Privacy Malfeasance — From GDPR to the unrolling Facebook scandal, privacy was on the front pages of the national media in 2018.
Facebook, no friend to email marketers to begin with, has through its sheer arrogance hastened the passage of GDPR-style regulation in the U.S. at both the state and federal levels. And email marketers — those who follow privacy best practices — are being slimed through no fault of their own.
Not that the email industry is totally innocent: some providers still scan emails to peddle targeted advertising. Google got the message and stopped. Verizon, with its unraveling Oath unit, hasn’t.
Security Meltdown — This is a related problem. The focus has been on whether the Russians have infiltrated our political campaigns.
Let’s not forget a parallel development: that corporate America is one big sieve: Facebook, Marriott, Macy’s, Quora and others suffered staggering data breaches this year, and they have only themselves to blame. Some failed to conduct due diligence about security when hiring vendors or acquiring other companies. Others didn’t train their staffs.
Worse, some violated the old PR saying: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging,” by failing to report these hacks in a timely way. One shudders at the looming financial liability they face from fines and/or class action litigation.
Yet it’s possible that consumers don’t care — they are suffering from breach fatigue.
Martech Miracles — Finally, a positive story: Email, that tired old workhorse, has improved its game. Machine learning now allows brands to send both promotional and transactional email on an individual basis without manual intervention. And they can operate via the cloud, or through hybrid solutions.
Is everyone there yet? No. But the tools exist. Here’s another advance: consumers can respond directly through the email, not by going to a website link But there are challenges, like the Gmail redesign and the need to create mobile-friendly emails.
At the same time, customer service technology has reached a new level. Forbes reports this morning that TUMI, the luggage maker, routes phone calls to the last customer service person the customer has spoken with, to build empathy.
Vendor Monster Mash — From Twilio’s $2 billion acquisition of SendGrid to Adobe’s takeover of Marketo for $4.75 billion, there were some big deals cut in 2019. And there were a number of lesser ones, like Upland Software’s purchase of Adestra and Rebel’s pickup by Salesforce.
Enterprise players have used these mergers to broaden their offerings by adding cloud components, email APIs and attribution tools. Is this good for the clients? Hardly — there is less choice.
The BIMI Prompt — Forgive us a bit of hype, but here’s one of the most hopeful stories of 2018: Brand Indicators or Message Identification (BIMI). Developed by a consortium of high-tech players, BIMI allows brands to place their logos in subject lines if they have been validated as secure and legitimate.
The very presence of the logo assures that the recipient that the message is from a trusted brand. Granted, both brand and consumers will have to be educated.
Expect a series of high-profile announcements in 2019 as BIMI is rolled out and companies go public with their involvement.
Happy New Year to all.