Q&A: Aaron Smith, VP of campaign services, Responsys

Microsoft and e-mail service provider Responsys are partnering to enhance the consumer experience in the Windows Live Hotmail service. The companies are promising to create more engaging and rich experiences in Hotmail through the deal.

In an interview with Direct Marketing News, Aaron Smith, VP of campaign services at Responsys, discussed what the partnership means for marketers.

Direct Marketing News: Can you give us some additional details about the partnership?
Aaron Smith: We have been working with Microsoft as advisors and also to put together campaigns with this new technology. We’re very excited about what they are doing, and we think this is a big step forward for the industry. We think it will spur other ISPs towards similar innovations.

DMN: What advantages does it give marketers?
Smith: This really opens the door to making a truly interactive e-mail. Just like you can have a really rich experience on a website using JavaScript and Ajax technologies, you can now do similar things in an e-mail. We can also use data from a secure service, for example, to pull dynamic content in real time targeted to a specific individual – not just a picture, but real data. There are a lot of fascinating cases for this. For example, if you are a ticket promoter in the concert space, you could send a message to someone and show them what seats are available in real time.

I’m really excited to see true innovation in the e-mail space. It has been really stagnant. It has really been stuck with best practices and tools from 1998. That is a really limited set of tools to work with, but this is going to open the doors to more innovation, not only on this platform but others.

DMN: Why do you say it’s stagnant? What’s the reason for that?
Smith: The main reasons are spam and phishing and the dark side of the e-mail industry that has given us a black eye and led us to limited possibilities. All the major platforms today strip out any code; they don’t allow any videos…so even the coding has to rely on best practices from 1998. It’s really a hindrance for the people in the production of campaigns as well. They have to use these old technologies to get their campaigns coded.

DMN: What industry’s marketers will be able to best take advantage of this?
I think the industry can do really innovative things, and I think this is the case for anybody. In the travel space, you can show inventory for discounted locations. For retail you can do similar things like real-time auctions, where you show the availability of something and update it. Really, the sky is the limit. What I think everyone needs to be cautious about is that overuse can be a problem. I wouldn’t use it only for the sake of using it, but I would make sure to have a really smart and compelling case for doing something, and not just to have an animation. Otherwise, you would be spending a lot of resources on something you probably wouldn’t get a lot of buyback from…For those in the retail space, anything you can have automated today, you can update. You can update inventory in real time and then show the prices and the time of opening, as well as what’s in stock.

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