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Movable Ink is looking at the next level

“There wasn’t much business software being built in New York when I came here twelve years ago. Over the last two to three years, that’s changed.”

Vivek Sharma, CEO of the agile email marketing platform Movable Ink was talking about the increasingly rapid concentration of marketing technology software businesses in New York. He’d come here to help build MIT Media Lab spin-off Metrospark, delivering location-based information and service to mobile devices. In 2010 he co-founded Movable Ink, applying context-based consumer data to email content in real-time: agile email.

A really interesting opportunity to do something in terms of email content

I met Sharma, and Movable Ink CMO Miles Williams, to take The Hub’s first look at Movable Ink’s current offering, and talk about future opportunities for agile email technology.  We also talked about what Movable Ink is not. It’s not an email distribution tool, it doesn’t manage email lists for clients. “What we saw,” said Sharma, “was a really interesting opportunity to do something in terms of email content.”

What it does do is leverage existing content to provide a unique experience through live, personalized content, every time someone opens or re-opens an email. In fact, as Sharma showed me on a tablet and a smartphone, Movable Ink-powered emails hardly look like emails. These emails are really individual content platforms, hosting text and graphics (of course), but also video and live social media feeds (Twitter, Instagram), and live website content. 

Not only is the content updated when the email is opened; it’s updated based on context, which can mean anything from the time of day and location to the local weather, and it’s increasingly responsive to consumer behavior, like recent browsing history. The content automatically adapts itself to the device on which it’s being viewed, and the offering includes “on the fly” A/B testing of the content.

No marketing team could keep up with this

“No marketing team could keep up with this,” said Sharma, meaning that automation is the key to generating agile email at scale. Williams gave me the example of a US-based airline sending out seating charts for flights, updated as the emails are opened. It’s basically a yield optimization strategy which lends itself particularly well to vendors managing scarce inventories in real-time: Movable Ink clients include hospitality/travel services like Hilton, Airbnb, and Ticketmaster, and sports franchises like the New York Jets. Current revenues are 95 percent from enterprise-scale clients.

The example also illustrates the principle of delivering utility to the customer rather than just pursuing them to serve hopefully relevant ads. “We flip the model from a marketer/campaign-centric view to a customer-centric view,” said Sharma. Marketers can, however, use the agileEMAIL platform’s workflow and insight components to plan campaigns and track real-time performance.

Sharma acknowledges that responsive email technologies are increasingly “front and center for all the big marketing clouds.” Smarter email vendor ExactTarget was acquired by Salesforce in 2013, and incorporated into its marketing cloud. Movable Ink has shown faster growth than ExactTarget, but, said Sharma:  “What got us to this point won’t necessarily get us to the next level.”

Marketing clouds may solve problems from a campaign-centric point-of-view, but they’re not customer-centric; or, at least, not yet. There’s a giant opportunity to to deliver contextually relevant content to consumers as they move from device to device, and through multiple touch-points. “We deliver contextual content which happens to be in emails, but nothing about what we do limits us to that. The winning company,” he said, “will not necessarily be built on a legacy channel.”

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