Despite proclamations about the next seismic shift in business technology disrupting everything you know, email marketing remains at the top of the food chain when it comes to reaching your target audience in 2024. In fact, for every dollar invested in an email campaign, brands produce about $44 in returns, and the tactic has proved to be forty times more successful at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined, according to Campaign Monitor studies.
Marketers across all industries have mastered the art of email, perfecting audience segmentation for nurture and drip campaigns to keep contacts engaged and invested with the right message or offer at the perfect time.
These segues to success have worked equally well for the cannabis industry—but with the rapid increase and implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, added emphasis on data collection, and a need to understand what speaks to younger audiences, brands still have a lot to learn if they want to continue sticking their inbox landings with messaging that resonates, inspires, and drives revenue.
Effective marketing emails are defined by engaging content, a header that hooks, clear objectives, and timely action points to keep the viewer’s attention. Without these key ingredients, your efforts will be wasted. But while most of today’s marketers understand the tried-and-true formulas for reaching targets, the industry is ever-evolving, which means what worked last year may not work now.
Take a look at some of the topline trends we’re predicting, based on insightful conversations with inner- and outer-industry experts alike. We’ve included some of the most notable email marketing trends we’re paying attention to for 2024, compiled to help you take on the new year and earn your highest engagement and conversion rates yet.
Since its advent, the legal cannabis industry has had to track data much more closely than other industries to stay on top of regulatory compliance. As tedious as it may seem in the moment, the practice has given operators a major advantage over traditional businesses when it comes to analyzing metrics for personalized communication.
“Cannabis retailers have had to overanalyze data to stay afloat. As a result, most of them can dive into deep-level metrics that are more intensive and thorough than any other industry,” said Brad Bogus, head of marketing at Happy Cabbage Analytics. “From there, the best way to be micro-segmented in your outreach is to use your sales data to determine which shoppers are buying what. That will help you figure out which deals you’re going to promote or what events you’ll host in your store.”
Bogus also recommended building email contact lists with great care. Don’t just capture addresses, he advised.
“If you can ask someone two to three questions that are enticing and convenient enough for them to respond, you automatically have a leg up,” he said. “With that information, you’ll have the power to segment your messaging more effectively. Now, I might be asking you for information you don’t really want to give me, but if I can ask you in a way that engages and acknowledges something you can relate to or understand, I’ve created a lasting connection with you.”
Hook with subject lines
According to Kim Prince, founder and chief executive officer at Proven Media, email subject lines should be compelling and creative.
“When I worked in mainstream media, I was with an organization that had a team of reporters who strictly wrote compelling headlines. It’s an art, but one that can be mastered,” she said. “If you have a CTA [call to action], make sure it’s worked in clearly. Avoid phrases like ‘10 percent off.’ Instead, use the exact prices to drive interest.”
Mainstream retailers agree—like California-based fashion brand PacSun, where catchy, personalized subject lines regularly reap success.
“I like to focus on personalizing, whether it be adding a name in your email’s subject line or including the most recent products they’ve browsed or purchased in the body copy,” said PacSun Email Marketing Specialist Amy Gonzales. “I’ve also been playing around with AI subject lines, and it’s interesting to compare the performance data between what I wrote versus AI. If you have a tool available, I say test it out, even just for the sake of gathering inspiration or ideas. I use it for keywords or if I have writer’s block. Just be careful not to rely on AI if it doesn’t mesh well with your brand’s voice.”
Use fewer words
Convey respect without being cryptic.
“People think if they’re sending an email, they have to cram it with as much content as possible, but the more you include, the more distracting and less effective your email is,” Bogus said. “Assume the people you’re trying to communicate with are running and gunning 1,000 things at once. The last thing they want to do is read your email. Honor the fact that they don’t have a lot of time, and don’t overthink or overdesign. Keep things singular in topic and content so the person receiving the email doesn’t have to work hard to figure out your message.”
At the same time, don’t play too hard to get.
