The first mergers and acquisitions wave of the relatively mature email marketing industry happened before, during, and immediately after the dot-com era, when we saw leading players like Bigfoot Interactive, FloNetwork, @Once, and CheetahMail get absorbed by bigger players.
The email tidal wave continued post-recession as the channel re-established itself as the hub of digital. The big three of ExactTarget, Responsys, and Silverpop were gobbled up by broader software giants wanting a piece of this action that resulted in Salesforce, Oracle, and IBM getting into the email business.
As I have written about numerous times, email continues to evolve and it is being led not by the email service providers, who have largely held the torch for the industry, but by specialty and complementary companies all about making email better. Recent acquisitions have seen relatively smaller email companies that have more of a niche focus as opposed to the broader email platform providers that took the boil the email ocean approach that characterized most previous email-related deals.
A few examples:
- Bronto, an email platform well known for its dinosaur mascot and focus on Internet retailers, was recently acquired for around $200 million by NetSuite, a large software company that has supposedly been looking to acquire an email concern for quite some time.
- GoDaddy (yep, that GoDaddy) added marketing prowess to its product offering by buying low-profile small business ESP Mad Mimi.
- EmailDirect was acquired by j2 Global, which previously acquired email companies Campaigner and Contactology.
- Matomy Media bought 70 percent of Avenlo. You may not have heard of either company, but the publicly traded Israeli online advertiser continues to be aggressive with its expansion into email marketing by buying into the Canadian company focused on email lead generation and targeted advertising.
There are many well-positioned, email-focused companies that could be next if they choose not to go the independent route. The growth and innovation is coming out of companies focused beyond the deployment of email. The plethora of companies that have emerged are a motley crew and include well-funded and bootstrapped firms.
Keep an eye on companies that offer email retargeting and advertising, content and send time optimization, acquisition and hygiene tools, and other products and services that ultimately make email better and smarter, resulting in subscribers reading and buying based on this new breed of dynamic, customized, and more relevant emails. I would predict there will be at least three or four more meaningful deals done in 2015 that cover these areas.
With my annual list of the fastest-growing and most valuable email companies changing based on many external elements, it will be interesting to see what the 2015 list looks like. Two companies on the 2014 list already will be dropping off to their acquisitions.
Who’s next and what is most interesting about these developments as the industry continues to thrive and evolve?
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