As local marketers begin putting together their strategies for the coming year, one thing is clear: Acquisition is out, and awareness is in. That’s according to the results of a new survey released just this morning by the email marketing firm Campaigner.

In a survey of more than 500 email marketers, Campaigner found that the top email marketing challenge in 2016 was increasing open rates, followed by creating compelling content and earning new subscribers. Although attracting new customers ranked as the number one marketing goal for marketers in the survey, a shift toward other marketing strategies is currently taking place. Nine percent fewer marketers selected customer acquisition as a top goal for 2017 compared to 2016, while goals like increasing brand awareness and brand loyalty quickly moved up the charts.

It’s something worth watching for those in the industry, particularly because marketers rely on their ability to measure results—whether through conversions or ROI — to validate the latest trends and technologies.

Although building a customer base will always be important for local marketers, many of the tools they’ve been given to help achieve that goal — like ‘Buy Now’ buttons—have been seen as ineffective. According to Campaigner’s survey, 72% of marketers say they haven’t seen any sales as a direct result of ‘Buy Now’ buttons on social media, and 25% fewer marketers are using them today compared to this time last year.

“Just because something is new to the space, it doesn’t always mean it is going to be a game changer. Emojis and ‘Buy Now’ buttons were new innovations that initially gained some traction and buzz in the marketplace, but as people started to measure results, they were finding that after an initial spike of enthusiasm, the market started to respond in a negative way,” says EJ McGowan, general manager at Campaigner.

As ‘Buy Now’ buttons decrease in relevance, McGowan says they’re being replaced with options, selections, and manipulation of data to make the experience within email closer to a website experience.

“If marketers can eliminate the step of forcing consumers to go from the email to the website to complete a purchase or transaction, they will improve their conversion rates,” he says.

Campaigner’s survey also highlights some of the struggles that local marketers have seen with email this year, as they work harder than ever to increase sagging open rates and click-through rates. More than half (50.8%) of marketers listed increasing open rates as one of their top email marketing challenges in 2016, and 37% more marketers listed maintaining click-through rates as a top challenge this year compared to last year.

In an effort to squeeze every drop out of their campaigns, Campaigner’s survey found that many marketers are using emojis in their subject lines. Eighty-nine percent of those using emojis saw an increase in open rates as a result. Marketers say they’re planning to use more personalization, video, and quizzes in their email in 2017, and 14% plan to use geo-location to improve their campaigns.

Personalization, in particular, is expected to grow in the coming year, as marketers pull out all the stops to make sure their messages get read. Offers based on demographic information, like age and sex, and offers based on purchase behavior were most successful in 2016.

“Personalization is going to move from ‘Dear [First.Name],’ to dynamic content about things that really matter to the reader,” McGowan says. “The content will not just be personalized in a way that shows that the reader has made a prior purchase but is informed about what he or she purchased, when, other items he or she might be interested in, etc.”

Expect to also see more search marketing (pay per click), online advertising, and SEO in the coming year, as these three strategies were all ranked highly, based on effectiveness, in Campaigner’s survey.

“Professional marketers will continue to see email as a cornerstone of their marketing programs,” McGowan says. “They will need a strong email service provider to meet their needs and many of these ESP’s will start to offer features that help them move toward marketing automation without having to add a third party service or change providers.”
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