13 Email Marketing Trends to Follow in 2017: A Sumo-Sized Guide

The 2017 email marketing trends to grow your list, make more sales, and engage with your audience better.

Want to hear something that’ll make you feel old?

1989 - that is, almost 28 years ago - was the year that the concept of the world wide web (the internet as we know it) was born

And a lot has changed since the days of dial-up and Napster, and unsurprisingly so has what is effective for marketing and online business. 

But I’ve got good news for you:

There is one thing in online marketing that has worked since those early days of the interwebz. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon:

Email marketing

Want proof?

  • In 2014, email marketing brought in 25.1% of all Black Friday sales online - more than any other single marketing channel available. 

  • In 2015, email marketing performed equally as well on Black Friday, bringing in another 25%+ of sales. 

  • Email marketing has return of 44.25x. Meaning for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you’ll bring in, on average, $44.25. 

So no matter what 2017 email marketing trends arise, the success of email marketing has been trending upward for years, and it will continue to do so as long as we still use email. 

And this makes sense. As more and more social media channels turn to algorithmic feeds, and Google start to try to reinforce reliance on their paid ads, being able to control when, where, and how you get in front of your own audience is necessary. 

But that doesn’t mean that the trends within email marketing don’t (and haven’t) evolve.

Get the most of your email marketing time investment by paying attention to these 2017 trends. 

Oh and before you get into it, grab the 2017 email marketing swipe file for 85 list building strategies for 2017, every single place you can put an opt-in form on your website, and our website review checklist for conversion rate optimization.

Click here to get the FREE email marketing bundle now

Trend #1: Having Your Visitors Ask for The Pop-Up

One of 2017’s biggest trends in email marketing and list building comes from a study published in - no joke - 1966

Researchers Freedman and Fraser surveyed housewives at their homes. 

  • In one visit, they asked the women if they would place a (small) sticker promoting safe driving in a home or car window

  • On the next visit, they asked the women to put a large sign on their front lawn with the same message. 

Many of those who agreed to the first (smaller) request, also said “yes” to the second (much larger) request. This was not so for those who did not comply with the smaller request. 

The researchers repeated the study with different requests with similar results. 

So what does this mean for email marketing in the new year

Well, it means that if you can get your “foot in the door” with your visitors by having them comply with a smaller request (for example, clicking a link), then they’re far more likely to comply with a larger request (giving you their email address). 

This is where the two step opt-in process comes in. 

CT.gif

On a regular pop-up that your audience didn’t ask for by clicking a link, you might expect a 2-3% conversion rate (and that’s the high end!):

But on a two step opt-in, where your audience clicked a link to bring up the pop-up?

You can expect a much higher conversion rate:

This is what Click Triggers does. 

It may seem like the online marketing world took it’s sweet time figuring out how to use the study, but we’ve actually been using it in dozens of ways prior to using it for list building. 

For example, the usage of a “tripwire” product is exactly that - a demonstration of the usefulness of this study (and proof that it works). You get your customers to buy a product at a lower price, and they’re more likely to buy your flagship product later on. 

So instead of just relying on inline forms to collect emails, in 2017 the trend is leaning far toward the two step spectrum. 

Trend #2: Ditching Newsletters in Favor of Automation

If you’ve never seen a pop-up that says something like this:

You’re a rare internet unicorn who probably vomits rainbows and has a mane made of glitter.

Actually, you probably don’t exist, because the newsletter was all the rage in the ghost of email marketing past.

Usually, visitors would sign up for your  newsletter, and you’d send them an email a few times a month with news about your company or industry and maybe some discounts.

But as with the past couple of years, 2017 pushes email newsletters further into obsoletion

The problem with the almighty newsletter is that it’s perceived value is low. 

When somebody you don’t know in real life offers you free updates on what’s going on with them, you’re probably not going to be very interested. 

That’s kind of like getting an annual update letter from your dentist office. What do you care? Only shareholders and competitors would care enough to read it. 

