Email Strategies in 2023: 10 Experts on the Future of Email

Email celebrates its 52nd birthday this year. While that makes it the oldest digital marketing channel there is, email remains an incredibly effective and vital way to drive sales. 

In fact, the past few years have been particularly good for email marketing. Especially in light of numerous disruptions on social media platforms and a renewed focus on private, personal and owned media channels. 

So with email still reigning supreme among merchants’ marketing strategies, what does the future hold? 

To ensure your store’s email marketing strategy remains competitive, we reached out to 10 experts with a few questions: 

  • What’s your top email trend for 2023?
  • What are the 3 most effective strategies you used in 2022?
  • Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating for merchants?
  • What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?
  • What are the subject lines that yielded the best results in 2022?
  • What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Here’s what they came back with. 

Giles Thomas

Giles Thomas

Giles is the CEO of Whole Design Studios, a Shopify marketing agency that’s helped fashion and luxury businesses for over 10 years. 

Top email trend for 2023

AI has been talked about for several years now, but in the past year it has exploded into popular discourse with new apps like ChatGPT and DALL·E revolutionizing AI chat and art generation. 

Giles also sees the possibilities this opens up for email:

“AI content ideation and drafting, qualitative data collection with quizzes further segment lists.”

Most effective email strategies

As for the most effective email marketing strategies Giles has seen at his Shopify agency, he mentions plain text emails, personalizing their emails with emotive content such as founder stories, and doubling down on personalization and segmentation. 

“Plain text narrative driven emails, using founder stories or emotional drivers to sale, dynamic personalization, and advanced segmentation.”

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

While it’s hard to put a figure on an overall average for all merchants, Giles says that if your email strategy is driving up to 30% of sales, you’re doing well. 

“30% of revenue from email would be killing it, IMHO.”

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Even if your email marketing is driving 30% or more of sales, Giles reckons there’s a fair chance you’re not taking full advantage of post-purchase campaigns

One of the reasons post-purchase campaigns are so important is that it’s 5-times more expensive to acquire a new customer than make another sale to an existing customer. So nurturing your new customers and encouraging them to make repeat purchases is incredibly important. 

And while many merchants may have a basic campaign set up, Giles nominates “customizing post-purchase to improve customer lifetime value” as one of his top tips. 

One way you can customize your post-purchase campaign is by creating different flows based on which product a customer buys. If you have too many products for this to be feasible, you can instead customize it at a product category level. 

An example of a post-purchase email from Ilia

What subject lines yielded the best results in 2022?

It’s not easy trying to constantly come up with new ideas when writing subject lines.

One subject line idea Giles had success with in 2022 that you may not have tried yet are fake ‘we made a mistake’ emails. 

Whole Design Studios would set up these emails for some of their clients that claim a mistake was made (such as accidentally sending the email to the wrong customers, or not including a code in a previous email). 

In reality, the goal was just to spark people’s interest in finding out what happened and opening the email. Once they open the email, they’d find a discount code as an ‘apology’ which drove sales.

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

When it comes to common challenges Giles’ clients routinely face, he nominates the following: 

“Topic ideation for newsletters, seeing the value of deleting emails and list health, being willing to send a lot of emails during seasonal peaks.”

When you’re regularly sending newsletters (which is best practice), you can quickly run out of ideas. That’s why we put together a list of 101 newsletter ideas that should cover you for at least a couple of years. 

When it comes to deleting emails and list health, we’ve also got a handy guide to email list cleaning for merchants. It’s well worth a read as maintaining a healthy list plays a big role in campaign performance. 

Annette Palmieri

Annette Palmieri

Annette Palmieri is a Growth Marketing Specialist at BEE Content Design. In addition to her expertise in email marketing, Annette is also highly skilled in content creation and social media marketing. 

Top email trend for 2023

While Apple has supported dark mode emails in their desktop email client since 2018, with Google following suit a year later, the feature is yet to see mainstream adoption among marketers. 

Annette reckons we will start to see this happen in 2023:

“Dark Mode: It’s been on the rise for some time (for a good reason): these kinds of emails are relaxing for the eyes and help to save the battery on devices. But, most important, sending emails compatible with dark mode will boost your sender reputation.”

Most effective email strategies

What are some of the most effective email strategies that BEE Content Design saw last year? Annette nominates “re-engagement campaigns, segmentation, and event-based (not time-based) emails.

If you think your email strategy could improve in any of these areas in 2023, or you’d just like to learn more about them, then check out our following guides:

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

While Giles said that generating 30% of all sales from email “would be killing it,” Annette reckons the average merchant should be aiming for about 20%. 

