Email Marketing and the Inbox
The digital revolution sparked by the Internet needed a unique identifier for every individual. That was the email address. Cookies and device identifiers on mobiles were also additional mechanisms to identify people, but they still afforded some anonymity to the consumer. An email address was precise because it delivered communication directly to the inbox. And thus rose to prominence the field of email marketing. Brafton offers a nice history of email marketing. (Email marketing (along with SMS) has also been Netcore’s primary business for the past 14+ years.)
Writes Neil Patel: “People are inundated with interruptions, pitches, and advertisements everywhere they look. Though you might think your email is special. But to the reader, your email is one in a million — and not in a good way. This is why it’s important to remember where you are and use good manners. Getting into someone’s inbox is like being invited to their home for dinner.”
There are 3 inboxes which are central to our digital lives – SMS, email (mostly Gmail), WhatsApp. These ‘messaging apps’ are the way we communicate – 1:1 and in groups. These inboxes are also the endpoints for brand communications – from OTPs to receipts, from the ‘what’s new’ to offers. Each inbox has its own unique characteristics and thus serves a special purpose.
The email inbox has multiple advantages over the others. SMS is largely limited to text and 160 characters (even though RCS promises to enable rich media in the inbox). WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has many restrictions on who can send and what can be sent. Both are also expensive. In India, SMS costs 13 paise and WhatsApp costs 30 paise. In comparison, emails cost 1-3 paise and can have text, images, audio and even video as content.
The popularity of email as a communication channel has also led to a rise in spam – hindering the effectiveness of marketing communications. Gmail’s folders and sorting algorithms are not the lasting solution. I believe the time has come for a dedicated inbox for brand communications.
I had written previously about an idea I called the microbox, “a custom inbox for viewing and engaging with microns. Brands should be able to directly publish to this micronbox – as long as they have permission to do so. Customers can get a significantly upgraded viewing experience than the conventional email inbox with its linear list of incoming emails. The micronbox has the potential to transform brand-customer engagement the way WhatsApp upgraded person-to-person mobile communications from the SMS inbox.”
So: can we create a micron-only inbox for brand communications? How will this two-sided platform work – why will brands send messages to yet another inbox and why will we as consumers further divide our attention with a new inbox?