Unless you’re a pretty big personal brand, you’ll struggle to convey the value of a newsletter to your people -- even if it does carry significant value.

So in 2017, if you haven’t already done so, ditch the newsletter for an automated email series full of value, teaching your audience about something specific that they actually want to learn about. 

Yep, that’s probably what your email newsletter always did. I know you’re not self absorbed enough to only send life and business updates. So even aside from the low perceived value doing damage to your conversion rate, newsletters:

  • Create tons of extra work for you as you have to create new content on a weekly (or at least monthly) basis

  • Exclude newcomers to your list on previous newsletter content that may have been useful to them

  • Compete with sales emails by injecting broadcast emails into your (hopefully seamless) funnels.

So instead of staying on the (antiquated) email-content creation hamster wheel with a newsletter, automate that gold and make it so your subscribers receive a steady stream of evergreen content…

In the same sequence, no matter when they signed up.

Trend #3: More Respectful Pop-Ups

Ever hear somebody say that pop-ups are dead?

Well, they’re wrong. Data shows that they’re alive, well, and converting better than ever. 

The traditional way you think of pop-ups -- that annoying box that shows up in your face while you’re trying to shop, and try as you might but you can’t hunt down the “x” button -- those are out. 

But there’s a new, more effective, and more useful pop-up in town. And these are going to be used by more websites in 2017 (and beyond).

Pop-ups will no longer block the user’s experience. This new generation of pop-ups will (and already do):

  • Be embedded on your website

  • Be triggered by a click on a link, image or html element like I talked about in trend #1

  • Appear when the user goes to exit the page (called an exit-intent pop-up), rather than interrupt their experience. 

With advanced pop-up targeting, they’ll actually bring your visitors deals and offers they want, rather than just spammy calls to action to get people to join your list. 

Finally, the way the website interacts with pop-ups is becoming easier in 2017. 

With more customization like drag and drop, your pop-ups won’t have to adhere to whatever template your email app provider decided to give you. 

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You can finally build the pop-up you want on your site -- easily, with no web design or coding knowledge, and to match your branding.

Trend #4: Using Gated Content To Build Your List

Have you ever gone to the NY Times website to read an article, only to be hit with this wonderful notification?

“You have reached the limit of 10 free articles a month”

That, my friend, is gated content. 

NY Times is gating their content to sell more of their digital newspaper. They allow you to read 10 articles for free per month, but anything over that? They hit you with a pay wall. 

NY Times is ahead of the times (see what I did there?), because the email marketing world is just grabbing onto this strategy:

The strategy of gating content in exchange for emails

Think about it. You gate content behind pay walls for your paid products and courses. Every time somebody signs up for your email list, you send them gated content in the form of your autoresponder sequence. 

If you’re a smart email marketer, you probably even gate content like opt-in offers and content upgrades. 

But you can hop on this 2017 list building trend bandwagon even farther and gate highly desirable, actionable content, too - like NY Times does only in exchange for emails rather than money. 

If you choose to follow this trend, be sure to only gate very high-value content. If you try to gate an 800-word article with a story about your life, not only will nobody sign up for it, but nobody will read it, either.

Gating your content works best if you show readers an excerpt that sells the content. To read more, they need to cough up their email address. 

Trend #5: Increasing Engagement by Becoming More Like a Friend

Bigger is not better, and more is not better. 

It’s not better for your business, and it’s not better for your users. And the “less is more” motto is becoming more apparent in 2017. 

I’m not talking about getting rid of all of your belongings and living out of a backpack. 

I’m talking about reducing visual clutter and giving your subscribers a more personalized experience

And when we asked Natalie from The Suitcase Entrepreneur what she thought the new email marketing trends would be, she agreed: 

“With all the advancements from email providers around segmenting and understanding, email marketers will engage with readers by putting the right content in front of them that they resonate with and appeals. 

