Email Marketing 2020 – a Decade in Summary

As we come to the end of the decade (are we getting old, or does it really feel impossible that 2010 was almost an entire ten years ago?), it seems like a good time for a round-up of the past, present, and future of email marketing.

As an email marketer, you’re probably aware of the importance of customer journeys, segmentation, a/b testing, mobile optimization and everything else that comes together to form an outstanding email marketing strategy.

But do you know what we’ll be dabbling in over the course of the coming decade? A decade ago, we barely knew just how ubiquitous the smartphone was going to become and, with that, the need to ensure that all our emails, landing pages, and other web content were designed to display clearly and effectively across a range of devices.

What has the next decade got in store for email marketers? The crystal ball isn’t being particularly forthcoming today, but we suspect AI and wearables will feature heavily.


Marketing From 2010 to 2019 in Brief

Fitting a decade’s worth of developments in a technology-related industry into a single blog is not easy, but we’re not ones to shy away from a challenge so here goes: our round-up of the biggest and most impactful advances:

The Demise of the Cold Call

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, email marketing was not a thing. Hard as this may be to believe if you’re under a certain age, email is a reasonably recent development. Way back in 2010, it was still relatively acceptable to carry out your marketing through the medium of cold calling. Marketers would basically ring potential customers without consent or warning and offer them their products and services.

This mostly worked due to innovation, since at the time, customers were not expected to be approached this way and the surprise factor helped set this outbound marketing approach as an actual revenue channel.


The Rise of the Spam Filter

The term “spam” was first used in relation to unsolicited marketing well before 2010 (in 1988 to be precise) but, since laws including the Data Protection Act in 1998, the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003, and 2004’s Sender Policy Framework were introduced, there have been legal consequences to indulging in this practice, leading to consumers becoming ever more intolerant of being bombarded with unsolicited, irrelevant, and downright bothersome emails.

This law made it mandatory to include a sender email address and an unsubscribe link in all emails. And it also marked the start of the path towards today’s near zero-tolerance attitude to blast emails and cold-calling. On that note, if you don’t already know about the perils of being blacklisted, it’s about time to learn. In 2017, around 40% of emails were found to be spam.

If you don’t want to find yourself blacklisted or your emails in the spam box, be sure to deliver your newsletters only to those who opted-in and approved ahead and sent them only the content they agreed to.


GDPR and Its Impact on Email Marketing

It’s impossible to have worked in any form of marketing – or even to have existed – in 2018 without having had a sense of dread instilled with any mention of the acronym GDPR.

Basically an extension of existing privacy laws, this gives people the right not to be targeted by email marketers, or others, unless they have expressly opted in. GDPR isn’t the big scary monster it was made out to be, it’s a fantastic way of protecting people’s privacy.

Rather than sounding the death knell of email marketing, this piece of legislation has helped to make it even more effective. Which made sure all email marketers work as ethically as possible.

The Growth of Responsive Email

Round about a decade ago, the responsive email was born. We all take it for granted that we can access emails at any time using our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even watches, but this wasn’t always the case.

A high proportion of emails are now read on mobile devices first, meaning that email marketing is likely to evolve into creating mobile-first content, rather than mobile-optimized content.

In simple terms, mobile will be the default, and marketing automation software will evolve to reflect this. After all, when you can read and respond to email on your watch, why would you reach for your desktop computer first?

responsive email marketing

A Brief History of Email Marketing

Email marketing is a part of our everyday lives now. When was the last time you went a whole day without receiving at least one promotional email, email newsletter, or transactional email?

When you work with email marketing software every day and know the benefits of the various aspects of marketing automation like the back of your hand, it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come.

Here is a quick refresher of email marketing history in 30 seconds:

1971 – The first email was sent. The sender can’t remember whether it said “Test” or QWERTYUIOP (the top line of a keyboard) but, either way, it’s a long way from dynamic segmentation and personalized content

1972 – The first email management system was built. The grandad of email marketing, perhaps.

1978 – The first marketing email was sent, to a whopping 400 recipients. Although the email list was short, the return on investment was impressive, as it resulted in around $13 million in sales

1989 – AOL created the iconic and unforgettable “You’ve Got Mail” notification.

email marketing history

The 1990s – The webmail services that many of us use now (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and so on) started to appear, making email on the go possible. HTML also meant that those emails could be more attractive.

decade email marketing

The late 1990s – Early 2000s – data protection and anti-spam laws were introduced, heralding the beginning of responsible email marketing.

The 2010s – Responsive email is a must as more and more people reach for their smartphone when accessing email. Marketing automation, cross-channel marketing, chatbots, segmentation and all manner of other tools of the email marketing trade are in widespread use, and almost 75% of marketers report that their email marketing campaigns generate the best ROI.

The Future’s Bright

It’s fantastic to see just how prolific email marketing is, and how promising the future of the industry looks. Of course, just as the past decade has seen major developments and advances in technology, the coming years can be expected to do the same.

Artificial intelligence is everywhere, and we suspect it’s going to play a bigger role in email marketing soon. Rather than thinking of AI as a threat, try considering the improvements in segmentation, personalized content generation, and the benefits to both consumers and email marketers that can be offered by cutting-edge and constantly evolving technology.

Read more:

5 Examples for Transactional Emails Your Business Needs

3 Strategies to Elevate Your Events Through Email Marketing

15 Professional Email Subject Line Ideas