In multiple conversations I have had with marketers through the past months, two problems have stood out: rapidly rising customer acquisition cost (CAC) and the need for zero/first-party data. The outcome of increasing CAC is visible in the advertising revenues of Google, Meta, and Amazon, who together generated over $350 billion and are growing 30-40% growth rates. Brands are competing aggressively to acquire new customers and paying more and more each year for new customer acquisition. This is an arms race that will prove detrimental to brand profitability. The only way out is to build deep relationships with existing customers and reduce the wasteful spending (what I call “adwaste”) on reacquisition and wrong acquisition.
The first step brands need to take in building these deep relationships is to solve the problem of attention recession and build a “pipe” (hotline) to existing customers. This is where email comes in. Through the past two decades, it has been a great friend of marketers and continues to deliver the best RoI. Over the years, there have been improvements in the email experience: anti-spam filters have continuously improved to help cleanse the inbox of spam and unsolicited messages, and innovations like segmentation, personalization, BIMI, STO (send time optimisation), and SLO (subject line optimisation) on the back-end are all helping improve relevance.
But there is trouble in paradise. Email open rates hover in the 10% range for marketing (promotional) messages, which means 90% messages sent by brands are being ignored by their customers. New push messaging channels (RCS, SoIP and WhatsApp) are bringing interactivity and two-way engagement. Measurement challenges are rising in email with Apple’s privacy initiatives and image caching being done by both Apple’s email client and Gmail.
The big questions therefore are: can email step up to solve the marketer’s CAC and data challenges? What is the solution to attention recession? Can email improve engagement from its low rates? Can it serve as the base for a reliable pipe to enable brands to communicate reliably to their customer base? How can the email experience be modernised and made interactive? How is Email 2.0 different from Email 1.0?
It is this world of brand-customer engagement that Email 2.0 seeks to conquer. The starting point is to focus on Hooked Score as a metric to measure engagement intensity at an individual level, thus shifting the conversation from aggregate opens and clicks to stickiness and streaks. AMP makes emails dynamic, interactive and real-time by enabling apps and micro websites inside of emails. Ems combines microcontent and stories to make emails a daily utility in the lives of end customers and improve the mental availability of the brand. Atomic Rewards brings in gamification and micro-incentives to enable marketers to nudge customer behaviour. Progency (product-led agency) extends the internal brand execution team by combining product, professionals, and process to deliver KPIs and get paid based on performance. Taken together, these five innovations of Email 2.0 can engineer the habit revolution by making email cool again, enable marketers to cut wasteful adtech spending and collect more customer data, and enable CMOs improve revenues and profits.