As someone who laments being labelled as one of those people who sends out spam, Monica DiBartolo is quick to point out the industry is about to turn another corner in improving its image.
Though it might sound ironic to all bar an industry insider, the email marketing director at Jellyfish claims the reason why email is getting more and more appealing to humans is automation technology. And what’s more, we’re on the verge of seeing email become a whole lot more useful than an occasional nudge from a retailer looking to shift some stock.
The automation technology that is exciting DiBartolo was highlighted last week as vital for the nearly nine in 10 companies who handle email in-house. According to the Direct Marketing Association, these brands could well be missing out on the latest tools commonly used by agencies that improve targeting and customer experience.
“We’ve had automation tools at the big agencies and brands for quite some time now but the really interesting thing is these are now becoming more accessible as they’re launched on the cloud to suit companies of all sizes,” she says.
“The industry’s already turned a corner since the early days of spam and this is only going to help. Not just because it’s going to help smaller guys act more professionally but it’s also empowering companies of all sizes to segment their databases and set up points on the purchase funnel where emails are triggered. For the brand, that saves a huge amount of manpower and for the customer it means that the right message is reaching them at the right time, according to where they are in the journey to purchase.”
This means that the types of campaigns we’ve normally associated with the large retailers are now achievable by companies of all sizes. Once an email is captured, Web behaviour on the company’s site can dictate when a prospect looks ready for the next stage. This will vary widely from one product or service to another. But the result of an offer to take interaction with the brand a little deeper is more likely to be well-received, as the days of blasting out generic emails comes to a very welcome end.
Getting Functional With Gmail
But that’s not all. If you want to look beyond automation and how technology is on the verge of transforming email, you need only look at Google’s Email Markup offering. It adds functionality to messages, which DiBartolo believes is going to make the channel far more appealing to end users so long as other mail providers pick up on the service.
“It’s just so useful to have an email which allows you to interact directly with the brand, rather than click to go off to a Web site,” she says.
“It’s great for sending an RSVP to an event invite or confirming flight details. The other ISPs generally tend to follow what Google is doing so we’re really hoping they do so here because from what we’re seeing, people are finding it a really useful service.”
So the industry that got a bad rep for some bad apples using technology to send out endless streams of untargeted, unsolicited messages is continuing to turn around its reputation, perhaps ironically, through better use of customer-focussed advances in automation technology. Rather than bombard or frustrate, the tools that are now available to all can be used to aid the customer journey by online behaviour playing a central role in what message a user receives and when. Crucially, this new wave of email marketing is seeing technology made available to practitioners of all sizes to build campaigns around customers as human beings rather than faceless email addresses.