This post is Part 1 in a three-part series on email innovation by Cassie Lancellotti-Young, EVP Customer Success at Sailthru. Stay tuned for the following installments!

In this rapidly evolving age of the Internet of Things, an ever-expanding social landscape, virtual reality and more, email marketing may seem “old school” to some, but don’t be fooled: email delivers massive value to all marketing programs.

Indeed, email remains one of most profitable channels for any marketer – if not THE most profitable channel. For every dollar spent on an email campaign, the average return on investment is $44.25. Email conversions still far outpace the ROI marketers will achieve from a tweet or a Facebook post.

That said, when it comes to email, there is a marked opportunity to teach old dogs new tricks to ensure that the channel is being leveraged to its full potential. More specifically, it is mission-critical for marketers to transcend the “old school” way of doing email: batch-and-blast communications. More contextual marketing programs generate incremental revenue not just today, but well into the future.

This mini-series will explore how marketers can get the most out of their email marketing efforts, how to innovate with proven strategies and practices that assure the greatest ROI and how to choose technology partners wisely.

The future of marketing is about 1:1 personalization, which extends well beyond field insertion or even traditional segments like recency and frequency. “Over the next five years, emailers will individualize messages based on omnichannel habits, attitudes and context,” writes Forrester Research’s Shar VanBoskirk in a new report called “The Time is Right for Email Innovation.”

Forrester describes True Religion jeans as an example: True Religion increased their clickthroughs by optimizing the message format so that it renders well on whichever device the customer is using. In another use case, Redfin, an online real estate company, tailors its offers and content using context such as the weather conditions at the time the email is opened.

There’s no need to go from 0 to 60, however. Just because contextual marketing is the way of the future does not mean marketers must change everything they are doing today. There is a maturity curve that occurs with email innovation, and it begins with a shift in organizational mindset around how email is used: it should not just be a push mechanism to drive revenue today, but rather a thoughtful ongoing program that cultivates long-term customer retention and loyalty through supreme relevance.

Long story short: email marketing most definitely is not passé, and can be a critical lever to driving incremental business value when embraced in innovative ways…so come back for part 2 where I’ll cover the key strategies to optimize long-term email marketing revenue.

–Cassie Lancellotti-Young, EVP of Customer Success at Sailthru