If your email marketing strategy isn’t achieving this, consider booking a free consultation call with SmartrMail to see how we can help you achieve more sales. 

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

As for email automations that Annette notices merchants regularly overlook, she lists: “Welcome emails, abandoned carts, and cross-sell emails.”

It’s concerning that Annette sees merchants lacking a decent welcome email strategy. Often being a customer’s first impression of your email marketing, these emails are arguably one of the most important automations. If you want to learn more about them, and why they’re so vital, check out our guide on welcome emails here

An example of a welcome email from Casper

Abandoned cart emails are an incredibly effective solution to the all-too-common problem of cart abandonment. With the ability to recover over a third of the tens of billions of dollars in lost sales every year. 

It’s a bit more understandable that merchants may not have set up cross-sell automations, given that they require a bit more effort than welcome and abandoned cart emails. But they’re well worth the effort, as we explain in our guide on how to cross-sell like a pro.

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Three ongoing issues Annette sees merchants face are: 

  • Having a consistent brand identity across all the messages they create
  • Being afraid of staying simple in the communication
  • Choosing the wrong tool that doesn’t allow for collaboration in a proper way

Unfortunately, there are no easy- or quick-fixes to these challenges. 

We’ve previously talked about the importance of having a consistent brand identity across all your marketing channels in our guide on email design (spoiler: your emails should look like your website). As for staying simple in your emails, you might want to check out our guide on email length best practices

Alfredo Aguanta

Alfredo Aguanta

Alfredo is the Digital Design Lead and EDM Specialist at Blank Theory, an agency offering a broad range of services from website development to email and social media marketing. 

Top email trend for 2023

Alfredo’s top trend for 2023 concerns email segmentation. More specifically, microsegmentation: 

Segmentation has been a big part of email marketing for many years, but, in 2022, a big trend has been microsegmentation. This focuses on specific buying habits, age groups, genders, professions, travel histories and more. We have then been able to create data-driven, extremely personalized campaigns.” 

Most effective email strategies

While segmentation might be getting more specific in 2023, Alfredo nominates some long-standing best practices as the most effective email strategies merchants can utilize:

“Three strategies that we always aim to follow up on year after year for maintaining effectiveness in our email campaigns are: 

  • Keeping healthy email lists
  • Analyzing our clients’ customers to understand what users are looking to align ourselves with the vision and mission of our clients
  • Making sure that we review and update all automations to make sure we stay on top of any trends there might be in the clients’ industries”

The start of the new year is a perfect time to revisit your email list health to ensure it stays clean. Especially after the busy sales period in November and December. 

Being on the lookout for new email strategies (by reading articles like this) is always a good idea. Again, the start of a new year is a good time for this as it tends to be a quieter time. 

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

As an industry average, Alfredo suggests that email marketing should be generating between 25% to 30% of total online sales. However, he points out that you shouldn’t expect to realize this straight away:

“We always let our clients know, that email marketing is a process and a journey. We take them through this, explaining how we want to convey to users the core brand personality and messaging to both improve this percentage while growing the brand’s presence and recognisability.”

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Similar to Giles and Annette above, Alfredo also says that abandoned cart and post-purchase emails are routinely overlooked by merchants. He also says that merchants can often make better use of personalized product recommendations. 

“At Blank Theory, the majority of the time we see that clients like to engage via email marketing with their clients, but often do not follow up the conversation or give them that extra nudge to make that final click and make a purchase.”

Making better use of personalized product recommendations is one way to give customers that ‘extra nudge.’ This can be as simple as including recommendations in your existing email automations.

Example of personalized recommendations in an abandoned cart email

What subject lines yielded the best results in 2022?

Alfredo has a couple of tips to get the most out of your subject lines in 2023. The first is to keep things simple: 

“We have found that keeping subject lines straight to the point does get higher conversions, for example: “30% OFF Storewide | XMAS Sale Now On”, but at the same time we do not bombard clients with this strategy all the time.“

Additionally, Alfredo recommends balancing these out with more friendly ones that make good use of emojis in subject lines.

Kathryn Browning

Kathryn Browning

Working for Justuno, an app providing a suite of conversion tools for merchants, Kathryn Browning is now their Senior Marketing Manager. So it’s fair to say she knows the ins and outs of ecommerce email marketing.

Top email trend for 2023

Driven by both customer concerns and regulatory changes, privacy and respecting consumer data is something that has increasingly been on the minds of marketers. Kathryn sees this trend continuing in 2023, including for email marketers. 

