Last year I wrote a column about some “not-so-obvious” things in the world of email that I’m thankful for. I focused on the people and technologies that keep email safe and secure. To be honest, I’m still thankful for all those things. While the fight against spam, phishing, spoofing and more wins many battles, the war continues and there is much work still to be done.
This year, though, I wanted to turn my attention to more aspects of the email ecosystem that I think give us reason to be grateful.
Email innovation makes the inbox more interesting: There are a lot of new ideas coming from both large webmail providers (including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo) and from smaller start-ups that make the email inbox more interesting and relevant to today’s consumers. I think these innovations fit into two big buckets: 1) Make my inbox less cluttered and easier to navigate; and 2) Make my inbox more fun and useful. In bucket #1 are things like Hotmail’s “sweep” function and Gmail’s Priority Inbox aimed at clearing out bulk mail more quickly to allow the user to focus on the most wanted email. In bucket #2 are functions like Active Views that allow for interaction within email -- including shopping and package tracking. Also in this bucket is video -- that, while still in its early days, is gaining more traction.
(Some) marketers are starting to get it: This year some marketers really started to wake up to two realities. First, that email is actually not going anywhere. The evidence of email’s power to drive revenue for businesses is pretty overwhelming. And while there is no question that social and mobile will be part of the mix, these new channels are not displacing email. In fact, they are making email more essential as the hub of our digital lives. Second, marketers began to realize that email’s enduring power doesn’t mean that the rules haven’t changed. Consumers have become used to an always-on, on-demand world where they can get what they want, when they want, how they want. Crafting email messages that really engage with today’s consumers is challenging, but makes email as a marketing discipline a whole lot more interesting.
Email goes mobile: The proliferation of smartphones isn’t entirely surprising -- it’s been an ongoing trend for many years now. But the tablet revolution -- which, truth be told is, still just the iPad revolution -- has added an entirely new dimension to the idea of email on the go. Tablets go where laptops don’t, but they have capabilities that smartphones don’t. Return Path research shows the increasing email viewership on iPads that continues to grow alongside the market share for the device. And this isn’t just Return Path research – a recent Business Insider survey found 22% of the time spent on an iPad was on email. While the mobile marketing revolution is likely to include SMS and apps, as well as email, there is no denying that email is key component of our mobile lifestyle.
What are some of the innovations in email that you are thankful for this year?