I've just swapped over to ConvertKit and added a quiz my homepage of my new website to better understand who's joining my list and what they need from me. In addition on the start here page we once again separate people out into 3 avatars and they all receive different autoresponders based on where they're at.”

For you, becoming more personal might be to understand your audience more like Natalie has with quizzes and segmentation. Or it might mean that you ditch the with the impersonal, templated, company-esque emails… 

(I had to dig through my deleted folder to find this)

In favor of emails with a style you’d expect to get from a friend, starting with the subject line:

As an email marketer, it’s difficult to be more personal if you use email templates (you wouldn’t send your friend an email with a bunch of font styling and subheads, would you?), send impersonal headlines, or don’t know your audience well enough to even be personal in the first place. 

Branding has always been important, even to smaller online businesses, but you don’t need to make your brand more corporate than it is. 

You might be able to get away with these less personal elements in your email marketing strategy if you truly are a large company. These types of emails work for us, because we reach a massive audience. Our people are used to our brand and resonate with it. 

But if you’re a personal brand or small  business, ditch the templates in favor of a friendlier, more personalized email in 2017.  

Trend #6: A/B Testing Will Be the Norm

Remember a time when a marketer’s biggest challenge was knowing what their audience responded to?

Extensive (and expensive) studies had to be done to examine audiences browsing and shopping behaviors to find out whether (and which) color influenced conversions

Luckily those days are long gone, with savvy heat map, content analytics and A/B testing apps.

A/B testing allows you to test one variation against another, helping you make smarter decisions that increase your opt-ins every day. It helps you gather data to find out exactly what your customers respond to -- from button color and copy, to the size of your call to action and your offer in general. 

sumo a/b testing

For example, our Welcome Mat for this guide was converting at 8.86%. 

We ran an A/B test with a motion template, which raised our conversion rate to 13.7%.

After 30,000 visitors to that guide, if we’d never A/B tested that Welcome Mat, we’d convert 2400 people. We wouldn't have known motion works so well for our audience.

But because we ran that test, we found a version that will convert 3900 people. If math isn’t your jam, that’s 1500 extra people on our list just because we ran an A/B test.

The power of this knowledge is in the numbers - it will help you convert more of your audience in 2017, so not only will A/B testing be the norm, but any email apps or email service providers that don’t provide A/B testing will have to in 2017 to stay competitive. 

Don’t worry - if you use Sumo to collect emails, you’re covered. We’ve been providing in-app A/B testing since the beginning at Sumo.

Trend #7: Harnessing The Power of the Recap Email

I remember it like it was yesterday. 


It was April. We’d noted that a lot of our customers signed up for Sumo Pro but weren’t using it as effectively as they could have, so we decided to offer website reviews as an upgrade bonus so we could help. 

I’d just written an email with this promotion and sent it out to a portion of our list, which resulted in a sad .41% conversion rate - or about 11 sales. Womp womp. 

After looking at what went wrong, Anton and I decided that it was likely a lack of urgency -- we were asking Sumolings to act on a promotion that didn’t end until 4 days had passed. 

So we decided to send out a sales recap email the morning the promotion ended. 

That email?

It boosted our conversion rate to 3.38% - raking in over 91 sales

Sweet, right?

The sales recap email worked so well because there was scarcity in the deal. To get the website review bonus, our customers would have to upgrade shortly after they read the email I’d sent. 

That meant no letting my email marinate in their inboxes undealt with until “later”. Because people get busy, later never comes and the deal or bonus ends, causing our customers to miss out on their bonuses. 

That’s email marketing. And this is just one demonstration of why recap emails work. We have a ton of other examples from recap emails we’ve sent since. 

Whether you’re offering a limited time bonus, a rare discount, or you’re actually closing the cart on your product or service, don’t just rely on your email funnel to sell in 2017. 

If you don’t recap your sales emails before your promotion or bonuses end, you could be leaving a ton of sales on the table. Check out how our recent Black Friday promotion performed:

  • Friday Midnight CST - Sales email went out with the promo: 102 conversions

  • Friday 6pm CST - Recap email went out with the promo and scarcity: 54 conversions

If we didn’t send out the recap email, we’d have left 50% of the original email’s sales on the table. 

