Inbox Insider: Consolidation in e-mail is getting specialized

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of consolidation in the e-mail space.

Acxiom acquired Digital Impact in 2005, and Experian acquired CheetahMail in 2004.

This year, we’ve seen a couple. GSI Commerce bought e-Dialog. Online services firm Protus acquired the GOT Corporation — and, by doing so the Campaigner e-mail platform. Blue Sky Factory acquired Ntarget. And, of course, there is Return Path, which sold its ECOA business to FreshAddress last week after acquiring Habeas’s deliverability business last summer.

What is interesting in this year’s round of acquisitions is that it’s not the big database companies gobbling up the smaller technology companies as has been the case in years past. This year’s acquisitions tend to be about specializing and honing in on an area of the market.

Take Return Path. The firm is getting out of five or so different e-mail businesses in order to focus its efforts entirely on deliverability — not a bad idea, given how even though its been talked about for years, more and more marketers are actually beginning to get more sophisticated about e-mail deliverability. By selling the ECOA business to FreshAddress, Return Path can make money and focus its efforts entirely on what they see as the most important corner of the e-mail market: deliverability.

Blue Sky Factory and GSI Commerce acquisitions follow similarly. Ntarget focuses on travel e-mail marketing, and e-Dialog has a host of retail clients. As BSF and GSI look to corner the market in these niche sectors, it helps to acquire the competition.

If there are more acquisitions this year, I expect it will follow along the same parameters that consolidation will occur in a much more niche-focused way.

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