the-journey-and-evolution-of-email-marketing
03 July

The journey and evolution of email marketing: Webinar recap with Kath Pay and Dmytro Kudrenko

Alina Samulska-Kholina
Alina Samulska-Kholina Copywriter at Stripo
Table of contents
  1. Email marketing career: From web design to becoming a key figure in the email marketing field
  2. The contribution of women to email marketing
  3. The future of email marketing
  4. Email marketing personalization
  5. What metrics should email marketers focus on?
  6. How to use the holistic approach to email marketing
  7. Wrapping up
1.
Email marketing career: From web design to becoming a key figure in the email marketing field

Do you want to know how to become an influential email marketer, how women have gained their place in the industry, how personalization works in emails, and whether we should trust the metrics that we’re accustomed to in email marketing?

Stripo holds meetings with influencers in the email marketing industry to discuss significant points in developing this marketing channel. Kath Pay, a renowned author and the visionary behind Holistic Email Marketing, and Dmytro Kudrenko, founder and CEO of Stripo, shared their views on these issues during a recent webinar.

Interview Expert

Kath Pay
Kath Pay
International Bestselling Author, Award Winner, Keynote Speaker & CEO at Holistic Email Marketing

Watch the full version of the webinar on Stripo’s YouTube channel and/or read this recap:

The journey and evolution of email marketing

Email marketing career: From web design to becoming a key figure in the email marketing field

Kath Pay's journey into email marketing began serendipitously. In 1996, while running her design agency, a client expressed interest in trying a new thing — email marketing. Kath and her chief programmer developed an email marketing program, or ESP. This initial project quickly expanded, transitioning her from web design to email marketing.

With over 25 years in the industry, Kath has been captivated by email marketing's dynamic and evolving nature. As the original push channel, email resonates with audiences through its one-on-one conversational feel. Despite claims that email is outdated, Kath views it as highly innovative, especially with advancements in personalization and the integration of generative AI.

Email remains beloved by consumers, even after the spammer era muddied the waters for  legitimate marketers, as people still appreciate receiving offers, purchase confirmations, and insights via email.

Every year, somebody predicts email marketing death because teenagers don't use it, but as they grow older and enter the workforce, email becomes a part of their daily routine.

Kath Pay

Kath Pay,

CEO at Holistic Email Marketing.

Throughout her career, Kath has believed that the key to her longevity in the field is understanding marketers and consumers, and focusing on delivering value to brands. This requires a deep understanding of consumer psychology and persuasion.

At Holistic, Kath emphasizes helping marketers, brands, and consumers. Educating marketers excites her because it enables them to achieve better results for their companies and their customers. In a recent article, Kath highlighted essential qualities for email marketers, such as devotion, patience, and curiosity. These traits have helped her excel and support others in the industry.

We all start in different places — I began as a designer, then became a technology provider, and later delved into human behavior. It's about being well-rounded.

Kath Pay

Kath Pay,

CEO at Holistic Email Marketing.

The contribution of women to email marketing

Kath jumped on the Women of Email movement as soon as it started. She was at a conference where the idea was inspired and noticed a heavy male-to-female ratio among speakers. Back then, there were only a handful of women like Jeanne Jennings, Karen Talavera, Stephanie Miller, and Kath Pay. They've been called trailblazers.

The Women of Email initiative is a safe space where women can support each other.

It wasn't easy in the early days — I had to fund myself and could only speak if my insights were valuable. It was a male-dominated world, but the support from fantastic men in the industry has grown significantly.

Kath Pay

Kath Pay,

CEO at Holistic Email Marketing.

In the past, being a woman in a male-dominated field made you feel more insignificant.

Let me share a story from my web designer days to illustrate how challenging it was. I used to take my programmer, who wasn't business-oriented and never wore a suit, and dress him up for meetings. During these meetings, despite me answering all the questions, the big brands would always direct their questions to him. This was the norm back then, and I understand how challenging it can be.

Kath Pay

Kath Pay,

CEO at Holistic Email Marketing.

The Women of Email allows women to ask questions without embarrassment and provides support. It's heartening to see women helping each other and receiving their first speaking opportunities. However, this isn't just for women. I've helped about 30 people, including men, get their first speaking gigs.

They offer a supportive space where people can make friends and know they have each other's backs.

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The future of email marketing

Kath Pay sheds light on this channel's ever-changing landscape. Every few years, a new "email killer" is proclaimed, from ICQ to social networks, and now rich communication services (RCS), which are expected to replace SMS and email. However, email has withstood these challenges and remains a cornerstone of digital marketing.

Email's enduring success can be attributed to its unique ownership model:

  1. Unlike other channels, you own your email list and can export your data anytime.
  2. There are no third-party rule changes aimed at increasing revenue at your expense.
  3. This freedom and stringent regulations ensure that email remains a reliable and trustworthy medium.

The evolution of email marketing is driven by consumer needs and technological advancements, not by arbitrary decisions from platform owners.

Consumer surveys play a crucial role in shaping email marketing strategies. Understanding consumer expectations helps marketers keep email relevant and valuable. If consumers stopped using email, the channel would disappear; therefore, adapting to consumer preferences and leveraging new technologies, such as AMP, for email and annotations in the Gmail promo tab are essential.

