Affordable, easy-to-implement technology exists to turn email into a powerful behavioural marketing tool. A tool that does much more than push messages in response to customer behaviour.

Behavioural targeting and personalisation, used across email and your website, can predict and shape what your customers do. This helps to build an effortless—and memorable—customer experience.

But, despite being such an advanced channel, email marketing remains an untapped resource for many businesses. Is your business one of them?

In this blog post, we summarise ten email marketing trends that experts predict will dominate 2018. These come from a Pure360 and Smart Insights report that you can download in full here.

Read on to find out how your business can use the hottest email marketing trends to its advantage in the year to come.

1)    Innovative responses to regulation increase consumer trust

As all marketers keep being reminded, 2018 is the year that GDPR comes into force.

But is increased regulation and the risk of fines a bad thing? Steve Henderson, data protection officer at Communicator Corp, thinks perhaps not.

Steve predicts that the new gold standard in data protection will mean consumers expect more. Rising consumer expectations, and the need to comply, will push brands to innovate.

Expect to see:

  • consent confirmation campaigns
  • anonymous and guest online purchase processes
  • better sign-up forms
  • easy-to-understand privacy policies

These innovations will lead to increased consumer trust, as Steve explains:

“In the UK and across the EU the trend we’ll notice in 2018 is consumer trust driving success in the digital economy. And outside the EU, if the GDPR is seen as the Gold Standard, it will be these successes, rather than the fines which others seek to emulate.”

Increased consumer trust email marketing trends

2)    Consistent rendering and email interactivity

Each email client has its own way of rendering HTML and CSS. This causes problems for email marketers who want their emails to look good in every inbox.

Heidi Olsen, senior developer at eROI, thinks 2018 will be the year marketers start adopting a technical solution that solves this consistency nightmare.

New markup frameworks like MJML and HEML ensure emails render consistently across all major email clients. Marketers can finally be sure recipients will see what they’re seeing when they press send.

And emails won’t just look better in 2018; they’ll have more functionality. Tim Watson, email marketing consultant at Zettasphere, expects we’ll see more interactivity in emails this year.

Sounds great, right? Well, hold your horses. Tim offers a warning for those tempted to introduce interactivity with abandon.

It is important to ensure interactivity improves user experience, or conversions may suffer. Download the full report for Tim’s detailed advice.

3)    New iterations of mobile-first design

It has been true for quite some time that mobile-first design is essential if you want to offer a consistent customer experience across devices.

Elliot Ross, CEO of Taxi for Email, says we should expect brands to focus on optimising the finer details of the mobile experience in 2018.

Using punchy copy, easy-to-tap buttons, and high-impact imagery is the bare minimum. Smart brands are working on their third of fourth iterations of mobile-first email design.

If this doesn’t sound like your brand, you may fall behind.

Mobile first email marketing trends

4)    Contextual personalisation and sticky engagement

Komal Helyer, marketing director here at Pure360, sees 2018 as the year brands will start using more intelligent personalisation.

Inserting personal or demographic details is no longer enough to cut the mustard. Contextual personalisation technology is out there and is easy to use.

Using geographical, real-time, and predictive elements to personalise will become more widespread. These elements will offer consumers value, and mean that they can start relying on brands for key information.

But contextual personalisation isn’t the only way people will become hooked on a brand’s marketing. Sticky engagement will also factor in to this effect.

What do we mean by sticky engagement? Well, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find something about those little red dots on your phone that’s hard to ignore. Once people get used to responding to visual notifications it becomes addictive.

Email marketers are starting to use of these habit-forming tactics across platforms. Jordie van Rijn, founder of Email Vendor Selection, predicts more brands will use sticky engagement in their emails in 2018.

Jordie explains how one brand is already doing this:

“Linkedin, for instance, has brought the notification into a live updating element of their emails showing the number of notifications that are still open. It makes a lot of sense as a form of “flowvertising”, where you experience brand interactions in flow across multiple devices and media.”

5)    Sophisticated segmentation led by AI

The idea of targeting tailored messages to specific segments is not new. But, gaps in data and resource implications of creating multiple versions of content have made implementing this unrealistic for many.

This is set to change in 2018, according to Elliot Ross, CEO of Taxi for Email.

Developments in AI and content management systems are breaking down barriers to segmentation. More brands will be able to adopt a more sophisticated approach as a result.

AI and segmentation email marketing trends

6)    Testing your way to subject line success

What makes a subject line effective? Opinions on this vary between marketers from different industries and backgrounds.

April Mullen, director of consumer-first marketing at Selligent, expects to see the following subject line trends emerge in 2018:

  • shorter subject lines (under 20 characters) performing better
  • continued use of emojis
  • more causal, conversational phrasing
  • testing using more intelligent tools

Joolz Joseph, strategic email marketing consultant at The Virtual Marketeer, also believes emojis will be prevalent. But, he warns it is important to get the balance right:

“Whilst it can be great to use a series of emojis to tell a story, if appropriate to your audience, make sure you do your research on your recipient email clients. If their browser, email client, or mobile device doesn’t support the emoji you use, it will be replaced with a generic square or question mark. A subject line with a lot of emoji can look empty or pointless in these clients.”

