20/21 vision by marketing leaders: 4 ways to rewrite your email growth story


The events of the last year taught every email marketer an important lesson: change is the only constant.

Marketing leaders had to re-draw their communication plans and pivot their business strategies to cater to disruptive consumer behavior. Despite the mid-year budget cuts in 2020, email emerged as “the channel” to connect with customers and build lasting relationships.
Netcore’s COVID-19 consumer survey report showed that 76% of online consumers rated email as the best channel to reach out to them during an unprecedented crisis.

CMOs quickly realized that
email was the best channel to reach out to their customers with empathy, kindness, and care. It was a weapon in a marketer's arsenal to spark new conversations and transform into loyalty.

That was the story of the last year...

2021 will usher in different challenges for the marketing leadership. For instance, customer acquisition will bounce back strongly with higher demand generation. The increasing scale of the email programs will push email marketers to embrace advanced technologies and make it a good practice.

This made us curious to see what trends could develop in the email marketing industry this year.

We surveyed 200+ global marketing leaders across the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, and India. The company leadership participating in the survey ranged from organizations having 1-5 employees to 1000+ employees.

The following are some of the key trends we unearthed through mountains of data

1. Personalization and interactivity becomes a necessity

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IMG - 1 - Which of the following email trends do you see developing in 2021?


The use of personalized content came out on top (25%) when we asked the marketing leaders what email trends that they think will dominate 2021. The second trend that they see developing is interactive and dynamic emails (AMP for emails) chosen by 18% of respondents. Increasing brand visibility inside the inbox (BIMI) came next with 17% and tied with AI-powered technologies for creating content and automatic list segmentation.

What does that mean for marketing leaders?

  • Craft automated email journeys that are personalized and triggered by user activity. Create regular nudges in your email journey for customers to convert.

  • Experiment with 'AMP in email' use-cases to display your products in a dynamic and interactive catalog. (Especially if you are eCommerce and have a variety of product categories)

  • Implement the BIMI standard for your email program. It will help your brand stand out inside the inbox with your unique logo and increase visibility. It also adds a layer of security to your emails, so that they are trusted by MBPs.

Explore marketing platforms that have advanced AI features that take your performance up a notch on email delivery, segmentation, and personalization. Let Netcore's suite of AI features be a guide on what to expect from your email provider.

2. Rise of the machines in email marketing
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IMG -2 What are your thoughts on the use of AI in email marketing?

A majority of marketing leaders have accepted that AI in email delivers superior results and is no longer just a buzzword. A staggering 43% of respondents said that AI in email is a must-have and 28% felt that it is good to have. Meanwhile, nearly 30% of leaders are not sure if AI/ML technologies will have any major impact on their email programs. Leaders are curious about AI but are not sure of its value constitutes 21%. The survey shows that 7.5% are not aware of the use of AI in email - they are missing out on exponentially increasing their email returns through the use of AI. 

What does it mean for marketing leaders?

  • Before exploring the AI/ML features available with your marketing platforms, understand how the technology works and improves your performance. If you are clear on your marketing goals, then it becomes easier to choose which tools are more beneficial.
  • AI/ML technologies require vast amounts of data that the algorithms can learn from. Your team would require skills in collecting and handling data. Either a provider can do the heavy lifting of the analysis, or an in-house data analyst can process the data.

  • While the recommendations from predictive analytics can be helpful, your team would require smart analysts to interpret suggestions and take accurate decisions.

3. Investment in CDPs and strategy consulting continue to be popular

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IMG - 3 - Which of the following platforms/services you wish to invest more in the next 12 months for achieving your marketing KPIs?

Our survey finds that the trend will continue with marketing leaders opting to invest more in CDPs, consulting services, and email service providers in 2021.

Out of the leaders surveyed, 26% wish to invest in a CDP, while almost 17% prefer to invest in campaign creative agencies to get their email campaigns created by specialized developers.

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IMG - 4 - Do you use a Customer Data Platform (CDP)?


We found that more than half of those surveyed have to catch up on CDP usage. Out of those who do not currently use a CDP, 16% wish to invest in it this year - such statistics show that CDPs will continue to be popular this year as well. 

The mid-year budget cuts of 2020 led businesses to set up in-house technologies. An eye-opener has been the fact that 15% wish to have an in-house email setup instead of relying on an email service provider. In comparison, 12% of respondents are looking for an email provider to send their emails, while 16% are looking for more consulting on marketing strategy.

What does it mean for marketing leaders?

  • Assess your team's capabilities and organizational infrastructure before deciding on an in-house email setup.

  • Keep a flexible relationship with external consultants to seek expertise as well as occasionally lean on for advice and insights.

  • Learn from your past customer interactions and target them effectively. Invest in a CDP or an ESP which provides a unified view of the customers.

  • Avoid external agencies for strategy and deliverability consulting by choosing an email provider that offers similar services. In case your current ESP is not able to offer these services then it may be a good time for re-evaluation.


4. Product education becomes a must for marketers

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IMG - 5 - What percentage of the features of the marketing platform do you currently use?

The data shows that a majority of the participants (55%) are aware of only half of the platform features and they do not use the rest of them. In other words, they are missing out on a lot of features that could benefit from, if they had cared to explore. Of the rest, 22% use only a quarter of the features, and an encouraging 15% use three-quarters of their email marketing platform. Only 3% of all respondents said that they know all that the platform offers. About 4.5% of the marketing leaders are not aware of 90% of their platform features and they should invest their time to explore more.

Technology ignorance is a sure roadblock for email marketing success.  Marketers need to know if the marketing platform is not able to do what they require of it and change it as necessary.

What does it mean for marketing leaders?

  • Get a complete list of features with your current platform and assess which ones are currently in use.

  • Analyze how the features will help you to increase campaign performance and marketing analytics.

  • Assess if your current team has the required intelligence to work on your marketing platform optimally and produce results. If that is not the case, then re-configure and expand your team.

  • Ask for a demo request or a guided tour of the features which are not in use. Once you have done this, modify your strategy with your team to make maximum use of all the features.


Email is enjoying a renewed popularity among marketing leaders as one of their primary channels for communication and revenue. They are eager to use technological innovations in email like AI/ML, deep personalization, interactivity, branding visibility, etc.

The challenges of 2020 may continue this year as well but the leaders continue to work harder in reaching out to their customers effectively and increase conversions. They need to delve deeper into their marketing platforms and roll their sleeves up to work alongside their teams.

At a critical touchpoint, email continues to make a significant impact on organizational goals. Marketers should use it to set the tone for brand-customer interactions that are set to become personal and contextual throughout 2021.

 Check out our Global email trends report 2021.


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