Brands need engaged customers to drive transactions. Unless a brand is a monopoly or has great recall, push messages are the only way for a brand to get existing customers to their properties (websites and apps). Push channels include email, SMS and app notifications. Of these, email remains the best engagement channel. And yet, engagement levels for marketing emails are low: only about 10% of such emails are opened, meaning that 90% of the emails are ignored. Thus, one of the most important marketing challenges that need to be addressed is how to increase email engagement.
Email is also one of the oldest communications channels. The first email (person-to-person) was sent more than 50 years ago. For many years, the discussion has been around what after email? And yet email continues to grow in strength – even in the new age of messaging apps, email has managed to hold its own. This is because email, along with the mobile number, has become identity; the email address and mobile number are the only two open and direct channels to reach people. The likes of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snap and others are all controlled by a tech entity which can determine (and change) the rules of engagement. Not so with email or SMS. Push notifications need an app to be installed, while the email inbox is default on every mobile phone.
For a technology that is 50 years old and supposedly ‘dying’, there has been plenty of M&A action in 2021. Intuit bought Mailchimp for $12 billion (15 times revenues), Sinch bought Pathwire for $2 billion (again, at 15 times revenues). Pathwire had emerged through a combination of Mailgun, Mailjet and Email on Acid. Earlier in the year, Sparkpost was bought by Message Bird. Most recently, Cheetah Digital and CM Group decided to emerge. Email service providers (ESPs) are also expanding into marketing automation and omnichannel offerings. In short, plenty of money is riding on a bright future for email.
Chris Marriott, in an article discussing trends shaping the ESP landscape in 2022, wrote:
The new wave of “next gen” ESPs are again seen by many email marketers as being more innovative and leading the way in new features and functionality.
There are a couple of defining features of today’s “next gen” platforms:
The architecture redefines how we think about email platforms: That includes hybrid solutions that connect an on-premises application to cloud-based delivery (there is no synching or moving data). Others offer flexible, real-time platforms that can activate unlimited amounts of customer data up-to-the-second and connect with complex business data. In short, there is a lot of new tech associated with the “next gen” platforms.
The company invests in email rather than around it: Many legacy platforms tend to limit investment in actual email features and functionality, preferring to focus on expanding the overall martech offering while “next gen” companies tend to attract investment that they put back into the platform.
Even as ESPs move up and down the stack to add offerings like CDP (customer data platform) and martech features (journeys, orchestration, omnichannel personalisation), the core email channel itself is evolving. The triad of AMP, Ems, and Microns – what I term as Email2 – will transform how customers engage with emails, and help brands in their continuing quest for deepening customer relationships.