By Marie Rosecrans

As we kick off the year, small businesses will continue to work hard so they can deliver the best possible customer experience and keep pace with peers as well as larger competitors. One thing they shouldn’t overlook is making sure their email marketing game is on point.

Email marketing is hardly new, yet it continues to be one of the most effective ways to reach new audiences and drive revenue. Research shows email marketing generates a median ROI of 122 percent—more than four times higher than social media and direct mail. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your email marketing strategy stand out in 2018.

Personalize Emails with Artificial Intelligence

Every shopper is different, so every email your company sends should have a touch of personalization. Companies can avoid the one-size-fits-all approach by using artificial intelligence.

AI uses the power of customer data, consumer behavior and previous shopping patterns to automatically send messages, product recommendations, coupons and special offers that will most likely resonate with each individual shopper. With AI, companies no longer have to take a shot in the dark—they can send shoppers emails with content they are most likely to open, increasing the chances of a sale. Not ready for AI yet? You can still do a traditional A/B test to refine your pitch and make sure your emails are working as hard as they can.

Always Optimize for Mobile

Most emails are accessed on mobile devices, so it’s important to create an email marketing strategy that is optimized for phones and tablets.

A few things small businesses need to consider:

  • Write concisely and keep important information within the first 35 characters of the subject line so it doesn’t get cut off in the preview.
  • Use contrasting colors to ensure readability across different brightness levels.
  • Increase text size: try using at least 22px for headlines and 16px for paragraph text.

Make Emails Timely by Creating a Content Calendar for the Year

Rather than using the trial-and-error method, put more structure around your email marketing strategy by creating a content calendar. This lets you identify key moments your company can leverage throughout the year, making emails more timely and relevant.

For example, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and many boutique floral shops are gearing up for it. These shops can piggyback on the holiday by sharing step-by-step instructions about how to take care of flowers, in addition to coupons and special offers.

SMBs can also take it one step further by combining forces with other companies to execute timely campaigns. Partnering with other businesses increases the exposure for your brand and allows your company to reach different audiences outside of your current mailing list.

Incorporate Interactive Content

Make your emails less static by including interactive content such as videos, games and polls. By including interactive elements, your subscribers can take part in an action without having to leave an email, creating a cohesive web experience.

Say you own a local coffee shop. Consider including a form in your emails that lets subscribers virtually create their favorite drink, pay for it online and skip the lines when they pick up their order in store.

Your new year may be off to a busy start, but using these tips is a sure-fire way to ensure your email marketing strategy doesn’t go unnoticed.