Thursday, January 14, 2010

2010 Trends: The E-mail Marketer's Perspective

Originally published on ClickZ 01/07/2010

I've been "doing e-mail" since 1997 -- all my years on the service provider side. When I look back on 2010, I think it will be the year when everything changed.

Already many e-mail service providers (ESPs) have moved into mobile and social channels in a limited way. This trend will continue, and marketers will increasingly organize themselves around these "digital direct" channels. So, here's what I think we'll see happen in 2010...

E-mail

  • Segmentation will finally hit the tipping point. For over a decade segmentation has been too much talk, supported by too little action. This will be the year that "smart marketers" become the majority and start doing segmentation on a regular basis.

  • Analytics will finally get the attention it deserves. Neil Mason's column talks about Web analytics being "data rich" but "analytically poor." This is also true of e-mail marketing. The problem with e-mail is that it's "cheap," so direct marketers who are used to doing analytics for cost avoidance need to focus on analytics for revenue generation. The models need to focus on what to send, not who to suppress. Sounds simple, but it hasn't happened to the degree it should. I'm optimistic that this is the year for big progress for e-mail analytics.

Mobile

When I think about mobile as a channel, I'm thinking about its use as a CRM (define) channel, not for advertising. Mobile handsets are now ubiquitous in most parts of the globe, and unlimited plans (text and data) are the catalyst for growth of SMS (define) and mobile apps.

  • SMS will go big or go home. SMS has never really taken off as a marketing vehicle. (It came on the scene roughly the same time as e-mail, but is dwarfed by e-mail in usage.) 2010 will be the year it will take off, or die forever.

  • Apps. Mobile apps have huge potential. The best apps will make use of your location and social connections. Knowing where you are, who your friends are, and where they are creates great potential for smart marketers. Apps that are just reconstituted mobile Web sites will have a limited shelf life. Consumers will download, then delete. A limited number of brands will get invited to the handset, the rest will need to have a good mobile Web site to enable access to the brand when the customer is not engaged enough to want your application.

  • Bar codes will take off (e-mail and mobile). Customers will increasingly use e-mail on smartphones or via an app to present coupon bar codes at the checkout (or airport check-in). In e-mail, the bar code will increasingly be in the preheader. Likewise, marketers will ditch their plastic loyalty cards for a simple image on the smartphone that can be scanned. For "offline" businesses (retail and manufacturers), mobile apps already provide bar code readers for price comparisons. Smart marketers will develop a defense against these applications. For example, an application will enable "browse" offers based on location and shopping time. Similar to existing offers that pop up when you spend too long in the Web site checkout process, smart marketers will replicate this proactive approach in the physical world via an app. (OK, maybe this one is 2011.)

Social

  • Social will be managed by the "e-mail" department. As another digital direct marketing channel, when CMOs go looking for the team with the talent to manage Facebook marketing, they will decide on the team that currently runs their e-mail program.

  • Facebook will allow targeting. Today, Facebook marketing is like e-mail circa 1997. Most posts by marketers on Facebook are untargeted. You can target posts by region and language, but not much else. Consumers can choose exactly who they want to post to, including any customized list. Businesses can't. This will change; otherwise marketer irrelevance will spoil Facebook as a marketing channel. Facebook moves fast, and I think some element of marketer specified targeting will occur this year. ESPs will provide tools to manage these list segments and the subsequent proliferation of campaigns.

  • The market will define what it means to be a "Fan." When Fan Pages first launched they really were for true fans. The audience was small. Most marketers want scale. 2010 will be the year when marketers have enough experience with Facebook that they consciously decide whether they want their Fan Pages to be for their true fans or that they need to go big and juice with promos. Once the Facebook channel becomes primarily promotional, it won't be quite as special. It will be just the masses looking for another deal channel. Therefore, the segmentation above is all the more important, so marketers can still find and converse differently with their true fans.

  • Twitter will do something. I don't know, you tell me. I've seen some success with travel and small local businesses (what's the soup today?). Twitter's real-time nature is a great match for their perishable inventory. But I don't know what the next big step is for marketers with Twitter. Maybe I'm a mammal, not a bird? You tell me what they'll do.