“It’s important to keep subject lines short and to the point, but try to make sure they’re not too cryptic,” said Wana Brands Director of Content and Strategy Kaitlin Mackenzie. “‘Five Ways to Cope When You’re Too High’ tells you enough to know you want to know more, but ‘You won’t believe this!’ is likely to be spotted for the fluffy clickbait it is.”
Botani Managing Director Alex Boone believes interactive communications will become a defining trend for cannabis marketers, inspiring recipients to take action.
“Interactive email that includes things like polls and surveys is taking the place of static email,” Boone said. “It’s undeniable: Interactivity increases engagement rates and leads to a better customer experience. This might look like linking out to a landing page, including product images and descriptions, and popping in purchasing opportunities.”
Boone classifies valuable content as interactivity, as well. This can come in the form of engaging information that drives recipients to come back for more, like a list of the top ten local places to bookmark for when you have the munchies.
Keep your company’s bigger picture top of mind when emailing marketing messages.
“Treat your email blasts as part of a larger marketing ecosystem,” Wana’s Mackenzie said. “How can you use email marketing to drive social traffic? How can you use social media to grow your email sendout list?”
Marry all your marketing efforts, consolidating where you can so you aren’t burning through your best content and losing sight of the main objective.
Employ the newest tools
All the go-to email marketing platforms regularly update their systems with their industry’s latest power tools. This includes MailChimp’s new AI features and SMS builders, HubSpot’s TikTok integration, and Kajabi’s enhanced email receipts. Keep yourself and your team up to date to ensure you stay ahead of your competitors, reach new levels of engagement, and generally work smarter instead of harder.
“Use these tools to focus on the quality of your emails rather than the quantity,” said James Mao, director of marketing at Deep Roots Harvest. “You should also utilize them to make sure all emails are mobile-optimized, as we’ve found that 70–80 percent of users prefer to view their emails on their phones.”
Mao also stressed the importance of remaining compliant with federal law and local industry regulations—although that isn’t something about which cannabis operators ever have the luxury of forgetting.
“Make sure your compliance department reviews and approves all your email campaigns before they go out,” Mao said. “This will save you a potential headache down the line, when all the time you spent putting your email campaign together might be wasted because of a small compliance-based oversight.”
Find inspiration in traditional industries
The cannabis industry is very young, and many brands still are learning standard email best practices. With that in mind, it’s important to know where to look for inspiration that’s backed by years of trial and error on someone else’s dime.
“One of the best practices cannabis email marketers can adopt is to follow what the big-bucks retailers are doing,” Prince said. “Whether it be Walmart, Target, or Amazon, follow the companies that have millions of dollars invested in figuring out what works. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to have reach. The large companies have already spent the money to figure out what makes a person click. Study them. It’ll save you a lot of grief and hopefully make you a lot of money.”
A, B, and Gen Z
A new generation of consumers has entered the market, and it’s important that email marketers understand precisely what those consumers are looking for and how they want opportunities presented.
“The Gen Z/millennial age group is one of the largest audience segments but, based on cart transactions, they spend the least amount of money,” Deep Roots’ Mao said. “This group is bargain-hunters, but they’re also the most tech-savvy. Sending offers, deals, and incentives via email will be the most effective strategy with this group. Just keep in mind that the deals need to have value and be competitively priced.”
Young consumers also don’t have the patience to sift through long emails, so make sure your campaigns are fun, short, interactive, and actionable. Thankfully, you don’t have to get this right on the first try. Reviewing analytics will help you understand how to approach newer audiences, and classic tactics like A/B testing different subject lines, messaging, and CTAs will enable refinement where necessary.
Remember the basics
This last point is simple, but it’s also evergreen.
“In my opinion, the hottest new trend in cannabis email marketing is really getting back to the basics,” Mao said. “While the rest of the industry has come far, email marketing platforms that cater directly to our industry still lack some of the most basic fundamentals, like variable e-blasts, A/B testing, and customer journeys.
“The best way to battle this is to push yourself forward by following proper email etiquette and best practices, ensuring you’re gathering clean data, leveraging customer segmentation, and exploring email automation,” he added.