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Email marketing OF THE FUTURE!

ISPs are continually developing tools for their users. Some of the newer tools are automatic filters that help users organize the volumes of mail they’re getting. Gmail released Priority Inbox over a year ago. Hotmail announced new filters as part of Wave 5 back in October.

All of these announcements cause much consternation in the email marketing industry. Just today there was a long discussion on the Only Influencers list about the new Hotmail filtering. There was even some discussion about why the ISPs were doing this.

I think it’s pretty simple why they’re creating new tools: users are asking for them. The core of these new filters is ISPs reacting to consumer demand. They wouldn’t put the energy into development if their users didn’t want it. And many users do and will use priority inbox or the new Hotmail filtering.

Some people are concerned that marketing email will be less effective if mail is not in the inbox.

From a marketer’s standpoint, it is a challenge because we want to get our customers’ attention, and it is harder to do that if these messages are going into a separate box. Laura Santos

I think, though, a lot of email marketing (and direct marketing in general) relies on the consumer being lazy. That’s why negative options work so well. It’s not that the user is actually making a choice, it’s that they’re not making a choice, so the marketer chooses for them. In many cases the marketer controls the channel more than the target does.

This isn’t the case in email. Marketers don’t control the channel, the ISPs and end users do. This requires a shift in thinking in order to effectively use the channel.

I’m someone who filters all my newsletters to a non-standard inbox. I’ve done it for years now. It improves my workflow and actually means when I open that box I’m more receptive to the advertising. Folks sending me newsletters don’t get to interrupt me, they get my attention when I’m ready to give it to them.

I can see how this shift – from interruption based marketing to non-interruption based marketing can be difficult for marketers. It’s a new paradigm, one that is much more challenging than getting a lazy consumer to purchase.

Adapt or Die.

1 comment

  1. Jon Stanesby says

    Great write up as usual Laura. I would disagree that the trend is purely connected to consumer demand – although I am sure a new feature requires some level of demand to get development budgets in the first place. Many consumers were quite happy without these tools and would likely never have thought “I wish there was a better way to organise my incoming email” – it is just the way it was done, as you say, you have been doing it for years. I think it may be a move on the ISP’s part to allow them a greater level of information on what you do and do not want to read and making it easier for the average lazy consumer to give them that information without needing to set up complex inbox rules and filters. The first attempt at this was – the Spam folder – nothing wrong with the spam folder. It is there to catch potential false positives being blocked completely (as the majority of spam email sent to people is these days), however before that it used to house ALL your spam, not just the small amount it holds today. The reason for the evolution was designed so users would periodically check the spam folder because it had fewer emails in it now and retrieve wanted messages. The problem is that no one bothered looking in their spam folder unless they knew they were meant to get an email and they didn’t and the immortal words “I definitely sent it, have you checked your junk mail?” were born. So without uses interacting in this way, how are the ISP’s supposed to figure out what is important and what is not? The new thinking is to develop multiple inboxes or other tools to teach the user how to interact with email they do want, might want, probably don’t want and definitely don’t want so that the ISP can be seen to be doing a better job than its rivals in keeping inboxes spam free, but also delivering the email you need or want to some type of inbox. But ultimately whatever the influence, the motivation will always be to have happy users spending more time in their inboxes/homepages generating ad impressions and revenue for the ISP. The likes of Hotmail are more likely to want their users clicking through on the ad they place next to your marketing email rather than on the email itself – that’s is for certain.

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