Email marketing personalization

As consumers grow accustomed to personalized, one-on-one emails, their expectations rise. Personalized emails are currently a "nice to have" feature, depending on budget and technology. Personalization will become a necessity. The understanding of personalization has evolved from basic name usage to sophisticated dynamic content and behavior-based triggers. Leveraging data to deliver highly personalized experiences is now the norm.

Personalization today means delivering the right content at the right time based on individual preferences and behaviors. This requires a deep understanding of data and advanced technology. Moving forward, AI and machine learning will drive personalization further, making email marketing more effective and relevant for consumers.

Email was the first channel to really get some hands-on experience with personalization. Back then, it was all about targeting via personas, segmentation, and using dynamic content within emails. AI was just starting to emerge in this space. 

Dynamic content and segmentation were game-changers. First came segmentation, then  innovators among the ESPs thought, "Hey, we can make this easier!" So, they introduced dynamic content. Every year, trends would predict the rise of dynamic content and personalization, but the real challenge was getting businesses into a position to deliver these effectively.

It's not just a science; it's also an art. You need solid, accurate data to avoid sending the wrong message, but you also have to balance it. Too much personalization can be creepy. It’s about showing the consumer you understand them without making it seem like you know every little detail about their lives.

Kath Pay

Kath Pay,

CEO at Holistic Email Marketing.

AI can be fantastic, but should be managed by marketers, not just tech companies. It's up to us to test and find out what resonates best with our audience using the tech available, even if it's just basic segmentation.

For personalization, look at your one-on-one life cycle programs. These automated programs respond to consumer actions (or inactions) and often deliver the highest ROI, even if they reach smaller volumes. This proves that audiences want personalization. These emails, personalized by product or understanding customer loyalty, yield high open rates, click rates, conversion rates, and revenue. This demonstrates that consumers appreciate being treated like real humans.

Email marketing should enhance the customer journey, not just achieve personalization. This is akin to a helpful in-store experience in which a salesperson recognizes and assists a returning customer based on their preferences.

Personalization is a strategy or tactic, not the end goal. The objective is to enhance the customer's experience to make them feel valued and understood. This can be done in many ways, not just through advanced personalization engines.

In the programming world, we prioritize individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Similarly, we should use personalization meaningfully. Just because we can personalize doesn't mean we always should. It's about delivering the right experience, sometimes using overt or covert personalization.

Considering email marketing’s evolution, these changes can be foreseen in the next five years:

  • email marketing is going to continue evolving with the consumer's expectations;
  • personalization will get more sophisticated, but it needs to be used thoughtfully; 
  • consumers want emails that are relevant and add value to their lives;
  • the most significant change will be the integration of AI and machine learning, making it easier to deliver personalized experiences at scale.

What metrics should email marketers focus on?

Metrics always have been a tricky part of email marketing. Historically, we focused on open rates and click rates, but we need to progress. Conversions, including downloads and sales, should be the primary success metrics, as they align with our objectives. Opens and clicks can serve as benchmarks or proxies, but ultimately, the goal is to understand and measure conversions.

Subject lines should be tested on conversion rates, not just open rates. Conduct a litmus test: Compare the top 10 campaigns based on open rates, click rates, and conversion rates over the past six months. You'll likely find that the highest open rates don't correlate with the highest conversions.

How to use the holistic approach to email marketing

Email marketing doesn't exist in a vacuum. Working with your web team and other colleagues is crucial to providing a seamless experience.

For example, the web team often controls the sign-up form on your website. We need to collaborate to ensure that the whole customer journey is optimized. Email marketers must work with web teams to provide a seamless experience from email to website.

There are three points of conversion:

  • getting subscribers to open the email (subject line and from the name);
  • getting them to click (body content);
  • getting them to convert on the site.

Teaming up with other colleagues ensures a holistic experience and successful conversions across all points.

The holistic approach emerged from the need to integrate various marketing channels. Instead of focusing solely on how to make channels work for the brand, marketers should focus on enhancing the customer journey. Marketers can create a more effective and consumer-centric strategy by starting with the consumer and considering their experience across different channels.

For example, you might have a hot pink and bright yellow email template, but if the landing page is gray and blue, the inconsistency will be jarring. Ensuring visual and contextual alignment between emails and landing pages is crucial.

Marketing is never a solo endeavor; it requires teamwork — including lead generation, sales, and support — to establish real connections. This holistic methodology emerged from discussions about omnichannel and multichannel marketing. 

Back then, the focus was on making different channels work for the brand; however, we often overlook the consumer. If we start with the consumer in mind, aiming to enhance their journey using various channels, our focus shifts. It’s no longer just about the channel, but also about what works best for the consumer. This is the essence of the holistic approach.

Wrapping up

We’d like to thank Kath Pay for the insightful discussion on this webinar, which provides almost an hour of valuable insights that will help you navigate current email marketing trends and get ideas on how to use them for your project or business.

For an email marketer, it’s critical not only to know about a trend, but also to be able to use it in practice, keeping in mind the business's goals and results at every step. So, pay attention to the examples and cautions that Kath presented during this webinar.

The next webinar with Kath Pay is about actionable AI-driven strategies, effective management practices for email marketing successes, and inspiration from Kath's pioneering journey in holistic email marketing.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel and stay tuned for more experts on our webinars to stay on the cutting edge of email marketing.

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