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Innovations in Email, the 2011 Edition

  |  December 5, 2011   |  Comments

A look back at significant happenings in the email marketing industry in 2011.

As 2011 draws to a close, I look back on the innovations in email that surfaced this past year. While all of these advancements are significant, some that I spotlight are driven by consumers and others by the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals and start-ups.

The Year of Mobile Email

In my column, "The Mobile Evolution of Email," I highlighted how dominant mobile devices are becoming as email inbox readers. My firm's data supports that overall four in 10 consumers use their mobile devices to check their personal email. Moreover, nearly seven in 10 consumers in key age groups such as 27 to 38 years old are currently doing this. As smartphone prices continue to drop and our days are crammed with even more activities and work, we will be reading our email on the go even more in 2012. But for 2011, mobile email clearly experienced a tipping point in terms of daily adoption. A recent study by marketing provider Knotice also shows a similar uptick in mobile activity.

Bionic Contact Lenses to Project Email

A friend introduced me to this article from the BBC on new contact lenses with embedded microcircuitry that can project images in front of the eye as a hologram. While it's still in development and not nearly perfected, researchers are bullish on its potential. There are many plausible applications, for the visually impaired to biometric health sensors to yes, radical 3D holographic gaming. While it's still not ready for prime time, I applaud this innovation.

Money Speaks: "Email Dead? It's Thriving!"

In 2010 we were deeply transfixed in our then love affair with social media, with many people trumpeting the death of email and our love for shiny new objects that were often called widgets or apps. While the role of social and its integration with email is powerful and prudent, in 2011 we witnessed many indications that email is alive and well. I covered many of the user-centric side measures in this column, but let's look at some of the other indications. Many new email centric start-ups such as LiveIntent and Sailthru received millions of dollars in venture funding. Email service provider (ESP) Responsys went public and its competitor ExactTarget has just announced a $100 million dollar IPO. The Mansell Group, now WhatCounts, is demonstrating the value of ESP market consolidation by purchasing two ESPs in 2011. Email marketing jobs appear to be plentiful judging from the growing number of employment opportunities on weekly job boards.

Innovating Relevance

At my firm, we measure the number of email marketers that are using segmentation, and in 2011 we saw a slight uptick from 2010 in the use of relevance-empowering tactics. These tactics include segmentation, testing, and using non-email data such as web-behavior or location. While still just over half of the market continues to embrace batch-and-blast, we're beginning to see marketers increase their sophistication in part because the applications that they're using are becoming easier to use. This past year saw many user interface improvements from at least a half dozen ESPs and some improved their ability to automate the delivery of the email based upon predefined criteria. Congratulations vendors; many of you have made it even easier for the marketer to embrace relevance.

These are just a handful of innovations that leapt to mind when I thought about this past year. There were many others, such as the ability to use mobile apps to drive email acquisition, the rise of localized email-driven content such as Patch.com or Main Street Connect, and of course the flood of daily deal emails. All of these advancements are positive for the email industry and I'm looking forward to an even more innovative 2012.

In the next and final column of the year, I'll make some predictions of what I expect to see in 2012.

Until then, all the best,


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David Daniels

For more than 20 years, David has been an industry proponent. Direct Magazine said David is "one of the most influential experts in email marketing, if not the most influential." Co-author of "Email Marketing An Hour A Day," David has held senior level positions at Forrester and JupiterResearch, Apple, Anthropologie, MacWarehouse, Proteam, and retailers that dotted the early days of CompuServe. David advises many industry organizations including the OTA, DMA, eec, and has been a contributor to the Weekend Today Show on NBC. Learn more about connected marketing and download free research with registration here. Follow David on Twitter @emaildaniels and learn more at www.relevancygroup.com.

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