Are We Ready for Email to Change?

KrystinaIf you’re surprised that you’re still reading articles about email marketing in 2013, you shouldn’t be. It may only represent 0.5% of digital ad spending, but even that small amount still means roughly $210 million in 2013, per eMarketer’s latest digital ad spend share data. The mere mention of outbound email in a planning session can raise the spectre of some of the highest CPMs in digital. However, when considering niche audiences, email is still relatively efficient compared to broader tactics if you need to deliver long-form content. For some of the audiences we aggregate for our clients, including healthcare professionals, it can be the most efficient and targeted way to deliver messages that are difficult to communicate within the confines of a banner. Email can play multiple roles on a digital marketing plan, too.  Many of the brands we work with still have a robust email communication streams as part of their eCRM programs; even our media partners rely heavily on email as both a way to deliver messages to their audiences and to drive traffic back to their sites.

Spam filters notwithstanding, it’s going to get even more difficult to reach your opt-in consumers soon as companies like Google and Yahoo! bring message filtering to the forefront of their mail services. Google recently announced a newly designed tab layout for inboxes that segregates promotional email from personal and social communications. It’s an optional view at this point, but it represents the first real attempt to filter email automatically according to the email provider’s understanding of what constitutes promotional e-mail and what is interpersonal. The definition of promotion is a little unclear with Google’s announcement; it’ll be great to organize daily deals emails, as in the example provided. But off the bat, what happens if you miss a notification from your credit card that you’re eligible for a credit limit increase, or even worse, an important sale from your favorite store?

Does your company have a plan to adapt to the new filters and find a way to deal with the decreased engagement likely to result in future email campaigns to your database?

I was curious about how our publishers would view these changes, and recently had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Vice President at, Andrew Ellison. E-Miles offers consumers the opportunity to earn miles for reading and engaging with targeted advertising, and the ability to convert these rewards to one of many partner companies’ rewards programs. We discussed the upcoming Gmail changes – Gmail is the third most popular email client amongst their audience – and due to the nature of their program, they’re still not exactly sure how things will shake out.

E-miles delivers promotional offers to the consumer, but since the consumers are part of a membership program that they are typically quite active in, Andrew was concerned that that time sensitive notifications will be shuffled to the promotions tab and ignored by the users.

“Open rates will suffer, and over time, we’ll have to adapt our programs accordingly,” he said. “Over time, it will be interesting to see how valuable consumers find these services as it’s entirely possible important bank notifications and other time sensitive messages will accidentally be shifted to the wrong inbox by the promotional filter.”

It will be interesting to see how popular this new, proactive email filtration will become, as more users choose to use the filters to organize their inbox. With the volume of email everyone gets these days, it’s great to see the providers taking a proactive approach, but ultimately, it will result in more customization and forethought and potentially less efficiency for email marketing campaigns and CRM programs.

This column was written by Krystina Rubino, Associate Director, eDR, at Underscore Marketing, an independent media agency that creates and manages digital marketing programs.