In this guest post, Elizabeth Carter, Charity Digital Mail manager at Charity Digital, looks at the changes we can expect from email marketing in the near future.
We’ve recently seen a big jump in the proportion of emails opened on mobile devices, and this trend looks set to continue. To survive this change, you should focus even more on ensuring that all of your emails, microsites and websites render well across all browsers and especially on mobile devices. It’s worth noting that a large proportion of users leave websites if they take longer than 3 seconds to load and they also first read their emails on the move, usually using a smartphone with the intention of reading the email in more detail later on their laptop, desktop or iPad. Even if you don’t have much mobile traffic at the moment, it’s recommendable to think about having a responsive email site/template in place so that your website and emails look professional and read well on all platforms. The challenge is the potential cost involved. If money is an issue, try to benefit from volunteers who are experienced in IT and email marketing to help you set up.
I think we’ll see successful charities taking a more tactical and targeted approach to email marketing, rather than mass mailing. The third sector is aware that its supporters and donors are currently bombarded with high levels of noise in their lives and, in our highly active social culture, this is set to continue to grow. Charities will have to refrain from lashing out emails for the sake of it. Instead, you should concentrate on getting the frequency and timing of your emails right, with a strong emphasis on automation and triggered emails with relevant content. The best time to send emails is debatable and depends on your charity:
Data privacy and consumer protection have become vital in the last decade, and there will no doubt be significant changes to ISP, as new methods of protecting consumers from unwanted communication will be implemented. Gmail’s inbox tabs now make it very easy to ignore unnecessary emails, and the future of the email ‘inbox’ will result in even less clutter and less noise. Charities will be forced to embrace these challenges by producing more effective and better quality emails. Leveraging data by segmenting clients by every possible data point will be essential. This includes donor history, source of lead, past email open/click history, tracking of website clicks and interaction with social media. I’m confident that the future will be focused on personalising emails in more intelligent way, not just the normal “Dear ” approach.
The EU has announced plans for a comprehensive reform of data protection rules, which could be agreed as early as 2015 and implemented in 2017. At present email and text fundraising use a ‘soft opt in’. This means charities can contact donors who have expressed any interest as long as there is an option to opt out. The new rules would require that all individuals give explicit consent before a company or charity can process their personal data. If the proposals are ratified, charities will be unable to use donor data for profiling, potentially including IP addresses, which identify any device that connects to the Internet, thus making web analytics extremely difficult. To make sure your charity isn’t caught out, read through this report, which contains some good advice.
Charities will need to examine the appropriateness of current CRM platforms and other marketing tools. I imagine that there will also be a need for research into inbound/outbound platforms that include all digital channels. Through this, email marketing will become more integrated with other campaigns and provide a more holistic marketing approach.
As ever, the biggest barrier that charities will face in improving their email marketing performance will be a lack of critical technology knowledge and awareness, tools and of course for most, the challenge of working on a shoestring budget. Still, by staying on top of developments and adapting your email marketing strategy to suit them, you can safeguard your charity from the worst consequences of these changes.