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Posts Tagged ‘future email trends’

Red signal on the train Network.I have the rare luxury of finding a seat on the Twickenham to Waterloo train early on a Sunny day in May. To take advantage of this incredible stroke of luck, (did everybody sleep in today?) I’m tinkering on my Dell laptop while two other brusque and slightly portly, important looking business men do the same. A quick survey of my surrounding commuters reveals 7 out of 10 are plugged in to mp3s or iPods, and out of the three remaining, two are chattering very loudly (perhaps causing the others to plug in) and another opposite me is sound asleep, or perhaps dead, I’m not sure. Considerately, I can’t hear the ugly hiss of someone’s tinny Britney album, as everyone has their headphones turned to a respectful level. Only one is reading the Metro, a stark difference to a couple of years back when everyone would bury their heads into the latest breaking news about Big Brother or some other daily digest of brain garbage.

This all got me thinking of how quickly trends come and go, which is topical to my visit to the iMedia Agency summit last week in Brighton. I enjoyed the conference and met some great people, but the prevalence of organisations, start-up or otherwise in the social media sector was particularly eye opening. Obviously it’s no surprise that social media is an engaging topic of discussion, but the number of sector representatives all jockeying for position as the next potential Facebook did seem reminiscent of some kind of bubble akin to the email sector’s early days.

The great news from an email suppliers point of view as there was only one other email supplier at the entire event, which based on the fact that email has become an integral part of any good marketing plan was fantastic but of course, I guess it depends on why this was the case. The truth is that even though email remains one of the most effective marketing channels, of the variety of blue sky businesses which launched into the space 10 years ago, few remain. This is certainly true in context of those suppliers who managed to get through the steep learning curve of delivering sustainable long term email strategies for brands, avoiding the gold rush at the cost of the consumer or brand and only for the benefit of their brow beating investors.

Man walking next to train tracksWhat remains in the marketplace is a group of companies orchestrating healthy competition centred around delivering quality products, services and value to win the commitment of well informed brands who don’t suffer hit and run tactics or the bad practices of those companies who have long since floundered. To this day this presents my biggest obstacle at eCircle; how to re-educate the masses that the bad practice email legacy they may have seen 5 years ago is not the norm and that you can create incredible customer value leading to sustainable profits relatively easily. It’s a rational response if you’ve had your fingers burnt, but with the evolution of common sense in email marketing it’s a ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ strategy. Rather like saying from now on everyday I’m going to get up at 4am, walk the 13 miles to work in all weathers, because when I used the train last I didn’t get a seat, people had their music on too loudly and the portly man next to me died.

Now where’s the common sense in that?

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As Ferris Bueller urges us, you’ve got to stop and look around once in a while, and as we near the end of the decade I’m feeling introspective. I’m also rather seasonally affected and in need of cheering up, what with the disgraceful weather, pasty skin, a near biblical attachment to my duvet and a torpid mental state despite the supposed Last Big Push at work as another sales year hurtles to a close.

So I’m pausing to take stock of email marketing at the turn of the ‘Teens’ decade. In the time-honoured tradition of men’s magazines, it’s taking the form of Top 10’s. All sorts of ‘decade’ lists are appearing right now: defining events (9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Tsunami, Obama, Lehmans…), technological advances (Facebook, iPhone, Wii…), the NME’s top albums (The Strokes Is This It was numero uno)….

Firstly, I’m thanking my lucky stars that I’m in the digital industry and working for a company that’s grown despite the recession. Email marketing has had a phenomenal rise over the past decade to become king of communications. There’s been many key milestones (the first multipart mime email, the first billion emails sent, scheduling emails, API development, split-testing etc) but it reads as a rather geeky ESP history, so my first Top 10 is: Why I’m glad I jumped on board the email gravy train:

1. ROI is exceptional

DMA research  shows email marketing generated an ROI of $43.62 for every dollar spent on it in 2009. The expected figure for 2010 is $42.08. It outperforms all other DM channels.

Datran’s 2009 marketing and media study placed email as the top performing ad channel.

 2. Spend is increasing

More than 70% of marketers will increase spend on email in 2010, according to the DMA.

 3. It’s data driven:

I’m a closet data geek and email is the most trackable of direct marketing channels – a vast array of actionable campaign data can be used to refine approach and underpin…

 4. Advanced targeting:

Today’s email systems have evolved to allow integrations with CRM databases, web analytics and eCommerce system, with tools to allow on-the-fly personalisation and dynamic content based on preferences, behaviour and engagement.

 5. It’s universal:

B2C/B2C, cross-sector, all over the world – email’s strength is ubiquitous.

 6. It’s regulated:

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not spammers: since the Data Protection Act of 1998 and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, email is legitimised as ‘Permission Marketing’, requiring a clear opt-in. ISP’s now collaborate with ESP’s to clean-up the industry, flush out spammers and get elicited emails through to inboxes.

 7. It’s fast-evolving:

In the past five years I’ve seen the outsourcing argument overcome, an array of new sophisticated campaign tools and a seismic shift as marketers move from a blast-mentality to a one-to-one lifecycle dialogue of targeted triggered messages.

 8. It’s a relationship tool:

Email builds loyalty and engagement when employed as a core channel in CRM strategies, rather than just a bolt-on sales tool – Welcome/nursery programmes, post-purchase transactional messages, special offers for most loyal customers and reactivation attempts for the unengaged, can combine to drive a quality relationship with subscribers.

 9. We’re getting much better at it:

Email is a bit like Marmite but people are coming round (like, don’t use too much and have it on some quality toast..) The challenges facing the email industry are well-documented: inbox clutter/junk, declining response, deliverability, lack of resource allocated to email. But as the Top 10 points above become widely accepted at board-level, we’re given more scope to help clients and collaborate on a far more effective email strategy.

 10. It’s (quite) good fun:

We have a jolly time here at eCircle Towers and enjoy the often-incestuous machinations of a competitive industry sector, as well as working with bright young(ish) things in marketing teams.

Next decade: email will not die

Enough evangelising: the industry certainly presents many obstacles and it’s definitely not plain sailing being an ESP. Many commentators, perhaps annoyed at email’s quiet ascension, are gleefully predicting the decline or even total death of email in the next decade. But just as email didn’t kill postal mail, RSS didn’t kill email and social networks like Twitter won’t bring about its demise either. Email is like a zombie, it just won’t die (Social Networks are vampires; they’re really hot right now!). It continues to innovate, integrate and complement all other forms of marketing. We’re now all swimming in one great big sociably-networked pond and email is the hook by which online marketers reel in their fish – it’s used for social alerts, invites to connect, transactions, user-generated content, surveys, and so on. I can appreciate that under-25’s love the immediacy of one-to-many status updates or IM for quick banter, but you can’t use Facebook or Linked In to send a personal and credible message (unless you are a recruiter, and that’s a dubious approach anyway).  My Top 10 Future Trends league table follows shortly so watch this space…

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