Do widgets mean e-mail's demise?

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Andy Lloyd
Andy Lloyd

I'm often asked how gadgets and widgets compare to advertising banners. It's a good question, but may be more an indication that we all have much to learn about how this type of interactive marketing fits our existing paradigms.

Widgets and gadgets are actually more analogous to e-mail marketing than banners. I have the North Face “Video of the day” gadget embedded in my iGoogle page. It's an attractive alternative to e-mail marketing. Like e-mail, and unlike banners, it allows the retailer to deliver targeted offers as frequently as it wants. If they are not invasive, I want to see special offers regularly. If I ignore them, they just go away, and are replaced by a new one later.

And, unlike e-mail, it provides the richly interactive experience consumers have come to expect. The difference between HTML-based e-mail (the richest e-mail standard) and the Web is becoming more and more dramatic. Just as I open my e-mail every day, I see my gadgets every day when I open a browser. Sometimes I ignore them, sometimes I actively engage with them. In either case, I know where they are when I want them.

Interactive banners are far more random. Have you ever tried to track down a banner ad once you've closed a Web page? Forget about it. Retailers know they will never get consumers to visit their site every day, but they may get them to regularly view an engaging gadget.

With e-mail marketing, the consumer retains control. E-mail too frequently (or infrequently) and consumers will cut you off. Give them an interesting widget, but leave it unchanged for months — they'll certainly remove it from their page.

Think of a widget as a TV channel; too many commercials, too much overt content or too much of the same show and you'll lose the viewer. If that widget looks the same two months after launch — well, save your budget for other forms of marketing.

It is unlikely that gadgets and widgets will spell the end of e-mail marketing. But while I don't know of any moving their entire mar­keting budget from e-mail to widgets, they merit serious consideration as a new and potentially superior form of advertising.

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