Why email will survive 'earth-shattering kabooms' in 2023 


Hello, friends! It's November, and I am ready to dive into 2023. I want to get through these next six weeks and to be done with 2022.

This is the time of year when people start predicting what to expect for the coming year, but I think it's equally important to look back at how far we've come. We marketers are so busy working toward the next campaign, the next goal that we need to get centered and to take stock of what just happened.

So, let's do that! Grab your favorite beverage, and walk with me through some key developments that will affect our business.

1. We’ll survive more earth-shattering kabooms.

Back in September 2021, some of us thought the world was coming to an end. Why? Because Apple's Mail Privacy Protection feature threatened to take away the open rate. If opens went away, the Four Horsemen of the Apple-pocalypse would rise up and kill our email programs.

A year later, here we are. As Marvin the Martian says, "Where's the earth-shattering kaboom?"

MPP hasn't eroded the channel. Yes, we had some painful conversations. We had to change our reporting and analytics, but we needed to because the open rate has never been a good success measurement.

It was like when Google introduced Gmail Tabs. Marketers thought the Promotions tab would kill our email campaigns. It didn't.

Some still think that. It won’t.

This taught us an important lesson. We're going to have those realignment events in our industry. What will be the next one? Dunno. It could be privacy. It could be the slew of states implementing privacy laws before the Feds do.

it could be the Feds will implement something. [Facepalm]

What we should take from the furor over events like Tabs, MPP and even Hide My Email, Apple's other privacy feature, is that overreacting isn’t helpful. Treating changes like world-ending cataclysmic endings does not help.

What does help? Sit back, look at the broad picture, and accept that email will change. How can we adapt?

People panicked over MPP but the world didn't end. The holidays are upon us and we're still going to send a buttload of email campaigns this year.

In 2023, maybe we'll have an earth-shattering kaboom. If that happens, see what the thought leaders in the email space are saying. Look at what we're talking about in Only Influencers.

Jeanne is a testament to that leadership when people started talking about MPP. She assembled a compelling group of speakers and articles on this topic. She gathered the industry together to discover unifying principles.

[Cue applause]

During that time Jeanne and many others, myself included, stepped up to raise voices in the discussion so people could understand how to proceed.

The next time you're threatened with an earth-shattering kaboom, don't panic. Seek out voices of authority, like those in OI. Learn how to adapt. And don't be surprised when the big kaboom doesn't happen.

2. Marketers want their tech platforms to do more or get left behind.

Our agency has done many requests for proposals (RFPs) and platform migrations since we began as Red Pill Email in 2005.

Seventeen years ago, companies discovered that, yes, they could move to new email service providers if they were unhappy. You might be thinking, "There was a time when companies didn't think they could migrate?" Yes!

Migrations didn't happen as often as they do now, but the reasons why people changed providers back then are the same reason we hear from clients now: mainly, cost and sophistication (or, more often, the lack of it).

In 2022, we saw the results of two years of living with COVID. COVID put digital transformation on steroids. Overnight, clients needed new processes, new strategies and tactics and new ways to handle data and consumer sentiment. For many companies, their platforms no longer were as advanced as the companies themselves had become.

We have seen an uptick in requests for RFPs and migrations and questions from our clients about new choices, options and capabilities they should know about – a general dissatisfaction with the status quo.

The implications of this restlessness among email senders goes deeper than the itch to switch ESPs. For years I've seen ESPs sitting on their innovation laurels, being content with sending emails, reporting results and integrating systems to do more things.

In 2023, clients will keep pushing their ESPs to do better. Incremental innovation won't be enough anymore to keep clients on the roster. You need to stand out in the tribe.

3. Companies will invest more in email.

In 2022, we saw our clients invest significantly more in email. I know this is not an across-the-board trend. Not every marketer is looking up to discover the boss coming at them with a wad of cash to improve the email program.

