Some Insight From The Insiders: Emerging Email Technologies

Once again I was fortunate enough to attend the Spring Email Insider Summit in Florida.  For those of you who have not attended an Insider event, they offer an amazing forum for collaboration among some of the best minds and brands involved in email marketing today.  The format allows for significant learning (and a little fun as well).

This year I moderated a roundtable discussion on Emerging Technologies, specifically: things that leading email marketers have their eyes on through 2009 and beyond.  While I will omit the names of the members of the roundtable in an effort to protect the innocent, I think the ideas we shared are both valuable and interesting for other marketers to contemplate.

Integration of the email experience and landing pages
The group seemed very interested in leveraging dynamic emails to drive traffic to multi-variant landing pages.  While many of the brands involved in the discussion leverage landing pages specific to email today, the "emerging technologies" piece related to a more seamless integration between the offers and content of the email experience and the content on the landing page.  While multivariate testing is not new to either channel, the concept of a tighter relationship between the two could reveal optimization opportunities. 



The group specifically mentioned Omniture Test and Target as a technology that could help enable this tighter relationship, driving data for content decisions to both email (through the company's Genesis Program) and to the Web.  In general, the concept of integrating email with various channels (Web, search, SMS, social, etc.) was a recurring theme during the discussions.  

Transactional email
While the use of transactional email within the enterprise is not a new concept, getting control over transactional email streams remains elusive.  The group was interested in technologies that would allow them to leverage transactional email opportunities. Many are seeing ecommerce systems (think GSI Commerce, which now owns eDialog, and campaign management systems that introduce more robust email capabilities for transactional while others are building internal solutions. The group mentioned that solutions like StrongMail  (full disclosure -- that's my company) are often used as a way to get marketing control over transactional streams, and that integration providers like Cast Iron Systems  are developing products to standardize API integrations between SAAS providers and legacy business application.  

I have said it many times in this column and will say it again now: If your business sends transactional email (purchase confirmations, password resets, shipping notices, etc.) and marketing does not have control of those streams, it needs to be a priority for your business.  The conversion opportunities within these streams are simply too high to ignore.

Social Content
Social media was a recurring theme at the event this year. Many of the members of the roundtable are focusing on how to better leverage social channels in their direct marketing efforts. It was interesting how broad social media applications have become in email -- from inserting ratings and reviews to allowing recipients to publish email offers directly to their social networks.

Our roundtable members were very interested in the ability to grab feeds from social networks and serve that content (in a relevant manner) to their own Web sites and email templates.  I think user-generated content represents truly engaging material if placed correctly within email communications.  This content also tends to provide real lift in CTR when used appropriately.  Based on the feedback from the roundtable, I encourage you to involve your customers in your message and integrate user-generated content into your programs.  

Multichannel Campaign Management
Even with companies like Aprimo and Unica professing the integration of "on" and "offline" channels few marketers are truly executing multichannel programs. However, a number of members of the roundtable have invested in such campaign management tools and are seeing success through sophisticated targeting and segmentation.  In many cases these tools help marketers determine the target, offer, timing and channel around their overall direct marketing programs.  Of the six brands participating in the roundtable, at least half had invested (a few very recently) in advanced campaign management systems.  

Preference Management
Not surprisingly, the group expressed frustration over the email industry's inability to provide true multi-channel preference management solutions to their businesses. While most email systems offer subscription management capabilities few solutions truly address the real issues of "preference." 

The challenges included the need to manage preferences across multiple email addresses for a specific customer and the desire for a solution that would allow customers to set preferences around a variety of "attributes." The attributes include communication channel, frequency, time of day, content, etc. The real vision is for these preferences to sync across a companies' various execution channels, creating a seamless communication experience for the customer.

As I said at the beginning, the Email Insider Summit is an amazing opportunity to learn from your peers and discuss the daily challenges and opportunities faced by all serious email marketers.  Consider this post a very small sample of what's covered over the three-day conference and use it as motivation to get to future summits.  See you in December!



2 comments about "Some Insight From The Insiders: Emerging Email Technologies".
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  1. Kirstin Brown-erwin from Focus Research, May 14, 2009 at 10:52 a.m.

    Social Media seemed to be taboo topic at the Email Insider seminar from what your recap said. Will email take the path of the the horse and buggy whip? Ask the youngsters,18-24 age group, the last time they emailed someone?

  2. Ryan Deutsch, May 14, 2009 at 11:50 a.m.

    Social Media was NOT taboo at all at the summit and I apologize if I left that impression. Email marketers are embracing social channels as a natural progression of the viral nature of email. While many are still figuring out how to monetize social media it is a hot topic and one that I feel email marketers should work to own as a direct channel within digital marketing. In fact, many prominent social media companies attended and spoke at the summit including ShareThis, FaceBook and Rapeleaf.

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