The 2017 email technology survey

Read the results of the 2017 Email Technology Survey.

A penny for your thoughts?

That’s what we asked our customers in our recent 2017 Email Technology Survey.

In particular, we wanted to learn what they considered the most important tools, technology and product features for their email marketing goals from the past year. We also wanted to understand what specific tactics they plan to tackle in the coming year.

Below is a summary of the results – never boring, sometimes surprising, and always applicable.

the people who responded to the Email Technology Survey

Before you dig into the answers, it’s best to know what type of industries the respondents come from. Different industries have different goals, metrics and issues when it comes to email marketing. Because of that, the answers in this survey are colored by their perspectives.

Here’s a breakdown of the industries of people who took the 2017 Email Technology Survey:

These are the industries of the people who took the email technology survey.

Seven different industries contributed to the results of this survey, the retail/eCommerce and media/publishing being the strongest influences. However, the financial services industry had a significant impact on the results, as well.

biggest impacts from 2017

There’s no better way to plan for the new year than to reflect on what you did well. So we asked what email marketing tactics had the biggest impact on business in 2017.

Personalized content and responsive design tied for the top vote on this question – 41 percent of the respondents agreed these two initiatives were what made the biggest difference in their email marketing programs.

Find this a little surprising? We did, too. Both the concepts of personalization and responsive design have been an important, frequently-talked-about topic in the email marketing community for a few years now. However, we all know the term personalized content continues to grow in scope – way past simple first-name personalization – including behavior-based content and timing.

The other two top responses were automated campaigns (38 percent) and testing & optimization (27 percent). Automated campaigns certainly have the potential to take what can be a manual, time-consuming process of sending multiple emails into something that is simple and efficient. When properly implemented, marketing automation has the power to increase your email marketing ROI dramatically.

Testing and optimization also scored at the top of the list for biggest impacts in 2017. There’s always room for improvement in every email marketing program, so we weren’t surprised to see this one at the top of the list. However, all the optimization in the world doesn’t matter unless you’re measuring the results by tracking the right metrics consistently.

what email metrics are most valuable to your business?

Not every industry, or even businesses within the same industry, has the same goals. From year-to-year, email marketing initiatives change depending on new products, services, offerings and growth. So we wanted our survey respondents to tell us what the most important email marketing metrics are for their business, both in 2017 and the new year.

The overwhelming response – with a 60 percent response rate – was open and click rate.

Email marketers are still relying heavily on the most basic metrics to define the success of their campaigns. Open rate continues to gain importance, as email inboxes are deluged with marketing messages. Writing a knockout subject line that appeals to your audience, matches your brand voice, and gets the open has never been more important. And the click is what makes it all worthwhile – knowing the content inside your email is relevant.

Conversion rate came in second in importance, with 51 percent of the vote.

Our hypothesis was that conversion rate would come in first in importance for metrics. Ultimately, it’s the metric that reveals the success of your email marketing efforts. The opens are good, and the clicks even better, but the conversion rate tells you whether it made any difference. We would encourage email marketers to focus more on conversion rate in 2018 to make the most of their email marketing efforts.

Honorable mentions for important email metrics include ROI/Revenue at 38 percent and Engagement (Active/Inactive Subscribers) at 32 percent. As with conversions, email marketers across the board are focused on the bigger picture – driving a return from their email marketing.

total budget for 2018

You can’t consider 2018 email marketing goals without first looking at the numbers, specifically the money allocated for these efforts in the coming year. Since most marketers had already mapped out their yearly budget by the time the 2017 Email Technology Survey went out, we got a fairly complete response on this subject.

Here’s the breakdown of the 2018 budget for email marketing programs:

This is the budget breakdown for respondents of the 2017 Email Technology Survey.

Most email marketers who took our survey fall right in the middle when it comes to email marketing budget, with 43 percent saying they’ll dedicate $25,000 – $75,000 of their budgets to efforts in the new year. There is room in these numbers for marketers to invest in technology that will take their email marketing to the next level and hopefully increase their budget for the next year.

2018 email marketing goals

After reviewing what happened in 2017, the logical next question to ask our survey-takers was what their goals are for 2018. It’s a deceivingly simple question with the potential for numerous nuanced answers. We broke the choices down into as many categories as we could think of and our respondents voted on each.

Our respondents said that if there was one thing they’d like to accomplish in 2018 with their email marketing, it would be improving list growth.

30 percent of the email marketers who participated in our survey said that growing the number of subscribers on their list was their priority going into 2018. List growth has long been a topic of conversation – and a challenge – in the email marketing community. Subscribers are what everyone wants more of, but there’s no magic bullet or new tactic to get more of them, unfortunately. Doing more of what works on a consistent basis is the only sure-fire way to ensure your list growth improves in the new year.

The other two top answers both tied at 20 percent of the vote: automate transactional campaigns (welcome, birthday, winback) and add personalized content to programs. These were both listed as biggest impacts for 2017, so it seems email marketers will continue pursuing and improving these tactics in the future.

what types of email programs do you plan on implementing in 2018?

Our final question in our 2017 Email Technology Survey specifically asked what types of email marketing our respondents planned to implement in the new year. In other words, practically speaking, what messages they’re going to send to accomplish their general goals.

Lifecycle/nurture campaigns and a welcome series made the top of the list, both coming in at 43 percent of the vote. This is really no surprise, since our respondents also said the biggest impacts from 2017 and goals for 2018 were automation and personalization – two of the main elements in any lifecycle series.

What was most surprising about this result was that a large portion of respondents don’t have a welcome series set up already. This is a huge red flag. A welcome series is your number one way of reaching subscribers when they are most engaged with your brand; in fact, stats have shown over and over again that at no other time will they be more engaged with your brand. Therefore, a welcome series is the first thing you should create when launching an email marketing program – not something you’re implementing well into your email marketing program’s life.

Three other categories tied for the third-place vote on this question: customer loyalty/VIP email series, post-purchase communications, and a win-back series. Again, these all reflect the automation and personalization goals touched upon in earlier answers and are all worthwhile goals for a 2018 email marketing program.

conclusion: tale of the tape for the 2017 Email Technology Survey

What did we learn from the results of our 2017 Email Technology Survey?

First, we learned that overall, email programs aren’t as advanced as we thought they were. There’s a lot of big talk that goes around in the email marketing community, but it appears that not a lot of those ideas are actually being implemented. The reason for this may be tied to the next important thing we learned.

Second, email marketers are strapped for resources – both time and money. Sure, it looks like email marketing gets a decent budget allocation in most companies surveyed, but is it really enough? We question whether email marketers have the time to put together the advanced campaigns they so desperately want to.

Finally, we’ve accomplished a lot with our email marketing programs in 2017, but there’s still a long way to go.

There’s a lot of competition when it comes to email, and this survey shows that as marketers, we definitely know what we want – more efficiency, more personalization, and higher response rates. But there’s also lots of room for improvement in what we’re already doing, from what metrics we use to measure ourselves to the most basic of campaigns that need to be executed.

2017 has brought the email marketing community a lot of success. Here’s to a new year full of even more!

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