Email Marketing Forecast for 2010 – Top 4 Predictions

    by Paul Shuteyev
    Inactivation campaigns will become more important, thanks to ISPs giving weight to engagement metrics when determining whether to deliver to the inbox or junk folder or to block email. Marketers with 50% or more of their list inactive will have to start devising strategies to deal with reducing that level. It will start with each company defining what "inactive" is for them, then progress to segmentation tactics to message inactives differently, and possibly culminate with reactivation campaigns that give subscribers a chance to reaffirm their interest or be dropped from the list. There was a panel of 20-somethings fresh out of college at the Email Insider Summit . The majority of them indicated that they subscribe to emails that they don't read and just hold on to in case they are suddenly in the market. These kinds of subscribers are becoming increasingly problematic for marketers. More preference centers will be launched. Consumers are demanding more control over messaging that reaches them and are reacting harshly when messages are not relevant. Preference centers are a key tool in this fight for greater relevance. Part of the reason that preferences centers are so vital is that email marketers have traditionally done an abysmal job of being transparent about what subscribers will be receiving, both in terms of content and frequency. Consequently, there's a huge trust gap. That's one of the key reasons that so many promotional emails are relegated to consumers' secondary inboxes and are not welcome in their primary inboxes. Stephanie Miller of Return Path wrote an article recently about how to justify a preference center to upper management. It's a must-read for any marketer that doesn't have this critical relevancy and transparency tool. Opt-out processes will become friendlier and more effective at retention. Two years after publishing my last benchmark study on unsubscribe practices, I've begun working on a follow-up study -- and I'm not very impressed at the progress that's been made. Preference centers used for opt-outs don't recognize when subscribers unsubscribe in terms of the confirmation page messaging. While more retailers are providing unhappy subscribers with the option of opting down -- that is, receiving emails less frequently -- few point former subscribers to alternative channels like blogs, Twitter and catalogs. Unsubscribe practices aren't the cheeriest of topics, but email marketers aren't doing nearly enough to maintain open channels of communication with customers. Landing pages will do a better job of aiding in conversions. Too often I still encounter major retailers that use a department page as their landing page and leave it to subscribers to find the product they wanted that was shown in the email. A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it takes more than two clicks or a search for a subscriber to find a product shown in your email, then you're significantly hampering conversions, leaving money on the table while simultaneously frustrating subscribers and teaching them that clicking through your email may not be worth their time. What that translates into is a greater need for mapping images and for more thoughtfulness when it comes to links. Of course, there are also opportunities for custom landing pages and the integration of dynamic content modules.
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    Paul Shuteyev
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