2017 is the year of the recap email. Don’t let yourself lose sales to not enough scarcity.

Trend #8: Higher Quality Content Upgrades 

Content upgrades used to be novel. 

Now, they’re everywhere. It seems like everyone uses content upgrades to build their list. 

This means they’re expected. And just like how you won’t collect any emails if you don’t offer anything at all to grow your list…

You also won’t get any emails if your content upgrade pales in comparison to your competitors

Content upgrades that are perceived as low quality (yes, even if they are extremely useful) are not collecting those emails. 

But the high-quality content upgrades - especially if they have an extremely high perceived value? Those rake in the opt-ins. 

Bringing more value with bundles works very well. Check out our opt-ins for our Instagram Sumo-Sized Guide, where we gave away a swipe file including a bundle:

The Welcome Mat alone converted at 12.67%, and the Click Trigger did well, too:

Versus this guide with a 2.94% conversion rate on the Welcome Mat, where we gave away a simple checklist:

The checklist was useful, but it’s perceived value must have been low, causing the low conversion rate. 

We did the work to analyze 100,000 opt-ins across our site, looking at the content upgrades that scored those emails. Bundles, swipe files, and extremely high-value

upgrades are performing better than anything else right now. Like the bundle we’re giving away with this post!

Grab the 2017 email marketing swipe file for 85 list building strategies for 2017… plus every single place you can put an opt-in form on your website (ranked) by clicking the link below:

Click here to get the FREE email marketing bundle now

So for 2017, review your content upgrade strategy. How can you communicate even more value to your audience in your content upgrades?

Trend #9: Mobile Will Be More Important Than Ever

It seems as though every year Google makes mobile more of a priority. 

That’s not stopping in 2017, either. Google has announced that they’re moving toward mobile-first indexing so pages with a bad mobile experience will get dinged, and pages with pop-ups and overlays on mobile will hurt your SEO.

And while it might be frustrating to feel like you have to keep up with Google’s standards, the reason Google’s been pulling all these antics is because the data can’t be argued with:

As of 2015, over half of internet users are browsing from their mobile devices:

So that means, of course, that you need to make sure your website and email collection apps are mobile friendly. 

If you’re using Sumo (which you definitely should be!) you don’t have to worry about this. All Sumo apps are mobile friendly, including the email collection apps. 

But you can also use Google mobile to make sure your mobile site is fast enough and passes Google’s standards. 

Don’t forget to turn your pop-ups and Welcome Mat off for mobile (but not for desktop! Google isn’t penalizing pop-ups or similar for desktop browsing). You can do so under display settings: 

For mobile, embed your popups or use a two step opt-in like Click Triggers like I mentioned above. 

To stay ahead of this trend, it’s as easy as making sure your website, email collection forms and emails in general are not only mobile friendly but optimized for mobile. 

At least half of your visitors will appreciate it. 

List Building Trend #10: Less Content, More Quality

Remember the days when you could just write 900 words on a basic topic and still get traffic to your site?

Yeah, those days are over. And not only can you not get traffic with mediocre content, but mediocre content also won’t score you the email. 

The content that brings in the emails has to be amazing in 2017

Instead of taking the content mill approach, where you’re writing piece after 800 word piece of general content with the hopes of scoring search engine traffic, try to create just a few articles that are the very best on the internet.

The content on SumoMe that has brought in the most email addresses are the long ones - the articles that dive deep into the topics, that are comprehensive and difficult to compete with. 

Content like Growing a Site from 0 to 10k Visitors in a Month: Noah Kagan Edition:

Drive Massive Traffic with Instagram Marketing: A Sumo-Sized Guide:

And 12 Essential Growth Hacks For The Non-Growth Hacker (A Step-By-Step Guide):

And these are just the Welcome Mats!

