So where is e-mail in all of this? Good question. My experience is that trade shows always lag behind where the real action is and the real action always happens where people aren't paying attention. If you buy into that theory, than search is over, just based on the fact that everyone at the show seems to be a search company. And e-mail, based on the recent venture capital and merger and acquisition activity is where the smart money is being invested.
I sat in on one panel discussion on building affiliate networks and asked the panelists where they saw e-mail in their affiliate mix. For panel member Shawn Collins, e-mail is no longer part of the marketing mix. The issues surrounding Can Spam have made it a non-starter.
But according to Josh Baer, CEO of e-mail technology provider Skylist, the panelist may be living in a fool's paradise: "Advertisers don't realize how much of their affiliate traffic that they assume is coming from banners and links is actually coming from e-mail."
Josh went on to tell me about some of the new features of the 2.4 release of their e-mail technology product called StormPost. The most interesting feature of the new product is a unique alerting system called StormAlerts.
The idea behind StormAlerts is that busy marketers who manage multiple lists, e-mail drops, and target offers need a method to help them mange the ever expanding reports that these offers generate. What StormAlerts does is strip the report down to any problem areas that may require immediate attention, giving the marketer the ability to spotlight areas of concern that could negatively impact their e-mail marketing efforts.
The way it works is that an index of key statistics is created things like opening rate, unsubscribe rates, deliverability rates, bounce backs, complaints, etc. A threshold is given for each of these key areas that are determined based on the past history of the advertiser. If any of these statistics fall outside of the predetermined threshold, an alert is immediately sent so the marketer can examine the offer to see what went wrong and correct the problem quickly.
"It is like spell check," says Josh. "Spell check works because it alerts you automatically to a misspelled word." With StormAlerts, the marketer is alerted automatically to problems so they can take corrective action.
One example that Josh used was a dating category. Once a client signs up for a dating site, an automated message is normally sent to the user that includes their password and login information. If that message ends up in their spam trap, they may never receive their login and thus, never use the dating site. StormAlerts notifies the marketer if their welcome message exceeded a certain threshold for deliverability. If so, the message can be examined for subject line or body text that might be triggering the spam filter and then corrected.
As far as the general state of e-mail, Josh is very bullish as you might expect: "Sales are up. They started going up last fall, and haven't gone down, even after the holiday season."
Personally I'm waiting to see Ad:tech New York to see how many search companies are still standing by the fall, and how many e-mail companies are going to take their place.