“We see many customers start placing a greater emphasis on zero and first-party data collection and then using that to personalize their email flows. This is a trend that will continue in 2023 since continued privacy regulations and cookie changes will force marketers to rely on this owned data. Not to mention—it’s just good marketing!”

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Answering this question, Kathryn shares a couple of email automations that haven’t been mentioned yet: Holiday anniversary emails and review follow-ups. 

Holiday anniversary emails target customers who purchased during a particular event (such as Valentine’s Day) in the lead up to the same event in future years. In a way, you can think of this as a particular kind of post-purchase follow-up campaign. 

“Creating an automation targeting customers who purchased during the holiday season previously brings them back into the fold. These once–a–year purchasers are a prime segment to activate annually and build rapport.” 

Additionally, Kathryn also recommends following up with customers who have left negative or neutral reviews to better understand how you can improve your customer experience. 

“Almost every brand has an automated flow to ask for reviews but many lack a secondary branch to it. The follow-up, specifically those targeting low ratings (3 stars or below) or keywords indicating dissatisfaction. Reach out to those customers for more info automatically and to turn around the relationship.”

What subject lines yielded the best results in 2022?

When it comes to increasing your open rate with better subject lines, Kathryn recommends making them personalized and injecting some personality. 

“Subject lines with personalization and personality have the best results. We love an emoji in the subject line it drives up open rates and spruces up the box.”

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Returning to Kathryn’s pick for the top email trend in 2023, she said that collecting and using data properly continues to be a challenge for merchants. As well as making the most of the data they have.

“Collecting and using data properly—many collect zero and first-party data but aren’t using it to its full potential. Or simply can’t figure out the best way to build out this profile for customers.” 

Related to using data to its full potential, Kathryn sees that although merchants are personalizing their campaigns, it can often be challenging to find a scalable approach. 

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is an email strategy consultant and speaker who helps medium- and enterprise-sized organizations get more from their email marketing. She currently also runs Email Optimization Shop

Top email trend for 2023

Like Giles, Jeanne sees AI playing an increasingly large part in email marketing. 

She’s already seen people use AI tools to help generate subject lines and preheader text. She says that “we’ll see this extend into calls-to-action in 2023” before we can expect full emails written by AI to be commonplace by 2025. 

Based on recent changes in privacy regulations and industry practices, such as Apple’s iOS 15 update, Jeanne also notes the shift away from more traditional metrics such as click-through rates toward conversion tracking and revenue will continue.

“Looking beyond diagnostic metrics, like opens and clicks, and focusing on business metrics, like conversions and revenue generated per email sent, became much more widespread in 2022. This will continue into 2023 and beyond, as more companies realize that it’s conversions that matter, not opens or clicks.”

Most effective email strategies

The email strategy that Jeanne puts as her top most effective has not been mentioned yet: Resends. 

Some merchants like to resend emails to those who didn’t open them the first time, but this can potentially annoy customers and harm your sending reputation. Instead, Jeanne recommends testing out resending to those who engaged the first time.

“Resending an email only to those who clicked seven to ten days after the initial send. Unsubscribes and spam complaints on these resends are almost non-existent, while conversion rates show a median lift of 950% over the initial send.” 

You’ll still want to change up the content so you’re not sending the exact same email. However, if you notice someone opened a sale email but hasn’t made a purchase after a few days, it’s worth testing whether a follow-up works for your store.

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Jeanne’s top three neglected email automations are: browse abandonment campaigns, follow-up campaigns based on clicks (like those mentioned above), and re-engagement campaigns. 

We’ve already talked about re-engagement campaigns, but Jeanne is the first to mention browse abandonment.

Browse abandonment emails are a type of automation that sends to customers who have visited your online store, but never made a purchase or added a product to their cart. Because they target customers right when they show an intent to purchase, browse abandonment emails are a great example of a well-timed and targeted email strategy.

An example of a browse abandonment email

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Here Jeanne lists two challenges: email deliverability and revenue attribution. 

Jeanne says that if you are experiencing trouble with your emails landing in subscribers’ spam folders, you “need to get serious about deliverability, which usually means shifting to industry best practices to grow your email lists.” 

Following on from what Jeanne mentioned earlier about shifting toward better business metrics, she points out that this will also help with revenue attribution: 

“Opens and clicks aren’t good proxies for conversions and revenue. You need to track and report on your bottom line metrics to know how successful your email program is–and that requires a sound attribution program for tracking revenue and conversions.”

Hussein Adra

Hussein is an experienced ecommerce specialist with a history of helping small- to medium-sized businesses with email, analytics, and paid ads. He is currently an eCommerce Growth Specialist at Web Bridge.