Ultimately, it’s the long-form, high-value articles that collect the most emails...

And rank the best in search engines. 

Trend #11: Video is Email Marketing’s New Best Friend

Want to hear something crazy?

Having one video in an email can lead to a 200-300% higher click through rate. 

Impressive stat, right?

Not only that but apparently simply including the promise of a video in an email subject line can increase your open rates by 19%, click through rate by 65%... and also decreases unsubscribes. 

This speaks volumes to the effectiveness of video content in your emails in 2017. 

But what about the effectiveness of getting the email to begin with?

That works, too. 

According to SocialBakers, video has the highest engagement rate of any content on Facebook -- and the highest engagement rate of any other video-friendly platform:

In fact, Facebook seems to be taking over YouTube in the effectiveness of video, doubling the views you can expect and 7xing the engagement from YouTube. 

Since Facebook is becoming the Google of content marketing in terms of actually finding engaging content, and video outperforms all other content on Facebook, investing in video on Facebook can raise your opt-in rates. 

Previously, the typical trajectory would look like this:

  1. Create an image to post to Facebook with a link to your content

  2. Have your Facebook fans click on the link or image to go to the content

  3. Offer a content upgrade in the content to get the email

  4. Capture the email addresses of those visitors who didn’t drop off before the call to action. 

But in 2017, just explain everything you want to say in a video and have your audience click through to a simple landing page to collect emails

After all, the farther your audience has to scroll to get information (or to the email capture), the higher rate of drop off you’ll get. 

Video makes it simple for the audience member to hand over their email. 

Trend #12: Cutting Your Email List in Half with The Double Opt-in 

Double opt-ins versus single opt-ins…

This is the big debate in email marketing these days. Meaning, do you have users confirm their subscription to your email list?

 Or do you sign them up right away, no questions asked?

As more people grow their email lists in 2017, a double opt-in is the safest way to do it. Even though that means cutting your list in half

Having your new subscribers confirm their subscription may seem like just another step -- and it is -- but it’s a good idea for two reasons:

  1. Double opt-ins ensure deliverability. The people who are signing up for your email list will actually get your emails. If they confirm their subscription by clicking a link in their inboxes, they’ve confirmed that they gave you the right email address (and weeds out those fake ones). Guess what? This saves you money!

  2. Double opt-ins boost engagement. The people who actually go through the process of subscribing to your list, then confirming their subscription actually want to be part of your email list. This means better stats for you - higher open rates, click through rates, more traffic and more shares. 

For these reasons (and many more), 2017 will be the year that the double opt-in makes it’s comeback. 

It’s no longer a numbers game. The quality of your email list is important, too. 

Trend #13: Taking Your List Building Efforts Off Your Website

Your website is your online home. 

It’s where most of your customers and subscribers come from so it makes sense that your email marketing efforts are focused mostly on your own website. 

And through conversion rate optimization, you can convert more of the traffic you’re already bringing to your site.

But what about the hordes of people who don’t already know you exist?

In 2017, the email marketing trend of taking it off of your own website and hitting the streets of the rest of the internet to grow your list will continue to take off. 

Instead of just relying on your current visitors (who already know about you) to sign up for your list, leverage platforms that reach far bigger audiences. 

For example:

So in 2017, after you’ve optimized your website and content for conversions, focus your efforts elsewhere to access other audiences. 

Don’t Miss the Boat on These 2017 Email Marketing Trends

I know you’re a smart entrepreneur.

You see the value in email marketing (after all, how could you not?). You’ve been growing your email list and engaging with your subscribers. 

So let’s keep that momentum going. Stay on top of these trends to stay current and make sure that your email efforts remain effective. 

Your email list is your ATM. Make it dispense $100s instead of $1s. 

Help yourself along and grab the 2017 email marketing swipe file for 85 list building strategies for 2017, every single place you can put an opt-in form on your website and our website review checklist for conversion rate optimization.

Click here to get the FREE email marketing bundle now

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