Top Trends For Email Service Providers

As we sit at the Email Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, we realize that the industry has not failed us again.  Another year of record growth in email volume, number of campaigns sent, increases in transactional messaging, more sophistication in customer segmentation and rapid increases in mobile messaging. 

Most email service providers represented at this conference have also been in the midst of submission for the Forrester Wave Report on ESPs.   While I can’t scoop the process or the report, I can say there were certainly some trends in our industry that I thought worthy of highlighting.   We’ve had an interesting 2011, with much  scrutiny because of concerns around data security.  Consumer privacy and controls in the social space have challenged our “dumb and dumber” attitude around sharing indiscriminately in our social networks and public forums.   We’ve seen a consistent trend around enterprise social CRM and applying analytics to a more holistic customer engagement process.   Outbound is blurring content curation as a practice, and the consumer is becoming more engaged and less patient.

Trends, like fortune cookies, are to be interpreted based on your circumstance.  My experiences has led to these conclusions:

-      Email volume will continue to blow out the records for the next three years.  Companies are still spending a very large portion of their budgets on acquisition, and customer and prospect databases will continue to grow. I foresee more programmed communications, and more adhoc campaigns, creating challenges to produce meaningful messaging and content fast enough to keep pace economically.  I don’t see creative budgets increasing at the same rate as delivery budgets.

-      Social coordination will be a KPI.  Many will see this as simply referral value of “share” value.  I see it from an analytical perspective.  Three years and growing, social marketing has show promise of actually getting attention in the attribution discussion with search, media and email.  You will see a lot more correlations among campaigns and combined channels and how they drive business results.  This will be a challenge for many, yet I liken it to the days of email-to-Web conversion path analysis.  There will be a distinct view of “buzz” and “interaction” that will find its way into the email/communication ROI discussion.

-      Geo-targeting will shift your depth of perception.   If the range of daily deals hasn’t convinced you of the dynamics of local marketing, then you’ve been sleeping on the job.   I’m not sure the Groupons will survive long-term, but I do believe that the major brands will and should be able to deliver a very similar value to their customers.  The change will be that marketers now have to integrate their email, Web, media, mobile app strategies and make their offers relevant to customer needs on a persistent basis.   Translated to our industry, this means more pressure on consistency in content management, integration and optimization of experiences and timing.

The Forrester activity, while very similar to ones from the past, certainly put pressure on ESPs to illustrate innovation, illustrate performance and testify to privacy and security.  I’m sure we’ll have some active debates at the EIS Summit this week on these topics specifically -- and hopefully a few inspirations to what’s to come.