A review of 2021 and a strategic view on 2022 with CleverReach CEO Sebastian Strzelecki.
The second year of the Covid pandemic has come to a close. We’re still stuck with it, but have learned how to live with it. What impact did it have on marketing and, more importantly, how did it affect CleverReach?
Sebastian: The over-proportional intensity from the first pandemic year has leveled off to a high standard in the second year. Marketing activities, especially in email marketing, have become much more professional in quality and mailing frequency. Beginners have started to use technologies and features formerly used by advanced users only.
At CleverReach we noticed that customer inquiries have become much more demanding than in the past. Unfortunately, we have also increasingly experienced that our customers have not only become more technically demanding, but also that their mood, during all the time they had to keep working remotely, was somewhat more irritable. As a result, our support team was confronted more frequently with personal fates in addition to purely technical assistance.
Regardless of the general movement that the year 2021 has brought – what were the milestones of the year for CleverReach? What was the star project, what particularly engaged the company and moved the team?
We mainly focused on making our product more customer-oriented and completing projects that had to be postponed, especially due to the first year of the pandemic. We are currently working intensively on our innovation project, which can certainly be described as a star project.
An essential milestone most certainly is our rebrand we have adopted in quarter 2 of 2021. We are currently in the implementation phase with the aim of going live with it in mid-2022. For the start of the Basketball Bundesliga season, we already did a soft launch, so we and the EWE Baskets fans were able to experience the brand up close before the official relaunch.
We are also permanently working on optimizing our deliverability, which recently led to 1st place in the Email Tooltester delivery test.
Looking ahead to 2022, what ideas or projects were still planted in 2021 that could come into bloom, or at least growth, in 2022? Is there anything that should not go unmentioned?
As already mentioned, our rebrand is an incredibly important milestone for us this year. Even when CleverReach was founded in 2007 we have stood out with our great proximity to our customers and a customer-centered product. We define ourselves with our “Reason Why”: We want to reach people in the cleverest way possible.
What’s supposed to be a trend of 2021 as a “puprose-driven company” has been part of our DNA right from the beginning. With the rebrand, we want to duly take this circumstance into account. The changes are huge for both our team and our customers, and the process is very extensive. That’s why we take our customers with us on this exiting and amazing journey during the implementation phase.
Other important steps are the release of our new and even more intuitive editor with an improved user experience and a completely revised pages section. These product innovations have also been developed very closely with our customers and partners and we look forward to making them available to all customers in the coming year.
The questions as to what will be the “next huge marketing trend in 2022” is inevitable – what are the thoughts for email marketing regarding certain trend ideals?
First of all, let’s define what a trend actually is. Far from the sociological context, in my view there is no real trend in marketing, but rather evolutionary steps.
When the big trend in 2021 was “AI-powered chatbots”, I have to seriously question whether the competition can afford to offer a chatbot without AI support. In other words, as a user of such technology, I cannot avoid using it in the end. Does this make it a trend? We often speak of trends in terms of innovations in the technical environment and thus in online marketing. But let’s be honest: where are the big innovations? In my view, the industry is currently stuck in an innovation stalemate, with no sign of any real trends. And, generally, those who declare a thing a trend are the ones who benefit most from it.
The topic “Purpose-driven company” is proclaimed as a trend by those who have it rooted in their business DNA – they of course benefit from this trend, rather than those companies who are told “Hey, you gotta be purpose-driven now – it’s trendy” after having been around the industry for 20 years. In this case, only those benefit from it who sell this trend. In my opinion, a real trend worth talking about should arise from a genuine need, from an inner drive.
Shoppable ads are also more of an evolutionary step, not an innovation and by no means brand new, but were already introduced in this form in 2015/2016. Moreover, the original idea originated 15-20 years ago, when people were still thinking about buying the actors’ clothes or objects of the scene from TV broadcasts. In 2013, ARD launched a 4-week pilot project on this. Today, thanks to the constant development, it is possible to add a shopping function to ads/video ads on various social platforms based on a similar basic idea. Does this make it a trend, or not simply an evolution?
In addition, it must also be noted that in May 2019 Digiday already reported that providers of shoppable video ads met with rather low interest in the market. So how come that this topic was still called a trend in 2021? Certainly not because the hype was particularly great.
After this short excursion, the final question is: What does all this have to do with the question of certain trend ideals in email marketing? In the end, it’s quite simple: Trust the power of email marketing and make yourself independent of externally driven and controlled platforms. When the entire Facebook universe collapsed over an extended period of time in October 2021, the revenue streams of numerous influencers dried up and the advertising channels of millions of businesses went nowhere. Blessed were those who relied on their own customer base – and were able to reliably email them as much as ever.
Moving from unsteady “trends” to the essential thing: What will keep being indispensable in email marketing in 2022 and not lose its importance? What should email marketing users be prepared for, what will continue to be part of their daily business and what should they look out for?
Email marketing users are often overwhelmed by the range of features that big sales platforms offer – but users usually don’t need all those features, simply because they simply can’t work them. They either don’t have the time or the relevant know-how. Therefore, it is important to work with a specialized solution such as CleverReach, which is closely aligned with real customer needs and constantly develops the core competence “email marketing”. To put it briefly: turning from generalists towards specialists.
To develop the full potential of email marketing, however, it is inevitable to grapple with certain topics of email marketing. As a provider, we can already take care of a certain part by offering various automation campaigns free of charge or by facilitating the start with pre-designed templates and comprehensive tips & tricks.
However, what I’d recommend to any user of email marketing is knowing how to create targeted campaigns and content. There are still marketers of the older generation who, with a certain shotgun mentality, just send everything to everyone and preferably 7 times a week. It’s absolutely necessary though to not only know what your subscribers are interested in but to address them in a targeted way, optimize sending intervals and personalize content. In addition to a quite extensive and sophisticated segmentation feature, you can also use so-called tags to individualize your target group approach in a very granular way. In combination with shop systems such as Shopware or Shopify you can push the limits, as they already offer attributes based on purchase behavior, which allows a targeted approach to address your customers.
What changes for users, though, is the evaluation of open rates due to the implementation of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) with the release of iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, which restricts the possibilities to track email opens and geographically locate the subscribers, as long as they only consume and not interact with your content. This makes it even more relevant to place content that increases interactions and to have call-to-actions leading to more details, instead of already giving everything away in your newsletter.