I have two predictions for 2018. My first: Email marketing will drive insane revenue in 2018. Forget the 124 percent median average ROI reported in 2017 by the DMA. That’s a fraction of what you can earn from email this year. My second? The following 5 email marketing trends will help my first prediction come true. You can use them to stand out in inboxes flooded with bland, boring and downright spammy emails.

1. Hyper-segmented email automation

In 2018, a single automation series won’t be enough. As inboxes flood with more and more emails, you must be different to stand out. Hyper-segmented automation, when you create custom automation series for subscribers with different needs, interests, or characteristics, will play a big part in this. The more segmented and targeted your automation, the more it’ll resonate with subscribers. This leads to higher open and click-through rates. In fact, targeted emails can drive up to 77 percent of your overall email ROI, according to the Direct Marketing Association. One way to hyper-segment your audience? Allow subscribers to choose the type of content they receive. This is called self-selected email automation and it can skyrocket email engagement and sales. By making subscribers the decision makers, you’re taking permission marketing to a whole new level. Seth Godin coined this concept in his best-selling book Permission Marketing. Godin says that permission marketing is “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” With subscriber-selected automation, you can be 100% certain your subscriber wants your message. After all, they chose it. Here’s an example of how a company might use self-selected automation to segment their automation. Tasty Treats, a fake bakery I invented for this example, has a food blog where they share gluten-free recipes and recipes with gluten. They also sell gluten-free cookbooks and cookbooks with recipes that contain gluten. When a subscriber first signs up, Tasty Treats sends this welcome email to find out if their new subscriber is gluten-free or not:

Once a subscriber clicks on one of the purple buttons, they are tagged with either “gluten-free” or “not gluten-free.” Tasty Treats then uses an email marketing platform — like AWeber — to automatically send an email based on the tag their subscriber has. (AWeber’s Click Automations can help you do this!) If they have a “gluten-free” tag, they automatically receive this email one day after their welcome email:

By giving subscribers the ability to segment themselves, Tasty Treats can send their audience more relevant content and increase sales by promoting more relevant products. This example is a simple one, but you can apply this same concept to send hyper-segmented automation series. Truity, a company that offers online personality and career tests, does just that. Using AWeber’s Click and Open Automations, Truity created custom automation series for each of the 16 personality types their subscribers might have. In the second email of their first automation series, Truity asks people to tell them their personality type by clicking the link that matches their type. Then, they are automatically added to the customized personality series which aligns with their choice.

By hyper-segmenting their automation in this way, Truity can send emails series dedicated to the 16 different personality types. It’s perfectly tailored to an individual. This increases subscriber engagement and better serves their audience. Want to create hyper-segmented automation with AWeber’s Click Automations? Try AWeber free for 30 days.

2. Text only emails

While beautiful, image-heavy emails (like the Godiva email below) remain popular with huge retail brands, small businesses will continue to adopt simple, text-only emails in 2018.

Text-only emails, although they may be less eye catching for subscribers, are popular among entrepreneurs and small businesses and will continue to be. For two reasons:

  • They feel more like a personal message and less like an advertisement. People tend to put up their guard when they think marketers are selling them something. Text-only emails, since they look like the messages you receive from friends, family, and coworkers, seem less like marketing and more like a conversation.
  • They’re easy to create. For text-only emails, all you need is written content. No more scouring the internet for free stock images or fidgeting with a clunky email template. Simply type your content and send. For time-strapped businesses, this simplicity is attractive.

Ben Settle, email marketing expert, copywriter, and entrepreneur, sends text-only emails without exception. As a result, his messages feel personal and raw, like an email from a friend.

3. Personalization

People love content when it speaks to them directly. That’s why email personalization is so effective and will continue to play a massive role in 2018. Personalization can take many forms. It can be simple, like this example found in Weekly Coffee, a productivity newsletter created by AWeber’s Product Marketing Manager (and host of our Ask Me About Anything Podcast series!), Tom Tate. Tom very naturally places his subscribers’ first names in the second paragraph of this email:

Or, it can be complex, like this email from KickStarter which dynamically inserts the number of pledges a subscriber’s KickStarter project has earned:

No matter the complexity, personalization is a powerful way to engage your subscribers. And the top-performing email marketers will use it heavily this year. Here’s a few ways you can be one of them:

  • Add your subscribers’ first names in your email content. But be creative! Instead of “Dear [insert first name],” try incorporating a first name in the middle of a paragraph.
  • Email your subscribers on their birthdays. They’ll love a celebratory message!
  • Thanks your new customers for purchasing a product, give them advice for using it, and then recommend similar products they might like.

Want to learn even more about personalization? Read How Personalization Can Help You Connect with Subscribers.

4. Conversational voice

Stop thinking of email as an advertisement in 2018. Think of it as a conversation. A business-like, formal tone will be increasingly disenchanting to your audience this year. People want to know that you’re a person. They’ll resonate with you more and find your messages more interesting. Instead of jargon, use familiar words. Write like you converse articulate confabulate communicate speak. Read your emails out loud before you send them. It’ll help you hear where your content is unnatural or robotic. And finally, be yourself. Show off your personality and have some fun with your content. Really Good Emails (a company who shares, well … really good emails) knows how to let their personality shine.

They use humor, self-deprecation, and great word choices to show off who they are –– really cool people who love emails. Their conversational voice gives them a brand identity that’s irresistible and makes subscribers want to open their emails. Even if their logo and branding went missing, you would still know this email is from Really Good Emails because of its distinctive tone.

5. Storytelling

Once upon a time, in a castle surrounded by a cactus forest, lived an undersized platypus named Pluto. Good stories involve your imagination. The details and plot catch the reader by surprise. Instead of merely telling them to “Buy, buy buy,” you’re creating a relationship. You’re giving them a glimpse inside your life or your business. And this builds connections. In 2018, businesses will capitalize on the power of the story in their email marketing. They’ll begin their emails with a story that catches their subscribers’ attention, then relate it back to the actual point of their email. To make his email content more interesting and catch the attention of his audience, John Corcoran, founder of Smart Business Revolution, shares a personal anecdote and ties it back to his webinar in this email:

These 5 best practices are just the beginning …

Now, you need to make them happen in your own email marketing. You got it! Want expert help for your 2018 email marketing strategy? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter all about email marketing. You’ll get our best blog posts and exclusive courses, webinars, and workshops –– delivered directly to your inbox.