The Changing Face of Email Marketing

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Not your Grandpa's email
Not your Grandpa's email

What about the future?

Despite success stories, you may have noticed that most of the emails you receive are still static. The team at eDataSource tracks many millions of campaign emails on a daily basis. They estimate the penetration of this kind of personalization (including things like current weather and countdown clocks) to maybe 5 percent of total business emails sent. 

They also told me, "The applications can create lift, but ESPs can usually better leverage that kind of investment with more powerful forms of dynamic personalization, based on customer status and behavior, rather than when the email is opened." The biggest uptake they've seen is for product recommendations. "Delivering those at point of open means that individual recommendations can be delivered into email campaigns without a data integration project." Think of the Lenovo example.

It's easy to see how emails which update on re-opening might play an ever larger role in eCommerce: for example, price optimization of offers based on limited inventories like hotel rooms or airline tickets; refreshed catalogs reflecting recent sales (of real estate, for example); or shipping offers based on date and time opened. 

Email will never be everything

The face of email marketing is incrementally changing, but it remains part of a broad omnichannel strategy. Dinkin of Stensul told me, "There are lots of interesting technical advances to bring functionality which didn't exist before. But just because it exists, doesn't mean you should use all of it. What should and shouldn't be in an email, versus at other properties?" Dinkin also observes that, "given the volume of campaigns and what's being asked of marketers, there's a level at which it becomes too much." That's a dilemma Stensul set out to tackle: how to help a non-technical marketer create an on-brand, responsive email in minutes. "Let marketers market, not code email."

When I asked Sharma is there were limits on what could be done through Movable Ink-style commercial emails, he was clear that there were. For one thing, not all email clients support it. For another, it's likely to remain limited in comparison to what can be done with websites and apps. But then again, "do you really want to jam an eCommerce experience into an inbox." Emails have milliseconds to capture a user's interest: they can then direct them to a more comprehensive website or app experience. On the other hand, Sharma says "it's not a giant leap to imagine contextual content being decoupled from the email channel and exported elsewhere."

In the meantime, the email experience is part of the overall customer journey feedback loop. "We already export a lot of our data" to internal BI and CRM programs. "Marketers with a long view can benefit from these insights," Sharma said.

Incandela's thoughts on the future of responsive email are consistent with this viewpoint. For him, it comes down to narrative. "Whether it's words on paper or on a screen doesn't matter. What I want from an email experience is for a story to come alive. It should be a meaningful experience." Ideally, he said, "I don't want to move it away from the personal touch," but that can't any longer be delivered manually at today's scale. The new technology offers "a more immersive experience, but email is lagging behind websites and apps."

Lagging, maybe.  But it's sure come a long way.

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