Top email trend for 2023

Believing that the reduction in targeting options on social media will drive marketers to place more emphasis on email, Hussein’s top trend for 2023 is greater use of automation.

“With social media losing its targeting capabilities, smart marketers are going down the route of personalized email marketing. As business owners, our job is to ensure that we send emails that act like a constructive conversation. Automation can play a good role here if planned and executed properly.”

If you’re not sure where to get started with email automations, check out our list of essential email automations for ecommerce stores.

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

Hussein says that this depends on what kind of emails you’re sending.

If they’re just your standard email newsletters without many (if any) discounts or sales promotions, then 5% is the minimum you should be achieving. However, if you are regularly sending sale emails and offering promotions, then Hussein reckons you should be looking at 20% as a target.

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Here Hussein mentions two automations: welcome emails and abandoned cart emails.

“A welcome series of emails is crucial but often marketers and business owners just promote a coupon code and call it a day. The fact that someone subscribed to your email list means that they’re interested in hearing and learning more about your business and they expect more from the emails they’ll receive.”

As for abandoned cart emails, Hussein says: 

“There is nothing wrong in offering a coupon code in the abandoned cart flow but some examples of product uses, case studies or customer testimonials will also help in nudging the checkout.”

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Expanding on his comments about welcome emails above, Hussein says that creating an actual welcome email series, instead of just a single email is where most merchants struggle.

“Creating a welcome series of emails that goes beyond the first week after a customer places an order or signs up to the email list.”

If you’re not sure what content you can include in your welcome series beyond the initial email, take a look at our collection of welcome emails for some inspiration.

Becky Beach

Becky Beach

As the Founder and CEO of Mom Beach LLC, Becky is a mompreneur who has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, and The Huffington Post. 

Top email trend for 2023

Short-form videos (under a minute) have become incredibly popular in the world of social media. Becky predicts we’ll see this type of content start to filter through and appear in email campaigns in 2023. 

If you haven’t tried it already, adding videos to your emails is one way you can experiment with creating more engaging content. One advantage of short-form videos is that the product quality doesn’t have to be professional either. Something candid shot on your phone can be quite powerful. 

Most effective email strategies

Video. Following on from her top trend for 2023, Becky again says that video has helped grow her business immensely in 2022. 

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

Not wanting to set the bar low, Becky has set the highest target you should be aiming for: 40%.

Of course, this will vary based on your industry and customer base, but it can be good to set your targets high. Especially if you’ve become too comfortable with where you’re currently at.  

What subject lines yielded the best results in 2022?

Sometimes the simplest subject lines yield the best results, and Becky’s top-performing subject line of 2022 followed this strategy.

“The best subject line I wrote that got several responses was ‘how are you today?’” 

Phrasing subject lines as questions is another strategy you can use to pique your customers’ interest and help boost open rates.

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Becky’s picks for the most common challenge she sees merchants face are: finding new customers, getting enough sales, and improving email open rates.

Let’s face it, few merchants are going to turn down ways to find new customers. That’s what our epic list of 107 ideas to promote your Shopify store is for (also applicable if your store isn’t built with Shopify). 

Thanks to the effectiveness of email marketing, improving your open rates and getting more sales go hand-in-hand. And by reading articles like this, you’re on your way to improving the performance of your email marketing. 

Roberta Phillips

Roberta Phillips

Roberta is the Marketing Manager at EmailToolTester, an online review site of various email marketing tools.

Top email trend for 2023

Email campaigns becoming increasingly interactive is a trend Roberta says we’ll see in 2023. 

“Interactivity is a trend set to grow this year, with more email marketers encouraging user engagement through quizzes, surveys, videos and more.”

Including surveys in your campaigns is a great way to gain more insights into what type of content your customers want. Which you can then use to segment campaigns. For example, if you’re selling pet supplies, you could run a survey asking what animals your customers have, and then segment by animal.

Most effective email strategies

Roberta’s number one strategy is giving your new email subscribers a great first impression.

“Welcome email series continue to be an effective strategy. We also use lead magnets in the form of a short quiz to collect subscribers. Ultimately, it comes down to offering users timely, tailored and useful content.”

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Here, Roberta talks about the importance of recovering otherwise lost sales with an abandoned cart automation. 

When two customers abandon their cart for every customer who completes the checkout process, not having abandoned cart emails set up is only costing you money. This is made worse when they’re incredibly quick and easy to set up. 

