2012 was another blockbuster year for email marketing.

Amid questions about how email would perform in a more socially-connected world, email marketing continued to be the most effective marketing tool for a majority of small business owners in 2012 and outperformed both social and search when it came to converting prospects to new business.

And, with email finding a new best friend in mobile, email marketers have even more to celebrate as we move into the New Year.

What else should you expect from email marketing in 2013? Here are our top 5 email marketing predictions:

1. Those who adjust to the demands of mobile will win

With more than half of all Americans now using smartphones and nearly a quarter of all online activity now coming from mobile devices—the stage has been set for 2013 to be a huge year in mobile marketing.

Mobile has already had a major influence on the way your audience engages with your email content. In fact, email continues to be the most popular activity for smartphone users, with 43% of mobile users checking their inbox at least four times a day.

But despite this fact, it’s likely that even without thinking about mobile; you’ve continued to drive big results from your email marketing.

That could change in 2013. In a recent study from Google, 55% of consumers say that a poor mobile experience can hurt their perception of a brand. That means, as more of your customers adopt mobile, if you’re not providing a mobile-friendly experience, you could be putting your reputation at a greater risk.

Improving the mobile experience won’t take too much heavy lifting.

First off, make sure to choose a mobile-friendly email template. We’ve rolled out a bunch of these over the last few months and will continue to introduce more in 2013.

Second, take a much more focused approach to developing email content. Rather than packing each newsletter with tons of information, pick one topic—at most, three—and deliver shorter messages designed to drive action around that topic.

2. Relevant content will rule the day

Providing relevant content has always been an essential component of a successful email marketing campaign. That will be even truer in 2013, as competition in the inbox is expected to reach an all-time high.

It is projected that by 2014, consumers will receive more than 9,000 emails annually.

Despite that reality, consumers remain positive about the amount of emails they receive. For many, it’s because they’ve learned to self-filter—or only give attention to the stuff that’s most relevant to them.

In our 2012 survey of nearly 1,500 consumers, 56% said that irrelevant content was the number one reason why they chose to unsubscribe from a business email list.

Making a renewed commitment to addressing the needs of your costumers and creating content that helps them overcome their most pressing problems will be more important than ever in 2013.

3. Email contacts: a small business’ most valuable marketing asset

We believe all small businesses—whether they are currently using email marketing to connect with current or potential customers or not—need to make collecting customer contact information a top-priority in 2013.

No matter what you have planned to grow your business in the new year, having a strong list of contacts can help. That’s because when you collect customer contacts, you own that information.

Brands on Facebook found out how valuable this can be in 2012, when the social network made some unannounced changes to its EdgeRank algorithm. Without warning, businesses and organizations which had put in hours, days, weeks, and months to attract new fans were suddenly unable to get their message in front of their target audience.

Today, less than 16% of fans will see any of the content you post on Facebook.

In contrast, more than 97% of all emails sent using Email Marketing from Constant Contact are consistently delivered to recipients’ inbox.

When you are in control of your contacts you will be able update those customers and supporters about all of your organization’s newest developments, both online and off. So, whether you’re running a deal, hosting an event, or rolling out a new line of products or services—you’ll have the capacity to deliver that message and know it’s been delivered.

4. Email engagement will outshine email opens

The days of open-rates being the holy grail of email marketing are over. In 2013, engagement will be king.

That’s not to say open-rates no longer matter. Of course, keeping track of how many people are seeing your emails in their inbox and making the decision to check out what’s inside will continue to be important when tracking the effectiveness of your email campaigns. But open-rates only tell half the story.

The fact is, just because someone opens your email, it doesn’t mean they are reading or finding your content compelling enough to take action. On contrast, by tracking engagement metrics like click-through rates, businesses can get a clearer idea of what type of content is actually working to engage your audience.

Tracking click-throughs will also help better identify leads for your business. So, if you have a certain group of your readership is repeatedly clicking on links to learn more about products or to shop online, you can create a separate list and send those contacts more relevant product information.

In 2013, focusing on engagement will enable small businesses to take their email marketing to the next level and finally drive the type of results you’ve been looking for.

5. Email will get even more social

It’s been a whirlwind year for small businesses on social media. In twelve months, businesses have gone from having two or three social options to choose from to seeing sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and even Google+ shake up the social landscape.

But while social media marketing continues to generate good results from small businesses, over the last twelve months it has been those businesses that have combined social with email marketing that have driven the most impressive results.

From a stamp manufacturer in Salem, Oregon that used email and social to generate 40% of its retail business to a DC nonprofit that raised over $100,000 in a single month by combing Facebook and email—it’s clear that these two powerful marketing tools can and should work together.

In 2013, we predict that more businesses will find results by combining their email and social media marketing. And in doing so, will attract more fans and followers, more email subscribers, and overall—more results from all of their marketing efforts.

Getting back to basics in 2013

With all the changes that have taken place in the world of online marketing over the last few years, it’s natural that some businesses may be feeling somewhat overwhelmed.

Don’t worry—you’re not alone.

While much will change in 2013, plenty will also stay the same.

At the end of the day—regardless of the platform you use—it’s all about effectively communicating with your audience. You’ll be sending emails or engaging on social media with the purpose of building relationships, strengthening loyalty, and staying top-of-mind throughout the year.

In doing so, we predict you’ll find more opportunities to grow your business than ever before.

What are your predictions for email marketing in 2013? Let us know in the comments below!