Email Marketing

The Definitive List of Top Email Trends in 2023

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The world of email rarely pauses to take a breath—especially at the start of a new year. After all, a new year means new opportunities for email marketers—and new challenges.  

What can marketers expect in 2023? It certainly won’t be business as usual.

In our latest episode of State of Email Live, we discussed how new technology, evolving privacy laws, economic headwinds, changing societal norms, and the relentless march of artificial intelligence will have an impact on daily marketing activities.

For those who missed it, let’s gaze into a crystal ball and predict the key trends that email marketers should pay attention to this year.

Email marketing trends in 2023

Let’s start with the three core themes that we predict will influence all email programs throughout the year. 

Email will lead the way through the recession

Despite valid concerns that the economic crunch will make consumers less likely to click and buy, email revenue remains strong. We asked our State of Email Live webinar attendees about their email performance Black Friday through Cyber Monday 2022. Surprisingly, those reporting growth outnumbered those reporting lower revenues by two to one.

Encouraging, no? Their answers were reinforced by industry research showing U.S. holiday season sales in 2022 reached a record $1.3 trillion.

Email’s role in this success is well understood. It’s widely considered to be one of the most reliable, cost-effective marketing channels. Finances Online reported that email beats all other channels for generating marketing ROI. Recent DMA research quantifies email’s ROI as an impressive 38:1.

But many businesses will spend 2023 in a recessionary mindset and face a big marketing decision: Should they hold their campaign spending, or double down?

We’d encourage the latter. McGraw-Hill’s research showed that during the 1981-1982 recession, businesses that maintained or increased their ad spend not only performed better during that period—they also generated higher sales when the economy recovered. 

Of course, that spending needs to be effective. That’s where email comes in. In a recent report from Mailjet, respondents were asked which channel provides the best ROI during a recession. Unsurprisingly, email marketing came out top (42 percent named it their channel of choice).

Consumer research reinforces this observation. When asked how they prefer to receive marketing messages, consumer responses in favor of email were more than double the next best channel. They also scored email highly for relevance and trustworthiness. These attributes are even more important right now—people don’t forget who looked after them when times were tough, and they’ll remain loyal when good times return. 

Email’s ability to target subscribers with personalized and relevant messages makes it the best channel to drive revenue and improve customer loyalty—both top concerns for companies operating in a recession. In 2023, all marketers should exploit the value of this channel as they work to maintain business performance amid tough trading conditions. 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is going mainstream 

The AI software market’s global annual revenue is already valued at over $50 billion. It’s forecast to explode to $1.8 trillion over the next decade.

Many people remain unaware they are using AI solutions. But one doesn’t need to think much further than Siri and Alexa, Google Maps, Netflix, and most social media platforms to realize how prevalent AI already is. In the email deliverability world, Gmail, Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee, and Proofpoint (just to name a few) all harness AI technology for filtering and fraud prevention. 

Of course, the hot topic right now is OpenAI’s ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). This AI chatbot can interact with you as though you are talking to a real person. Many are saying ChatGPT is the first time an AI application has passed the Turing Test. This test measures the ability to exhibit intelligent behavior that is equivalent to or indistinguishable from a human being.  

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, and while it is still in pilot, many businesses are already exploring how to best use it. For example, ESPs are using their campaign data to produce highly effective subject lines and content. Salesforce is exploring ChatGPT to create formulas and validation rules. Microsoft plans to incorporate ChatGPT into its Bing search engine—there is already talk of this being a potential “Google killer!” 

However, our prediction is that AI-generated images will take off fastest in the world of marketing and email. Consumers are very much “visual first.” Humans are wired to process visual content far faster than language. But finding original images for every new campaign and message is expensive and hard work.

OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 image generator responds to complex requests in seconds. For example, I asked the generator for an image of Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) looking in puzzlement for his missing emails, painted in the style of Salvador Dalí.

Microsoft has already announced a new graphic design offering—Microsoft Designer—that harnesses this functionality. 

When it’s easier and cheaper to generate new images than it is to source stock photos and images, that’s absolutely what will happe. As such, digital marketers will move rapidly to embrace this new technology in 2023. 

Email marketing will benefit from the increased focus on data privacy

Email effectiveness is often judged by its ability to drive revenue. Good news for supporters is that the $9.6 billion generated by email marketing 2022 is expected to almost double to $17.9 billion by 2027. It’s interesting to understand what’s driving this growth.

The good news is, it’s not just inflation! 

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) arrived in Europe in 2018, many viewed it as digital Armageddon. But the reality has been more positive.

GDPR effectively signed a set of established marketing best practices into law. More robust consent, greater transparency, and increased choice boosted consumer trust, and drove up engagement. Email KPIs (like list size, deliverability, opens, clicks, conversions and revenue) have all trended positively since Europe’s new data privacy laws became effective.  

While new-generation privacy laws are less established in the United States, states like California, Utah, Colorado, Virginia, and Connecticut have already led the way. Plus, state-level momentum for comprehensive privacy bills is at an all-time high.

U.S. marketers should view this as an opportunity—the European experience shows increased focus on customers’ data privacy rights will make more money for businesses. There’s no need to wait—start putting those best practices into place today! 

Other relevant consumer privacy laws in 2023

It’s not just new laws that benefit email marketing.

