation has moved from an "advanced feature" to something that almost every single ESP provides.

And something that more marketers are using in their campaigns.

In fact, 33% of companies segment their audiences for marketing campaigns and 20% send customer-specific emails.

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A growing number of marketers are segmenting their subscribers.

Plus, email segmentation has moved well beyond "subscriber clicks X, move to list Y".

Services like Mixmax and Instagram Insights make it relatively easy to track customer engagement across email, social media and more.

These analytics tools integrate with many popular ESPs.

This allows marketers to create customer personas and segment audiences based on data they get from several different platforms.

Besides allowing marketers to call a whole segment of their audience “Karen”, personalizing content can lead to as much as a six-fold increase in transaction rate.

Besides more sales, data suggests that segmentation can boost engagement too.

An industry study by MailChimp found that segmented campaigns lead to an average of 14% greater open rates and 100% greater clickthrough rates.

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Industry studies show that segmentation can help boost opens and clicks.

These impressive results are why Mailchimp, Email Octopus and Active Campaign all highlight personalization as one of the critical features of their platform.

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Search traffic for the term "Email Octopus" continues to trend upwards.

4. More niche ESPs emerge

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Search traffic for ESP Substack is taking off.

Email subscribers aren't the only ones demanding personalization.

This trend has also made its way to ESPs themselves.

Mailchimp remains a market-dominating behemoth, setting the standard for ESPs.

However, niche ESPs have begun chipping away at Mailchimp's dominance.

As trendy platforms like Flodesk, Substack and ConvertKit have shown, specialization can provide upside over generalist platforms.

Flodesk has sold itself as an Ecommerce-focused solution.

Substack caters to paid newsletters.

And ConvertKit has successfully targeted online content creators.

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Searches for "Flodesk" are up 3800% since 2016.

All three of these niche ESPs seem poised for continued success.

And not simply because they have great features.

Niche ESPs are surging because the niche audiences they serve are trending up alongside them.

Largely thanks to Shopify and the pandemic, eCommerce, in general, has seen a substantial uptick.

And Flodesk’s focus on this market should help sustain its growth.

As mentioned earlier free and paid newsletters are surging in popularity.

Substack’s position as a leader in newsletter ESPs means it should benefit from this trend.

Finally, interest in individual creator online content has been soaring as well.

And ConvertKit’s relevance as an email marketing platform has moved upward alongside it.

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ConvertKit has positioned itself as the top email solution for content creators.

But there's also a heated battle for supremacy between generalized ESPs.

Search traffic for Mailchimp has stagnated.

And major challenger Active Campaign has seen a huge drop-off at the start of 2021.

That leaves room for players like Email Octopus to muscle in. 

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Searches for Active Campaign have dropped off sharply into 2021.

5. New email marketing tactics emerge

Open rates hit a 5 year low last year.

Which was their second lowest rate since 2008.

Changes to subscriber behavior are forcing email marketers to come up with new ways to maintain strong delivery and deliverability for their content.

Because even with double opt-in enabled, 22% of permissioned email fails to reach subscriber inboxes.

To avoid spam filters and improve delivery, companies often ask new subscribers to add them to their trusted contacts.

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Subscription landing pages such as Mailbrew’s ask new subscribers to add their email address to their contacts.

Reaching the inbox is only the first step in a marketing email’s journey.

Marketers need to also think about how (and where) their email will be received and read.

That includes the content itself. Features of the email (like being a static or interactive email). And optimal email design for different devices.

In fact, 62% of email is now opened on mobile.

And if an email isn’t designed for mobile, nearly 42% of readers will delete it.

Also, only the first 30 characters of a subject line are visible on the iPhone email app

And marketers need to be very selective with what goes into those 30 characters.

For instance, adding an emoji to subject lines can increase open rate by 56%.

And shorter subject lines consistently outperform longer ones.

That said, deliverability and a strong subject line aren’t everything.

Open and click through rates also depend on the context in which email is read.

Searches for remote work exploded in early 2020 and have remained high since.

Emails previously opened at work are now opened at home (and in the bedroom or bathroom).

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Searches for the term "remote work" have skyrocketed since COVID closures shifted business to work-from-home.

6. Free newsletters adopt a sponsored revenue model

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Searches for daily newsletter “Morning Brew” - Morning Brew mixes sponsorships with inbound and content marketing to generate revenue.

The email newsletter has long been associated with marketers wishing to build customer loyalty.

But free newsletters are beginning to sell themselves as the product.

Newsletters such as Morning Brew are popularizing a sponsorship-based business model.

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Morning Brew helped pioneer newsletters as a standalone product offering.

By producing superb content and offering it for free to email subscribers, newsletters are able to generate revenue via sponsored content.

Sponsored content in free newsletters are generally ads that are integrated into the newsletter's content.

Some even offer special discounts for subscribers of that newsletter.

Like with podcast ads, sponsoring a newsletter is a relatively untapped way to get in front of potential customers.

Which is why CPMs tend to be fairly low (approx $15-25) compared to Google and Facebook ads.

That said, this model only works if the newsletter is exceptional.

42.3% of Americans subscribe to email lists for savings and sales. And 11.2% sign up because they like a brand.

Morning Brew scratches both of these itches. And they've seen rapid growth as a result - as well as a majority acquisition by Insider, valuing the newsletter at $75 million.

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Morning Brew's "newsletter as the product" led to a massive acquisition.

7. Funnel software streamlines email automation

The average email marketing list size is growing by 40% per year.

And 320% more revenue is generated in automated email marketing campaigns.

On the surface, this sounds like great news. And it is.

But the downside is that automating your email marketing strategy can be tricky. Especially for non-techie folks.

That's largely why interest in funnel software has taken off in recent years.

Funnel software adds a user-friendly user interface on top of marketing automation tasks.

In fact, the name of the current market leader "ClickFunnels" stems from the fact that their software allows user to "click" together different elements from their funnel.

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Searches for ClickFunnels has seen consistent 5-year growth.

In fact, most funnel software includes pre-made funnel templates that can be copied and pasted.

This focus on ease of use is probably why interest in funnels have taken off.

Conclusion

Here you are: the 7 biggest email marketing trends to keep an eye out for.

Email marketers continue to fight for eyeballs, opens and engagement.

Plus, new tools (like AI), consumer behaviors (like expecting GIFs and interactive content), and regulations (like GDPR) are forcing marketers to adapt their strategies to remain competitive.

It will be the platforms, companies and technologies that best evolve with these changes that will have the most success over the years to come.

Written By
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.
548 Market St. Suite 95149
San Francisco, California
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