The E-Mail Renaissance Is Upon Us

  |  October 23, 2003   |  Comments

Outbound e-mail is highly refined. Now, the coming improvements to the channel, including technologies that handle inbound customer queries with finesse.

I recently returned from a trip to Europe that included a stay in the great city of Florence, a city many consider the quintessential example of Renaissance culture. As I absorbed the history and sites around me (along with a few gelati), I thought of the Renaissance and what an exciting place Florence must have been then. Europe emerged from economic stagnation, artists flourished, scientific and political thought changed direction, and communication was changed forever with the invention of the printing press.

Visiting Florence, and stepping back in time, I couldn’t help but draw a connection to my own experiences over the last few decades, and most recently as CEO of a fast-growing company in an emerging medium: email.

Back in New York, the direct marketing capital of the world, I sense another change within email. As the earnings season kicked into full steam, the hypothesis is confirmed. An email renaissance is upon us.

Change is upon us and it’s rapid and swift due to technology adoption and use. In many ways, the email Renaissance was spawned by the rise of spam, the evolution of better and easier technology and the death of batch-and-blast email broadcasting as we knew it. It’s further accelerated by several other key catalysts, including:

  • Continued adoption and everyday use of the Web and email in our personal and business lives, due to convenience and time benefits.

  • A growing political climate around consumer privacy and protection.

  • Technological advances that facilitate more relevant, cost efficient two-way dialogues.

And let us not forget...

  • The clear economic and ROI benefits of email as a communications and marketing channel.

The next phase of the email renaissance will be marked by continued development and further growth of these core elements:

Consumer Control Over the past year, we’ve seen the introduction of over 50 federal and 500 state privacy bills, passage of dozens of anti-spam state laws, as well as final passage of the Do-Not-Call registry at the federal level. It doesn’t end there.

More than eight federal anti-spam bills were introduced and are currently under consideration. What does this all mean? Consumers want control. Marketers must respect that need, and expect it to flourish. Marketers must spend more time understanding and respecting consumer preferences. That includes collecting preferences, leveraging consumer intelligence and moving from vanilla messaging (batch-and-blast) to dynamically generated personalized communications built specifically around consumer needs and interests. Those who lead the way will build immediate competitive advantage.

Integration Integrated marketing will enter a new phase beyond the simple coordination of marketing messages across channels (print, Web, email or TV). More cohesive brand experiences will use the power of data and each marketing medium to communicate with customers throughout the purchase process. Marketers must build and leverage enterprise data warehouses with state-of-the-art analytics and good old marketing know-how to create communications that are distinctly timed and coordinated based on where a customer is in the purchase process.

Optimization Webster’s definition, "an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible; specifically: the mathematical procedures (as finding the maximum of a function) involved in this."

Marketers are, and will continue to be, on a quest to optimize. New email technologies and platforms will provide marketers with the real-time intelligence and data needed to change, maximize and optimize email communication efforts. This will ultimately impact ROI and customer relationships.

Inbound & Outbound Automation As e-commerce continues its steady growth, marketers will increasingly leverage the interactive channel, specifically email, to grow revenue, decrease costs and extend customer lifetime value.

Outbound email efforts, including promotional offers, automated confirmations and notifications, are expected to reach record levels as marketers use email’s power and efficiency to grow revenue and customer loyalty over time. While many marketers have mastered the art of building and sending contextually relevant, automated outbound messages, few have effectively addressed the challenges and opportunities in responding to the inbound inquires generated from those outbound efforts.

Inbound automation is the next frontier. Marketers want to build competitive advantage and realize the one-to-one marketing promise. For email to truly be the killer app, marketers must invest in appropriate technologies, improve response effectiveness and build efficiencies by implementing robust inbound reply handling capabilities that works in conjunction with outbound marketing efforts.

Inbound reply functionality should include at a minimum keyword identification across all email components (subject line and body text) and automated, timely outbound reply messaging based on those key words. In addition, with growing consumer reluctance to use unsubscribe links, paired with the emergence of new spam fighting tools such as challenge/response, marketers must ensure their inbound reply handling tools can recognize, prioritize, categorize and route different message types and responses appropriately. By investing in a robust inbound email automation tool, marketers can quickly build competitive advantage through a differentiated customer experience. That in turn can yield considerably higher customer satisfaction rates and lifetime value.

Distributed Campaign Management Marketing gets local. According to Jupiter Research [which shares a corporate parent with ClickZ”, local online advertising is expected to double over the next four years from an estimated $1.5 billion to over $3.5 billion by 2007. And with good reason.

One of the most powerful sales relationships is when you walk into a local establishment and they know your name, likes and dislikes. In the future, Fortune 2000 companies and their regional subsidiaries will look and act very much like your local butcher. They’ll know your name, likes and dislikes and seem to anticipate your every need as their centralized marketing departments bring the power of their brand down to a local level.

Finally, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a shopkeeper in Siena, who collected my email address after my daily gelato stop. I asked what he used the email addresses for? Marketing?

"No," he replied.

"Why do you want my email address?" I queried.

He answered, "I like to keep in touch with my friends from America."

Now that’s personalization. Let the email Renaissance begin.

Till next time.
Al DiGuido

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Strategies is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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