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Generating leads and being authentic in your email marketing are two challenges Roberta says a lot of merchants are unsure of how to address. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation with lead generation, you might want to check out our list of ways to capture email addresses of your website visitors. As making the most of website traffic is one of the most popular ways to grow email lists and generate leads.

Authenticity is something you should always keep in mind when creating your campaigns. It can be tempting to get a sales sugar hit with a simple discount code, but building a loyal customer base is the more profitable long-term strategy.

Danavir Sarria

Danavir Sarria

Founder of Drop Mogul, Danavir helps ecommerce brands drive sales with email marketing.  

Top email trend for 2023

Earlier Giles Thomas from Whole Design Studios nominated plain text emails as the strategy he saw the most success in 2022. It’s clear that Danavir also sees the power of plain text as it’s his top trend for 2023. 

“A lot of brands are realizing that emails don’t always have to be highly produced to drive tons of revenue. In fact, plain text emails can perform even better.”

Most effective email strategies

One strategy Danavir has found particularly effective is using minimum spend discounts to boost average order value (AOV). 

“Our favorite promotion is to pick a product and allow customers to get 15% off if they order $X+ of our products. We also make it so they can get 15% off any other SKU they want, as long as they achieve the AOV we set for them.”

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

Danavir breaks down what percentages you should be aiming for into two categories: smaller consumer-packed goods (products that customers consume regularly such as food and cleaning products), and larger hard goods (such as furniture). 

For consumer-packed goods, Danavir says you should be aiming for between 20-30%, while between 15-20% is doing well for larger hard goods.

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

One thing Danavir reckons many brands can improve on gain more value out of customers who visit your online store but don’t convert. That is, setting up browse abandonment automations.

“Every brand needs to have product-specific browse abandonment flows to convert low-intent subscribers into paying customers. It’s not uncommon for browse abandonment to drive the most revenue from any abandonment flows.”

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Execution of ideas. In Danavir’s own words:

“Most merchants have great ideas about how to grow their business, but they can’t do it themselves.”

When you’re running your ecommerce store, you’ve got plenty of different tasks and responsibilities to juggle. 

If you find yourself unsure of how to set up and implement an email marketing strategy for your store, consider booking a free consultation call with SmartrMail. Our easy-to-use email and SMS app has helped thousands of merchants achieve more sales. 

Juliana Weiss-Roessler

Juliana Weiss-Roessler

Juliana is the Founder and Managing Director of WR Digital Marketing, a women-run agency that helps women-run businesses. 

Top email trend for 2023

More of a tip than a trend, Juliana wants business owners to consider email’s incredible resilience as a marketing channel and what you can learn from this and apply it to your marketing.

“Email marketing has never been very trendy. But it’s much more reliable in producing results than many other digital marketing strategies, including social media. In 2023, we hope to continue promoting the message that it isn’t worth chasing trends. Instead, you should look at what works for your specific business.”

Most effective email strategies

Segmentation, but Juliana realizes that proper segmentation can be challenging for small businesses to effectively implement. 

So she has a few tips for small business owners to still reap the benefits of segmentation, without having to invest unfeasible amounts of time and resources in setting it up:

“Instead of trying to produce multiple unique email campaigns, you can often produce content that is relevant to your customers. Then you can tweak the way you introduce that content and alter the call-to-action in the email to specifically speak to each audience. This can make segmentation more manageable for a small business and can help them to stay consistent with their email strategy.” 

Ideally, what percentage of sales should email be generating?

Falling in the middle of suggested percentages from experts we reached out to, Juliana says you should ideally be aiming for 25-35% of your sales to be email-driven. 

What are some all-too-often overlooked email automations?

Here’s an email automation that’s even been overlooked in this article so far: Replenishment emails

Replenishment (or refill) emails are a type of post-purchase automation that simply reminds customers when it’s time to reorder a consumable product they previously purchased. And they’re one that Juliana says that merchants often don’t implement despite their effectiveness. 

An example of a replenishment email

What are some challenges with email that merchants commonly face?

Again mentioning the strength of email, Juliana says one of the most common mistakes she sees merchants make is “not taking email marketing seriously enough and instead focusing on social media, which typically has a lower ROI and takes a greater investment of time and resources to produce results.”

Wrapping up

There you have it–expert insights into email marketing in 2023. 

Email has come a long way since its inception in the 70s and as you’ll now appreciate, it remains a dynamic and evolving area. That’s partly why it still generates the best return among all digital marketing channels. 

Armed with the knowledge of what the major upcoming trends and strategies are in 2023, you’re well on your way to achieving new goals with your email marketing campaigns. 

If you think we’ve missed any noteworthy trends or strategies, feel free to mention them in the comments below! 

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