It’s been a strange year for digital marketing. Between the upgrade to GA4 and the wider implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, marketers had to remain agile in 2023! Nowhere is this more evident than in the mysterious and often confusing world of email marketing.
Litmus has brought back its “State of Email” report to help email marketers get a sense of the lay of the land after all the upheaval. Instead of a single report at the end of the year, the team decided to divide it into four parts and publish them periodically. Here’s a recap of the first three releases below.
Want to skip the summary and go straight to the data? Download the full Email Workflow Status Report!
How does an email go from an idea to generating feedback? Litmus surveyed around 440 of our closest email friends to find out. Most of those interviewed were marketing professionals, often working at the intersection of design, development, content and strategy. Let’s start with the workload.
How many emails should a marketer receive?
It’s rare for a marketing team to only have one email in production at a time. Of those surveyed, nearly 30% work on three to five emails at a time. When you take into account personalization, you typically have two to three versions of each email. This means your email team can work on up to 15 emails simultaneously. That’s a lot of emails.
How do leading email marketers keep up with the relentless pace of email workflow? Nearly 40% of users said they were working from a previous email, replacing text and images. However, 42% of respondents would prefer to use a standard component library. That’s a lot of email marketers using a method they’d rather not use!
Where is the disconnect? With up to 15 unique emails in production simultaneously, it suddenly becomes clear why teams are operating in ways they consider suboptimal.
What is your priority?
Looking ahead, what are email marketers most concerned about? The first three answers may sound a little familiar:
- Develop personalization
- Implement more automations
- Improve deliverability
You want to know more ? Download our full Email Design Status Report to get all the facts.
The second part of the State of Email report focuses on email design process. It received 1,224 responses, the highest participation rate so far. As with the previous survey, the largest portion of respondents are responsible for a mix of email tasks, including design, development, and strategy.
We design, therefore we are
The most common email design philosophy among email marketers was responsive, adaptive or hybrid design-fingers in the nose. This isn’t surprising since most industries have a fairly even split when it comes to contacts checking email on a mobile device or desktop. It’s safer to design emails optimized for both.
Speaking of optimization, what is the priority for email designers? According to those surveyed, personalized and interactive content are the two main goals.
Dark mode and accessibility
That’s why it was surprising to learn that 33% of respondents weren’t coding specifically for dark mode. Even more surprising, 23% say they lighten all emails, even in dark mode. In total, more than half of marketers surveyed are unaware of dark mode.
The bright side (pun intended) is that more and more email marketers are designing messages with accessibility in mind. About half of those surveyed said they consider accessibility as it relates to font or text, design and code. In total, only 17% of respondents said they don’t consider accessibility at all.
What’s in your toolbox?
When it comes to design, Adobe products rank in the top three spots for most used tools.
- Photoshop is used by 58% of those surveyed, easily taking first place.
- Illustrator comes in a respectable second place with 37% of users.
- InDesign completes the top three with 31%.
The survey also asked where marketers code their emails.
- Adobe Dreamweaver was the top choice, with 29% of respondents.
- The text editor is used by 26% of respondents.
- And finally, 25% of marketers say they use the code editor in their ESP.
Let’s get personal
Email ppersonalization is no longer a gimmicky trend in the industry – it’s a proven method for increasing conversions and sending more relevant content. This is absolutely necessary for the email marketer at this stage.
Of those surveyed, 62% of marketers use dynamic content to personalize their emails. Most importantly, they see improvements with these most commonly used custom elements:
- Sender’s name
- Subject line
- Shipping time
Conversely, images, headers, footers, and video content are the least personalized elements.
What data do marketers use to personalize?
- 68% of email marketers use name, company name, or other profile information.
- The customer segment (i.e. current or prospective customer) comes in second with 54%.
- Past interactions come third at 44%.
The topic of the moment – AI
Without a doubt, the topic of the day for marketers of all stripes is Artificial Intelligence (AI). For our second survey, respondents were asked if they were using AI and, if so, how.
- 38.9% of respondents said they use AI.
- 17.57% said they use it primarily for brainstorming.
- About half of the group above uses ChatGPT.
- 25% of respondents said they are not currently using AI but are considering doing so.
- A third of those surveyed said they don’t use it and don’t plan to.
You want to know more ? Download the full State of ESP report to get all the facts.
For the third and most recent iteration of the survey, Litmus took a closer look at email service providers (ESPs). On its best day, a good ESP works in the background, providing reliable service and reliable data to our teams. On your worst days, your ESP may make you reconsider your choice of job field.
So let’s move on to the pros and cons of ESPs.
This time, a total of 758 users contributed to the survey, representing all mandates and positions. Unlike our previous surveys, the highest percentage of users were email strategists and operations managers.
Which ESP reigns supreme?
Are you looking for a new ESP? Wondering if the grass is greener with another provider? The top three picks of this year’s survey participants are familiar faces…
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud was by far the most used ESP, with 27% of our sample using it.
- MailChimp comes in second place with 19% of respondents.
- Hubspot follows behind with 13% of our sample size.
Salesforce also tops the list of satisfied customers:
- 69% of Salesforce users said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the product.
- Hubspot has 61% of its users saying they are very or somewhat satisfied.
- Marketo landed third place, with 56% of the sample size giving good marks.
Does the grass Really greener on the other side? The jury remains open on this one!
Many marketers agree that a martech stack is only as good as its integrations. If you constantly have to transfer data from one system to another, especially manually, your mileage may vary…dramatically.
According to the data, the majority of users, 40%, rate their ESP as well integrated with their other marketing channels. Only 30% say their ESP is strongly or very strongly integrated.
Personalization and AI, part two
Personalization (and, by extension, AI) tops the list of all features introduced in the past year.
When respondents were asked what features they regularly included in their emails, they answered:
- 71% personalize the subject line
- 63.7% personalize using dynamic content
- 56% use animated GIFs or PNGs
Among those who use personalization, the majority of respondents said their ESP handles it very well or well. The same can be said about how our audience ESPs handle AI-generated content. About 72% of users said their ESP works well or very well with this type of content.
So what does all this data tell us?
First, the email geek community is small but mighty! Marketers face similar obstacles, headaches and triumphs. Whether you’re part of a larger operation or wearing all the hats, you’re not alone.
Second, personalization is here to stay, and it looks like AI might be too. If you’re not using these tools to improve your ROI, you might be missing out.
Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there are tools to help you. Sunflower is an all-in-one marketing platform that helps you get the most out of every send.