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iStock 1169192820
iStock 1169192820

A means to a trend

Guy Hanson, VP, Customer Engagement (International), Validity 

Guy Hanson, VP, Customer Engagement (International), Validity

2021 has undoubtedly been an unpredictable and turbulent time for marketers. A year that began with the UK in its third national lockdown, only for all restrictions to be lifted in the summer, is ending once again on an uncertain note. The ongoing pandemic has introduced a host of challenges and opportunities for brands and their marketing teams, who have needed to respond to a number of significant regulatory changes in 2021. As we approach the end of another year, it is time to address some of most notable industry developments, and predictions for 2022 and beyond.  

An overview of 2021

2021 marked 50 years of email, which is a milestone for industry professionals. Inevitably, the communication platform has significantly grown since the first message was sent, with the number of global email users set to grow to 4.6 billion users in 20251.In fact, according to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 20212, email remains the most relied upon channel for brands across the customer journey, with email ROI calculated at 38:1. This research demonstrates that the email channel is preferred by both brands and consumers alike for marketing messaging, with budgets set to increase.

One of the most significant announcements of the year was the launch of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in June. This process would see email marketers restricted in marketing practices such as their ability to track open rates, identify device and location, and use live content. While Apple’s move is commendable, it is going to make email marketer’s lives harder because tracking pixels will fire irrespective of whether Apple Mail users have opened these emails or not. This degraded open signal means this metric has reduced value to marketers, aside from providing a broad indicator the emails were accepted for delivery. Although it was implemented in 2021, the full impact of MPP is yet to be felt and will become clearer in the coming years.

Looking ahead to 2022

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In 2022, it is expected that email senders will become more intentional about utilising key metrics such as clicks and conversions to replace degraded open rate metrics, while focusing on acquisition tactics that deliver new subscribers who are more engaged from the outset. Additionally, it is likely that they will be more explicit with their targeting, and more intentional about using personal data that has been explicitly provided to them, rather than inferred from customer’s behaviour. 

Going forward, GDPR fines will start to bite as regulators continue to toughen upon enforcement. A DLA Piper report found that GDPR fines increased by 40 percent between 2019 and 20203, with year-over-year double digit growth in both the aggregate value of fines issued and the number of personal data breaches reported in this period. Regulators such as the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are showing signs of moving towards tougher enforcement, meaning 2022 has the potential to be a bumper year for fines, particularly as less clear-cut alleged breaches of the regulation are tested in court. 

As the UK government has confirmed it intends to consult on plans to overhaul privacy rules post- Brexit, any divergence from GDPR may have a negative impact on privacy standards and marketing performance. A number of marketing teams have reported big improvements in KPIs, ROI and consumer trust since the regulation was brought into effect in May 2018, so it will be interesting to see whether new regulations can deliver the same benefits for businesses, especially if they are more relaxed.  

Throughout recent years, many organisations have battled with rapid changes in consumer habits and a need to stand out against competitors. There is no denying that consumers are becoming increasingly aware and cautious about how their data is used, with high profile cases such as the Cambridge Analytic a scandal bringing the topic to the front pages. Additionally, email and text scams are regularly in the news and data is no longer a background topic. These factors will result in providers needing to adapt and update their language, to help consumers feel safe in the knowledge that their data is safe. This should be best practice but will start to become more explicit rather than just buried in privacy policies terms and conditions. 

As we approach the end of yet another unpredictable year, it will be interesting to see how brands continue to adapt to new regulations and processes and engage with their customers.2021 has taught many organisations a great deal about email marketing and data management, and while there is no definitive answer as to what is in store, 2022 has all the makings of being another year of exponential growth for marketers within almost every industry.

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