Here at Pure360, we have our own take on the use of emojis which Internet Retailing reported on here.

Dela Quist, founder & CEO of Touchstone Intelligent Marketing and CEO of Alchemy Worx, sees testing as the best route to subject line success.

Dela shares some super interesting test data from Touchstone in the full report. Download your copy to explore this and illuminate your subject line strategy.

7)    Writing your emails customer-first

The art and science of writing for emails is different to that of other mediums.

Your purpose is often to get recipients to click through to your site. Giving people content they can consume in full in your email isn’t going to do that. And writing brand-first copy that pushes your products and your agenda certainly won’t either.

To write customer-first email copy, try to understand which real-life events trigger a need for your products.

These trigger events help you to understand your customers’ informational and emotional needs. Your aim is to create copy that resonates with these. Speak to them in their language. Show them benefits, not features.

And ensure you frame your messages to resonate consistently, across channels. While you do have to consider the nature of the channel, make sure it is the customer—not the channel—you’re writing for.

While writing to resonate with your customer, it is also important to consistently sound like your brand. Catherine Loftus, senior marketing manager at TrustedHousesitters, shares insight on how to create a consistent customer-first brand voice in the full report.

Writing email marketing trends

In the age of customer experience, businesses that push brand-centric messages are going to fall behind. Kath Pay, CEO of Holistic Email Marketing, predicts brands will soon be competing on customer experience in the same way they do on price.

So, how can you check that your copy puts the customer first? A simple measure that Kath Pay suggests is the “customer-centric calculator”. To try this you should:

  • count up all the instances of brand-centric language in your copy (such as “our”, “us”, or “we”)
  • count up all the instances of customer-centric language in your copy (such as “you” and “your”)
  • use this to work out your customer centricity ratio
  • aim to push your customer centricity ratio up to 70% or more

Kath predicts smart marketers will make better use of the following elements when they write their emails:

  • stylised alt-text
  • the rule of three
  • AI-devised subject lines
  • creative calls to action

Download the full report for Kath’s in-depth advice on how to best use each of these elements.

8)    Improved email deliverability

Chad White, research director at Litmus, predicts that we’ll see improved email deliverability in 2018.

Brands won’t work on this under their own steam, however. They’ll do so for two main reasons.

Firstly, brands will start to embrace authentication, which will in turn improve deliverability. This is in response to the Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMM) promise to display logos next to properly authenticated messages.

Secondly, the threat of GDPR fines will spur an affirmative approach to consent. This will constrain list growth, but improve engagement. As a result, deliverability will improve.

9)    Advances in email coding

Heidi Olsen, senior developer at eRoi, expects to see a greater use of CSS grid layouts (to improve mobile responsiveness) and CSS animation in 2018.

Animated CSS backgrounds enhance brand experience for recipients whose email client supports CSS animation, without detracting from the experience of those who don’t.

Alex Ilhan, senior email developer at Email on Acid, also anticipates that CSS grid layouts will come the fore. In addition, Alex predicts an emphasis on accessibility in the year to come.

More brands will optimise the experience they offer to everyone, not just to those without disabilities.

Download the report to read the technical detail from Heidi and Alex’s predictions.

CSS email marketing trends

10)   Smarter use of marketing automation

The experts had a lot to say on the use of marketing automation in the year to come, making it our hottest email marketing trend.

Komal Helyer, Pure360’s marketing director, anticipates this will be the year marketers start to implement smarter marketing automation:

“Marketing automation will grow in significance in 2018. New low-cost, easy-to-integrate technology will enter the market and marketers’ capabilities to use the tech available to them will grow.”

A key benefit of automation is that it allows you to respond to behavioural triggers. This ensures messages are relevant, encouraging your customers to take the next step in their journey with you.

Jenna Tiffany, founder and strategy director at Let’s Talk Strategy, explains how personalisation helps brands resonate with consumers at each stage of the buying cycle:

“Think about this in the context of where a customer is on their decision-making process with you. Brands that continue to struggle to provide any form of personalisation are going to switch consumers off with irrelevant messaging.”

Joolz Joseph, strategic email marketing consultant at The Virtual Marketeer, sees the future of personalisation as being led by the use of AI to analyse and predict behaviour:

“Self-optimising content, better subject lines and predictive, personalised recommendations are being effectively utilised by the largest e-commerce brands right now.”


Email is alive and kicking in 2018. This year’s email marketing trends and innovations touch every aspect of customer experience. Email has never been more relevant.

To learn how to use each of these email marketing trends to your advantage, read the report in full.

Email Marketing Trends 2018 Report