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Advanced Expectations: New Developments in Email Marketing

August 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Mona Moore asked:

The modern-day drive in marketing, particularly e-mail marketing, is concerned with the implications of the hyper-consumption experiences being identified within an emergent consumer branded the ‘expectation economy’. The expectation economy refers to a new-style economy that is characterized by well-informed consumers who have high expectations with regard to services and products, and who place a high premium on a superior buying experience. Over the years, the modern consumer has acquired specialist know-how through continuous self-training and in the process of hyperconsumption and exposure to new dynamic lifestyle models, has come to expect not only superior standards of quality but expects ‘best of the best’. The readily available always-on information networks have also promoted this new-style consumer culture that expects “only the best” and is not satisfied with just basic standards in services and products.

These high expectation trends in marketing also apply to the advancement and evolution of email marketing. Instead of simply sending batches of emails to random customers and prospects, the trend in recent years has been to rather develop strategic and sophisticated “smart” emailing campaigns. For example, the successful email marketer focuses on promotional methods to facilitate increasing customer response as well as stimulate conversion and retention rates. This is achieved through a combination of personalization, segmentation and “triggers.” In other words,” Increasingly segmented and triggered emails will be driven by behavioral data, such as which specific links a recipient clicked, whether someone did or did not open an email, what pages they visited on the company’s Web site or whether they did or did not make a purchase or take a specific action”. (http://www.emaillabs.com/email_marketing_articles/article_2005_email_marketing_trends.html) This process is often automated by companies using software to integrate email data with other customer data via an API (Application Protocol Interface)

Email marketing has also advanced beyond conventional technologies, with marketers switching between plain text and HTML formats. Some pundits state that, “E-mail’s role is changing, the technology is advancing, and its horizons are broadening”. (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3627210) Similarly, audio and video email has become a distinct possibly. These new modes of email marketing are aimed at enlarging and expanding the possibilities of email marketing. Yet, it was previously thought that these technologies were not practical because the size of audio and video mail had a negative impact on download times. However, both these new formats, and especially video emails, have become feasible because of the increase in bandwidth availability. Even in less developed countries, there has been a substantial increase in the required speed and bandwidth to deal with larger email formats.

A number of companies offer audio email services to the Webmaster and marketer and are hyping it as the “new wave” in increasing consumer response to email advertising. This is often referred to as “talking email” and offers a more direct and dramatic means of communication with the client or customer. Companies like Expedite Email Marketing suggest that, “By adding your voice, sound or music into your email marketing campaigns, you will set your email message apart from the rest”.

While many assume that simply adding an audio component to your email advertisement will improve click through rates, it should be borne in mind that the same problems that hinder mass mail marketing apply to this form of marketing. Simply adding technology without a well-planned marketing strategy in place that clearly identifies the key objective of the exercise will probably not do much to improve returns and customer response rates. As many pundits suggest, the art of effective email marketing requires focused selection and targeting of customer demographics and needs. Of course, one can create one’s own audio or video email attachment. However, the process can be slightly complex in terms of format and streaming audio and video; this area of expertise will be dealt with in more detail in future articles on this subject.

The features and advantages of audio email marketing include: The audio plays automatically once the email is opened; research has shown that an increased response rate results from the more intimate feel that audio communication provides the recipient in comparison to conventional text-based email messaging. The addition of music can also add impetus to any marketing campaign.

Video marketing is another advanced form of email marketing that has become increasingly popular over the last few years. However, this very exciting mode of communicating one’s advertising message to the customer is not without certain problem areas that one should be aware of. Video clips are usually not embedded or included directly in the email, as this would make the size of the download excessive for the ordinary user. Instead, video is usually linked to external sources that play on opening or by activating a link within the body of the email. The problem lies in the fact that to play external video the recipient of the email must access a plug-in application — such as Windows Media or Macromedia Flash. Unfortunately, many email clients, like Microsoft Outlook, disable these plug-in options as default. There are however, ways around this problem and several companies such as VISMAIL (VisMail.com) and Pixelfish (PixelFish.com) offer technology to circumvent these problems. Conversely, marketers claim that video email works well as an effective marketing tool, as most users today have the required plug-ins actively installed to facilitate immediate application. Flash technology has also been used to implement email marketing as this often has a much lower download size.

Reports and studies on the use of video email marketing are encouraging. One such report states that, “Video e-mail recently made a comeback. While there are many recommended best practices for when and how to use video e-mail, the bottom line in early results show response rates (opens and clicks) 3 to 10 times higher than those for static e-mail.” (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3625573) Research also shows that this form of email marketing increases landing page traffic and conversions.

The bottom line however with these more advanced forms of email marketing is that quality is more important than quantity. Building lists of thousands of email addresses as part of a marketing campaign has little worth if these addresses have not been selected with specific target clients in mind. As a pundit puts it; “Building a list of 10,000 names is not a goal. What value you are adding? You can offer quality content and something of value to the recipient, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to generate ROI.” (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3627210) Both audio and video email marketing have another advantage – they effectively promote viral marketing. Viral marketing is a method of encouraging recipients to pass along the marketing message to other potential consumers. The impact of video email and the quality of the information presented can facilitate the proliferation of this form of personalized marketing. There is also every indication from recent studies of the modern online environment that video and audio email marketing can have a marked increase on traffic and attract emergent hyper-consumption clients and customers that form part of the burgeoning ‘expectation economy’.

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