eView: The Coming Liberalization of E-mail, and Innovations That Will Follow
For some time it felt as if e-mail had been left behind by the innovation bandwagon. While its online brethren like banners and search adopted new capabilities, e-mail seemed to remain stuck in the past.
Make no mistake, there were considerable advancements leading to more sophisticated e-mail campaigns, evident in services offered via numerous e-mail service providers and CRM packages. Still, the user-facing side of e-mail languished, like a computer with a very powerful chip but a primitive user interface to access it.
ISPs cannot be blamed for locking down the e-mail user interface, for example, with their introduction of image suppression. ISPs are merely trying to protect end users from spam and fraudulent e-mails. Fortunately, the introduction of secure authentication schemes such as DomainKeys Identified Mail and e-mail certification programs including Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail and Return Path’s Sender Score have enabled ISPs to identify responsible senders.
This week, Goodmail announced that its partner ISPs will be allowing CertifiedEmail senders to embed video within e-mails. This is a strong indication that the major ISPs finally are allowing opportunities for innovation by opening the inbox to reputable senders.
The next wave in e-mail
The following list highlights what we can expect from this liberalization of the inbox:
More rich-media content. With video now in the ring, other powerful capabilities like Flash and scripts within e-mail will soon follow. It's widely reported that rich-media ads perform much better than static ads. Personalized rich media in e-mail will make the experience more intimate and effective. Imagine an interactive product catalog tailored to a recipient’s past purchase behavior delivered right within the e-mail itself. The technologies to deliver such an experience are already available on Web sites through services like Adobe’s Scene7 and Zinio.
One-click immediacy. E-mail suffers from a “too many clicks” property. It takes one click to open the e-mail, another to display images, and one more to get to the actual Web site to browse and make a purchase. With embedded content support within e-mail, forms, chat widgets and in-e-mail shopping carts allow recipients to browse, customize and purchase products without leaving the e-mail.
More reliable statistics. The prevalence of image suppression wreaks havoc on tracking open rates. With the ability to embed scripts, marketers will be able to leverage the analytics software they use to measure audience behaviors on their Web sites and apply them to e-mail messages to obtain a richer customer picture.
“Outside the inbox” innovations. The liberalization of the inbox also will breed new e-mail innovations. At Advenix, we’re working on the successor to the text subject line — customized e-mail previews. Other companies, such as Iconix and BrandMail, also are developing solutions to increase trust and brand awareness through informational icons and mouseovers.
Industry support from the inbox gatekeepers will not only bring in new revenue for ISPs, but also increase spend throughout the entire ecosystem. Consumers will benefit from a much improved e-mail experience, and marketers will have more freedom and tools to innovate and engage consumers.