2021 Trends and Best Practices Email Marketing

Email Marketing
22nd, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Email Marketing
22nd, 2021
Keyhole - Digital Marketing Agency - Joe Dudeck
Joe Dudeck
President + Founder
Categories: Email Marketing
best email marketing practices in 2021

This is the third of a 3-part blog series in which we explore best email marketing practices in 2021, including interactive experiences, automation, and user-generated content. Be sure to check out our other blogs on social media and search engine optimization.

. . .

We’ve spent the last several weeks focused on new trends in 2021 and best practices to prepare your business for success in the new decade. This week, we will wrap up our series by turning our attention to 2021 best email marketing practices and trends.

This is the year to make sure you understand where email marketing is moving and anticipate what you need to do to future-proof your digital marketing strategy. How will business win in this ever evolving email landscape? What about your prospects, customers, leads, subscribers and their behavior?

Thankfully you’re not alone. Here are some best email marketing practices and useful suggestions to give you a leg-up on the competition.

Human-Centric Emails

If there’s something most of the experts agreed on, it’s how this past year forced us to focus more on integrating empathy and building human connections. The pandemic has impacted all of us and has altered the way we communicate and interact with each other, and also with brands.

For brands, this massive shift in relationships means that they have had to adapt their messaging, channels, and timeliness of their messages. Long gone are the days in which marketing emails would just be a collection of sales pitches and overly promotional copy. Now, email marketing must play a role in building a consistent experience that focuses on positive and uplifting content.

Best Email Marketing Practices Tip #1

Brands must embrace empathy as their way to better understand and relate to customers. Empathy is an attitude you can’t fake – it only works when it’s authentic. You’ll need to understand and care about your users’ feelings, and make those feelings the integral element in any marketing communications you send them. And yes, it might mean foregoing the productized list you were planning to send this month. Provide users with relevant content to your brand that isn’t so business-y. Keep it lighter and keep it human.

Customer Experience and Journeys

Customer experience and customer journeys are now widely recognized as a key part of the overall digital marketing tactics for 2021 and beyond. Hubspot defines customer experience as “the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey. It results in their view of your brand and impacts factors related to your bottom line including revenue.”

In 2021, seamless user journeys must be combined with the kind of experience a consumer would expect face-to-face. Just like website visitors, email users expect to be treated like a valued contact from the start.

COVID-19 certainly accelerated the need for digital experiences that put the customer’s needs at the heart of strategy. Driven by the spread of the coronavirus, digital demand also soared throughout 2021. This, in turn, led to a massive surge in digital adoption according to research by McKinsey carried out just a couple of months into the pandemic: “…recent data show that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.”

Best Email Marketing Practices Tip #2

The basic principle of customer experience marketing is very simple. If you put your customer and their needs first, then they will reward you with being loyal. Your messaging should be helpful, customer-centric, and personalized.

It’s about considering them and their needs and doing what is necessary to make their journey as seamless as possible – not just in removing barriers, but also through your brand’s tone of voice, your messaging and the helpful events you send to them.

Interactive Experiences

Interactivity drives engagement. 2021 will potentially be marked as a year where more emails are opened on a mobile device than a desktop. Given that two-thirds of mobile users will delete an email if it’s not optimized, taking a responsive approach is the best way to stay current. Back in the early days of email marketing, interactivity was designed to entertain the recipient. In 2021 and beyond, it will be used more functionally to promote engagement and drive action.

The installation of interactive elements is important, but embedding them directly within the email will ensure readers stay where they are, take action and learn without needing to navigate to multiple external pages.

A great example is a newsletter from Litmus, where the interactive hero area is used to make the customer experience more enjoyable and unforgettable. Here subscribers have an opportunity to switch between two modes and see for themselves how dark mode and light mode may change the reading experience. Although this is just one interactive detail, it makes a huge difference.

Best Email Marketing Practices Tip #3

This action is two-fold. For one, ensure your email distribution service is optimized for responsive design on multiple devices. If this is not a feature that exists for you, consider investing in a distribution service that can adapt to multiple devices that your recipients are using. Some other simple features to include in emails to make them more interactive include the following:

  • Animated buttons and calls-to-actions
  • Rollover effects to showcase product offerings
  • Interactive image and product carousels controlled by the user
  • Accordion features designed to make long-form emails more compact
  • Surveys, polls and short answer responses
send human centric emails


Personalized email marketing requires a tremendous amount of work. It’s labor-intensive: you need to analyze the statistics, do thorough segmentation, find the best timing, stick to perfect frequency, and create hyper-personalized content. The bigger the subscription list you have, the more challenging it will be to achieve the best result. It’s here where automation stands tall.

According to Epsilon, automated emails enjoy 119% higher click rates than broadcast emails. All the transactional emails like Welcome emails, abandoned cart emails, onboarding emails, birthday emails, etc., are sent automatically. It shouldn’t stop there though. Automation should be holistically integrated throughout the customer journey to give the user a sense of control. It helps to bring value that generates leads.

Best Email Marketing Practices Tip #4

Automation takes some planning and the right technology to carry it out. It helps to first choose a CRM system to know what is happening along sales pipelines. You’ll want to then master analytics tools available in your Email Service Provider and then make a plan and follow it not to miss a thing. Finally, delegate email designing to professional HTML email template generators like Postcards. It is a time-saving and cost-effective solution that will help to build modern, fully responsive, and accessible email newsletters within minutes. If you are not planning to add full-time email staff this year, then it’s what you need.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content is defined as any form of content created by the product’s end-user. According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising, because brands don’t buy it. It’s unbiased and created by users because they like the offerings of a business. As a result, user-generated content is perceived as more authentic and honest. Incentivizing and motivating your end-user to contribute content via email marketing promotes authenticity and improves conversion. Content is not simply about consumption anymore, it’s all about conversation.

You may have already seen companies implementing this tactic through elements like feedback modules (thumbs up or down), simple questions/surveys, and gamification. E-commerce leader 3dcart says that 82% of consumers consider user-generated reviews extremely valuable with 70% of all consumers looking to reviews or ratings before making a purchasing decision.

Best Email Marketing Practices Tip #5

Understanding the “why” is important for consumers. While many companies gather user-generated content behind the power of the brand’s market value, many organizations use embedded interactivity (mentioned above) and feedback. Implementing interactive elements is a first step, but giving users the possibility of submitting their thoughts via video submissions, text submissions, or tags within social media campaigns is an excellent way to begin collecting genuine user-generated content. Leverage those passionate brand/company ambassadors to share real-life experiences and feedback with interested prospects.

How to Build and Maintain Your Email Marketing List
Follow along as we dig into the basics of growing your email list and maintaining an engaged subscriber base.

Email is not going away anytime soon. Marketo estimates that checking email is the main activity on the internet with 94% of users getting online for this reason alone. Email marketing’s power is rooted in its ability to break through cultural, generation, and class barriers. While Facebook’s Sandberg famously announced the end of email back in 2010, she clearly spoke too soon. Email has remained a mainstay in day-to-day interactions and is a popular way to receive content and information in formats that make sense to users. Email may not seem like the snazziest innovation anymore, but the possibilities for how it’s used are endless.

If you have questions about how you can better optimize your marketing around these 2021 email trends and best practices, please contact us today!

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