Rich Media Email: Slow Progress

There may be no clear definition of what rich media is, but all the data point to the fact that it's on the rise. However, that's only on the web. When it comes to email, rich media is stagnating, says Nate Elliott, who is the author of a new report published by Jupiter Research, titled, "Rich Media Email: Analyzing Costs and Prioritizing Budgets."

Elliott, who recently joined Jupiter as Associate Analyst, Marketing & Advertising, says the economics of rich media email simply don't make sense for certain marketers.

According to his report, because rich media email costs marketers 30% to 60% more than HTML email and because it can be viewed by only one-third of consumers, many marketers will find rich media email is not a cost-effective direct marketing tool. However, certain marketers, specifically those sending messages to over 250,000 users, entertainment marketers, and marketers with high value per customer, may use rich media email to improve acquisition efficiency.

In the report, Elliott writes, "rich media email can cost considerably more than HTML email. Creative and production fees can exceed $10,000, and rich media serving fees add an extra $0.02 to $0.04 per message delivered-all to reach as little as one-third of the email list with a rich message."

Jupiter research indicates that over 65% of personal email accounts use clients, including AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail, which do not display rich media content. As a result, only one-third of Internet users have the ability to view Flash- and video-enhanced email. In a typical consumer rich media email campaign, 30% to 35% of consumers emailed will view the rich media message, 50% to 60% will view an HTML version of the message, and 10% to 20% of the list will view a text message.

Elliott says, "rich media email is today is where web-based rich media was few years ago. Marketers aren't comfortable with the tools, so it's easier to avoid the topic entirely."

What does the future hold? Elliott was hesitant to dust off his crystal ball, but said that it's a foggy area. Because companies like Microsoft are planning to make it difficult to receive even HTML email, it's hard to see a great increase, he said. "It's almost going backwards."

However, the key point of the study, Elliott says, is that certain marketers can indeed make rich media email work for them. But they should "work the numbers" and do some test campaigns at the outset to make sure. "The technologies can be very effective," Elliott says. "It's just a question of making it cost-effective."

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