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3 must-know email tips for retailers in 2016

Retailers are often on the cutting-edge of email marketing, sending some of the best, most creative campaigns out there. And they have to be – the battle for our attention in the inbox has never been more competitive. So we caught up with our own retail expert, Retail Account Manager Blake Area, to see what retailers can do to gain an edge in 2016.

1) Evolution beyond promotions.

In 2016, a brand’s email marketing will have to evolve beyond being simply a promotion delivery method. There are only so many ways to say "20% OFF! Buy Now!” Nearly every organization understands the value of email marketing, have built a strong list of subscribers, and are sending effective emails regularly. As email marketing becomes even more ubiquitous across all the brands in a consumer’s life, providing real value in the inbox is going to become more important that it already is.

Women's retail brand Loft sent out this email with New Year's horoscopes – and absolutely no sales promos!

2) Content will be king.

The best brands will differentiate themselves by building an experience in the inbox that customers look forward to. This experience can come in a lot forms - beautiful photography and graphic design, custom content and/or third-party content curated from around the web, interesting social posts from the brand and its ambassadors, the story around the social causes they support, etc.

The line between publishing content and selling products is blurring. Huckberry is a great example of a brand doing this well. They've built their entire business from a curated email newsletter (the return of the newsletter!) that targets a very tangible demographic (the modern urban outdoors-y guy). Sure, their email includes a lot of products and associated promotions, but the differentiator is the editorial product commentary and the content at the bottom of every email - which includes their latest blog post, a few great articles from around the web, and an inspiring outdoors photo with corresponding Instagram handle. 

Huckberry's welcome email is full of great content and links to their social pages.

3) Smart automation should finally become commonplace.

Along with great design and content, a hallmark of a great email program is automated, hyper-personalized email based on a users' engagement with the brand. When it’s done right, it feels more like customer service than marketing. This is where data and web-tracking will reign supreme. Brands who want to make this leap will need to make strategic investments in their data platforms and integrations in 2016. This “triggered real-time automation" goal has received lip-service from most brands for a few years now, but I think 2016 is when we'll start to see it actually come to reality in our inboxes.

Automated transactional emails – like this one from Warby Parker – perform exceptionally well.

Any ideas for what we can expect from retail brands in 2016? Let us know in the comments!