Four Email Marketing Predictions for 2010

As the end of the year nears, here are four predictions for 2010:

Inactivation campaigns will become more important, thanks to ISPs giving weight to engagement metrics when determining whether to deliver to the inbox or junk folder or to block email. Marketers with 50% or more of their list inactive will have to start devising strategies to deal with reducing that level. It will start with each company defining what "inactive" is for them, then progress to segmentation tactics to message inactives differently, and possibly culminate with reactivation campaigns that give subscribers a chance to reaffirm their interest or be dropped from the list.

There was a panel of 20-somethings fresh out of college at the Email Insider Summit yesterday. The majority of them indicated that they subscribe to emails that they don't read and just hold on to in case they are suddenly in the market. These kinds of subscribers are becoming increasingly problematic for marketers.



More preference centers will be launched. Consumers are demanding more control over messaging that reaches them and are reacting harshly when messages are not relevant. Preference centers are a key tool in this fight for greater relevance. Part of the reason that preferences centers are so vital is that email marketers have traditionally done an abysmal job of being transparent about what subscribers will be receiving, both in terms of content and frequency. Consequently, there's a huge trust gap. That's one of the key reasons that so many promotional emails are relegated to consumers' secondary inboxes and are not welcome in their primary inboxes.

Stephanie Miller of Return Path wrote an article recently about how to justify a preference center to upper management. It's a must-read for any marketer that doesn't have this critical relevancy and transparency tool.

Opt-out processes will become friendlier and more effective at retention. Two years after publishing my last benchmark study on unsubscribe practices, I've begun working on a follow-up study -- and I'm not very impressed at the progress that's been made. Preference centers used for opt-outs don't recognize when subscribers unsubscribe in terms of the confirmation page messaging. While more retailers are providing unhappy subscribers with the option of opting down -- that is, receiving emails less frequently -- few point former subscribers to alternative channels like blogs, Twitter and catalogs. Unsubscribe practices aren't the cheeriest of topics, but email marketers aren't doing nearly enough to maintain open channels of communication with customers.

Landing pages will do a better job of aiding in conversions. Too often I still encounter major retailers that use a department page as their landing page and leave it to subscribers to find the product they wanted that was shown in the email. A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it takes more than two clicks or a search for a subscriber to find a product shown in your email, then you're significantly hampering conversions, leaving money on the table while simultaneously frustrating subscribers and teaching them that clicking through your email may not be worth their time. What that translates into is a greater need for mapping images and for more thoughtfulness when it comes to links. Of course, there are also opportunities for custom landing pages and the integration of dynamic content modules.

While there's tons of industry talk about leveraging mobile and integrating social media and email, there are lots of opportunities for vast improvements in core email marketing processes.
8 comments about "Four Email Marketing Predictions for 2010".
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  1. Gregg Oldring from Mailout Interactive, December 8, 2009 at 12:28 p.m.

    Good guessing Chad! The first three are on our to-do list for Industry Mailout.

  2. Eric Oliver from TheCosmonaut, December 8, 2009 at 1:36 p.m.

    I'm fascinated by prediction #1 -- this is the first I've heard of ISPs being able to access engagement metrics for emails. Have you written on this already? Could you post links where I can read more about this?

  3. Chad White from Litmus, December 8, 2009 at 4:14 p.m.

    Eric, I recommend reading "What's in store at the ISPs 2009-2010" from Pivotal Veracity. It talks about this new trend in deliverability. Here's a link to the whitepaper:

  4. Bill Kaplan from FreshAddress, Inc., December 9, 2009 at 11:13 a.m.

    Prediction #5: Email list hygiene will become a necessity, not a "nice to have"

    Given the ever-increasing blocking and blacklisting tactics employed by ISPs in an effort to thwart spammers, marketers will realize that keeping their email lists clean and up-to-date is now even more important than NCOA'ing their postal lists on a regular basis. While sending direct mail and catalogs to old addresses can be costly, you're only wasting money on the portion of your file that's undeliverable. For email messaging, however, an old or dirty list can bring down your entire email marketing program so the risk of ignoring email list hygiene is definitely not something anyone can afford.

    Sophisticated companies have already built this expense into their budgets and are reaping the benefits in terms of higher deliverability rates, opens, clickthroughs, and most importantly revenues. Other companies will soon follow suit as they realize that monies invested in targeting, creative, and offers are all wasted if "the emails do not go through."

  5. Susanne Sassen from Moshi-Toshi E-mailmarketing, December 16, 2009 at 5:03 a.m.

    It's very interesting to read about the opting-down instead of the opt-out. We don't see this in the Netherlands yet, but it will be very interesting to read more about it. Is the study you did somewhere published on the internet?

  6. Chad White from Litmus, December 21, 2009 at 8:33 p.m.

    Susanne, the last unsubscribe study I did is available through the Email Experience Council. You can find the executive summary here:

    The next study will be available for free at

  7. Dave Hale from DHI-Communications, December 23, 2009 at 8:41 a.m.

    I have found that my inactive opt-ins or opt-outs become some of my best customers. I have done this by offering lower-priced services, products, and more benefits that speak directly to what they want. I do this by either calling them directly or emailing a survey request, which has a completion bonus added on.

    Marketers will find this to be true. People came to them for a reason. Unfortunately, that reason was not fulfilled correctly. The trick is in finding what the reason is and over filling it.

    Dr. Dave Hale, The Internet Marketing Professor

  8. Jared Kimball from, December 24, 2009 at 9:31 a.m.

    "Unsubscribe practices aren't the cheeriest of topics, but email marketers aren't doing nearly enough to maintain open channels of communication with customers."

    No email marketer likes their prospects unsubscribing because it took so much time and money to gain the lead in the first place. However, with the trends of email marketing changing so much we have to adapt as well. Email 10 years ago is way different than email now.

    Engagement is a key component with today's trends. Prospects need to be interactive with email marketers. Email marketing today is permission marketing and we need to respect that permission.

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