But this is a trend that several of us in the agency space have noted. Investment in email has increased substantially, and it has come in a couple of forms:

  • Email audits: Marketers are looking at the status of their email marketing programs and coming up with ideas that will vault their performance and results.
  • Looking for advice: People are reaching out to bounce ideas around, to get informed opinions that go beyond dropping a question into a Slack channel. They're looking for a consistent voice that they can call on to guide through the voice and vision of their companies.

That's the kind of investment that's exciting to me. Maybe during COVID companies finally realized the importance of email. Hence the significant increase in funding in 2022 to help drive email even further.

In 2023, we look for that to continue. And we look for marketers who have not seen that same investment to start working on that. They will need to use their voices internally through education, through lunch-and-learns and by promoting their achievements more visibly to get that funding. The money is out there. You have to learn to ask for it. (Need ideas? I have a few.)

4. Staying on top of the news is essential.

We email marketers have been challenged over the last couple of years like never before. If COVID and our hard and fast pivots didn't exhaust us, then supply-chain problems knocked our campaigns askew. And now our inventory is back but it costs us more because of inflation, so we either have to eat the increase or pass it on to our customers.

Every time we turn around, we get hit with a new load of crap. Some of that is just a byproduct of the internet and our world today. We have new challenges ahead – softer things that might not affect us directly but which we need to know about.

Back when COVID became a thing, I advised marketers to watch the national news, no matter how painful it might be. Now, with a global recession looming, which can have economic impact at all income levels, marketers need to be even more informed because these external events will affect your customers' response to your messages.

This doesn't end just because COVID is on the back burner. COVID taught us that we have to be involved in our world. As email marketers, we need to bring that knowledge so it can inform our messaging.

In 2023, this will continue. U.S. marketers will see presidential candidates surface. We'll see contentious news headlines. The recession will hit everywhere. So will inflation. We need to know the mood of the public.

Can we respond with humor? Maybe, if your brand voice allows it. We need to understand what our customers and subscribers are going through and tailor our messages appropriately.

5. Email will avoid the Elon Effect.

As I write this, we are seeing a daily rollout of changes and havoc at Twitter now that Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion takeover. I can hear you now: "What does this have to do with email, Ryan?"

Twitter’s turmoil reminds us about the primacy of email and its freedom from the whims of one rich guy.

Nobody owns email. Yes, we have to avoid tripping ISP filters, assure blocklisters that we're good senders, and comply with anti-abuse laws. But those restraints are minimal compared to an algorithm-driven channel that controls message content and prioritizes pay-to-play users over organic users.

In email, our content is not the tailored voice designed to fit into a social channel’s guidelines. We are free to express ourselves, guided by our own brand voices, our customers' expectations, and what our data tells us.

In 2023, email will retain its 20-year primacy and its dominant position as a valued channel that can use data to reach into the inbox and touch subscribers with personal, valuable messages.

Wrapping up

2022 has been a helluva year for me, and I am exhausted. I went on vacation for the first time in years, but now, five months later, it's as if I never left. Many of us are in an unfamiliar position – halfway between adapting to the new normal but also trying to regain our footing.

So, here's my message to you, my fellow email marketers:

You people are amazing. Day after day, you come in, you launch campaigns, and you have fun doing it. You look for innovations and take glory and pleasure in seeing immediate results from the work you do.

We marketers don't often take time to celebrate what we do. But over the last year, I've seen more email folks bask in the pleasure of jobs well done, whether at industry conferences (so fantastic that those are back!) or in community discussions that aim to raise the entire industry.

These involvements of our community are what help make us the greatest channel. It's because of all of us in the OI community, and in other industry groups, that make email great.

I don't know what earth-shattering kabooms are headed our way in 2023. But I know we'll handle them if we stick together, keep our heads and check in with each other for advice and support.

See you on the other side!

arthur chauvineau Dn7P1U26ZkE unsplash 600Photo by Arthur Chauvineau on Unsplash