Email is Alive and Well!

As we pass the halfway point of 2013, it is clear to see that the email channel is still robust and effective. In early 2009, I read an article titled "9 Reasons Email is Dead." I recall thinking, boy this stinks! If email is dead (or dying) what am I going to do? I was too young to retire and old enough not to want to start again.  Well, not only is email alive and well, it remains the most efficient and  effective method of Marketing. Having said that, sending effective commercial email has certainly gotten much more complicated and challenging.  Maintaining an effective and efficient email program takes more than just good marketing. Successful programs takes a mix of marketing, operations, creative, privacy, compliance and technology to do all the "right things" to make a program successful.

Consumer expectations are at an all time high. Consumers expect to be contacted when they want to be contacted, in a format that is appropriate for the device they are using at that time, with exactly the right offers they are interested in. Simple, or even complex, segmentation is no longer good enough. Consumers expect marketers to deliver highly relevant, targeted, timed, campaigns using data that was obtained in a clear and transparent manner that satisfies their marketing needs, but protects their privacy and data.

When I was selected as the DMA/EEC 2013 Stefan Pollard award winner, I commented that in no other industry was there the passion, intelligence and commitment as the people who dedicate their time and talents to the email industry. Below I listed a few of the recent challenges marketers faced in the first half of 2013 as well as some of the new innovations in email.

Gmail continues to add new innovations and nuances to their email platform. These new innovations continue to present email professionals with new challenges. The most recent change is one that has most marketers on the edge of their chairs. Gmails new inbox, which is being turned on by default, automatically sorts email into three tabs. The Primary tab is earmarked by Gmail for personal one to one conversations. This tab is automatically displayed when you first log into Gmail.  The second tab is called “Social,” and includes all of your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media updates.  The last tab is for “Promotions,” and is earmarked for all opt-in email marketing offers.  While some may argue the reduction in inbox clutter that occurs when promotions  are mixed with bank statements, personal notes and social media update notifications will be a positive change, most will agree that having marketing messages filtered to a promotions folder will negatively impact response.  How big of an issue is yet to be determined.  Effective Marketers are going to have to quickly adjust strategies to accommodate this. Time sensitive emails will need to be adjusted to account for the lower frequency people may end up checking the Promotions folder. 

In June, Yahoo! announced that it was reclaiming dormant, unused email addresses and would make them available to new users. While on the surface this sounds like a good idea (I would prefer instead of it opens up a host of issues for marketers to deal with in order to ensure they protect the user data that has been entrusted to them. While most marketers are already removing from their active email lists members who do not engage in a year,  a lot of marketers use email address as a primary key. Breaking the link between email address and PII has become a critical concern. All good marketers know one of the fastest ways to kill a business is to erode the trust of the users especially with the handling of their personal data.

While the concept has been out there for a few years now, in 2013 we have seen rapid growth in content optimization at the time of open. Spurred by the dramatic increase in smart phones and mobile devices, marketers are adapting their programs to optimize content based on time, place and device opened. Technology companies like Adstack and Moveable Ink are focused on providing tools that make it easier to customize content. Coupling this new functionality with traditional audience segmentation has enabled savvy marketers to take their campaigns and programs to new levels.

Overall, it is safe to say, email is alive and well! Consumers and list members continue to challenge brands to raise the bar and provide them with content they want, when they want it, in the manner in which they want to consume it and optimized for the device they are using at that time. Email marketers continue to find ways to find new and creative ways to leverage technology and provide truly customized content for their users. Commercial email remains one of the most effective mechanisms of delivering marketing messages.

You can stay current with the latest in email marketing practices by taking advantage of the wealth of resources available from the eec. EEC offers webinars, in-person events and networking opportunities with your peers and thought leaders in the industry.

Sal Tripi
AVP Digital Operations and Compliance
Publishers Clearing House
2013 Stefan Pollard Marketer of the Year Award Winner