  • Apple’s privacy initiatives like Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) and app tracking transparency mean businesses can no longer rely on inferred measurements of customer interest. They are now required ask for this data directly. But as a bonus, they build stronger, more durable customer relationships by doing do.
  • Google will start its long-awaited plan to phase out Chrome support of third-party cookies in 2024. (Safari and Firefox already did so several years ago.) This will provide another huge reason to focus on first-party data. It also means the huge ad spend on retargeting will need to find a new home, and established channels like email stand to benefit.
  • We’ve already talked about the potential implications of ChatGPT and its ability to provide a new way of searching the internet. Globally, paid search currently consumes $1 in every $5 advertising dollars spent, so it’s entirely possible this big part of most marketing budgets will also be looking for a new home soon!

These drivers back to first-party data are reshaping email marketing for the better. Requesting the right data at point of sign-up means better segmentation and personalization. We’re also starting to see greater cross-pollination with social media. Ultimately data, preferences, and user experience will converge to deliver seamless relationships—and revenue in 2023. The rationale for email marketing revenues doubling over the next five years are rock solid, and programs should invest now to benefit. 

You know what they say: new year, new you! And for email marketers, it also means new challenges.

What should email marketers prioritize in 2023?

These trends in mind, the question remains: What should email marketers do next?

Here are the six key trends email marketers can expect to shape the world of email marketing in 2023.

1. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP has already been around for several years, but uptake has been slow—until now.

It was meant to be the next big thing, enabling email users to complete actions that were usually found on landing pages or apps. However, it has been seriously resource-intensive to implement in the past.

That’s starting to change with the emergence of tools and resources that make building AMP-enabled emails much easier. This should incentivize more email marketers to use AMP to optimize their email interactivity using functionality like carousels, list builders, live content, and even interactive games.

Senders will benefit from reduced friction in their conversion funnels, which will positively impact ROI. We’ve already seen research showing that clickers from AMP-enabled emails are approximately 20 percent more primed to convert. As a result, we’re going to see a big uplift in the use of AMP-enabled interactive emails in 2023.

2. SMS is back (and email marketers will own the channel!)

In 2023, email marketing teams will take ownership of other channels—especially SMS.

The goal of SMS is to engage and convert customers, and since email marketers have experience doing just that, they’re in an ideal position to own this channel and use it to build stronger connections and drive greater loyalty.

DMA research with Validity highlights email’s unchallenged position as the preferred marketing channel with both marketers and consumers (72 percent and 92percent respectively).

SMS scores next highest with consumers, but far less so with marketers. This is clearly a big missed opportunity on marketers’ part, especially for sending messages like updates on recent purchases. Validity customer Potpourri Group started integrating SMS with its email program in 2022 and has substantially boosted the performance of both channels by doing so.

Want more SMS (and MMS) inspiration? Check out thousands of examples in MailCharts.

3. BIMI will get bigger

Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) has already been around for a while. But with Apple joining the BIMI community in September 2022, around 90% of all email subscribers are now able to see approved sender logos in their email inboxes.

Validity uses BIMI, and the effect we see when it comes to helping our emails stand out in crowded inboxes has been transformative. Early BIMI adopters are benefiting from improved recognition, increased trust, higher open rates, and more revenue. The underlying DMARC authentication also means senders can combat phishing and spoofing more effectively and educate their customers about these benefits.

2023 will be the year every email program will implement BIMI. Planning on being one of them? Listen to our recent “Email After Hours” podcast for a BIMI masterclass.

4. Less is more (accessible)

Email design will become more intentional in 2023. Read times are decreasing, meaning use of personalization and dynamic content, coupled with visually striking images and compelling copy (all in a small amount of space) is critical.

These tactics also overlap with an ever-increasing focus on accessibility. This is driving a shift toward fewer image-based emails, because text needs to be readable by machines.

Email programs like PrettyLitter do this well (see image above). Their emails are light on images, have plenty of white space, and use large, bulletproof buttons with clear CTAs. All elements are contrast checked to ensure they are easy to see.

Many more businesses will be following this blueprint in 2023 as they apply this “less is more” philosophy to their email messages.

5. Brand authenticity

A Google/Ipsos report suggested brands embrace the “Three M’s” (meaningful/memorable/manageable) to make their marketing more privacy-centric, creating brand authenticity through being seen as more effective and trustworthy.

Authenticity is also created by empathy. And during challenging times, messaging tone and strategy is more important than ever. Senders like The Body Shop do a great job of this, using real customers to illustrate their community and constantly reinforcing their credentials when it comes to people, their products, and the environment.

“From name” optimization will also help achieve greater brand authenticity. It’s the first piece of information your recipients see, and testing variations of both company and individual names can deliver impressive uplifts in opens, clicks, and conversions.

Brand authenticity is an important driver of loyalty, so in 2023, more senders will adopt these tactics to achieve it.

6. Deliverability will continue getting harder

In our December edition of State of Email Live, we asked our audience if they felt deliverability was getting easier or harder. Sixty-one percent said “harder” and only six percent said “easier”. There are a range of reasons for this:

  • Global email volumes have doubled since pre-pandemic. More email means more competition for bandwidth and processing capacity—and for eye-share in the inbox.
  • Apple MPP has made it harder to measure subscriber engagement—and senders are unintentionally mailing to less-responsive lists.
  • Economic conditions mean subscribers are less likely to respond to offers they simply can’t afford. (Plus, their attention spans are shorter.)
  • There is more blocking coming from mailbox providers—partly a natural evolution of their filters, but also a more aggressive application of the results.
  • Antispam vendors are also responding. Spamhaus listings have massively increased, and email senders who generate high volumes of trap hits are getting blocked more frequently.

Want more predictions?

Enjoyed reading these predictions? There’s more where that came from. To hear more expert predictions about what to expect in 2023, watch this on-demand episode of our State of Email Live webinar series: Email Marketing Predictions for 2023.