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Personalisation and automation are key for email marketers, with AI yet to rise up priority list: study

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Improving personalisation is the top priority for email marketers, closely followed by better segmentation and by improved cross-channel data insights as industry professionals work to ensure that emails are relevant at scale to their audience, new research suggests.  

More than two-thirds (68%) of company marketers, responding to the 12th annual Adestra/Econsultancy Email Marketing Industry Census said that better personalisation was a priority for them in the coming year. As yet, only 13% said they could carry out email marketing campaigns at scale based on individual preferences and customer behaviour – two percentage points higher than in 2017. Most (61%) said they either had yet to start work on personalisation or were early to it. More than three in 10, both clients and agencies, said they were held back by lack of resources and time. Integrating data was a key pain point.

Sixty per cent said they’d like to improve their segmentation while 55% said they’d like better cross-channel data insights in order to see the bigger picture, with 49% saying they’d like to improve their use of marketing automation – down from 54% a year earlier.

But artificial intelligence, analysed for the first time in this year’s report, is still far from being a priority for this group. The study found that 17% of company respondents and 21% of agencies plan innovation with AI in 2018. But in five years time, predicts the study, AI will be the single biggest change to email marketing. 

Almost three quarters (74%) of respondents said that email was still their most effective channel, rating it as either ’excellent’ or ’good’ and putting it ahead of SEO, paid search content marketing and others. But while seven in 10 said they optimised their emails for mobile, only 2% said they were ’very advanced’ at doing so. That’s lower than in previous years and, suggested the study, showed how difficult it was to keep up with the mobile consumer.

More than three quarters of companies (77%) said, in research carried out soon before the GDPR regulations were introduced, that they would be compliant – but that fell to 66% among agencies.

Adestra chief executive Henry Hyder-Smith said: “Intelligent use of the right marketing technology, a sensitive awareness of client needs and a laser-focus on the correct metrics will all play a role in helping brands stand out as truly first-person marketers.”

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