The Coming of Inbox Commerce (Part 5)


I wrote about All-in-Email in the context of hotlines in my essay on ProfitXL:

For the past decade or so, almost nothing has changed in the push channels. And now, almost suddenly, a triad of innovations is creating excitement: emails can become interactive thanks to a technology called AMP, WhatsApp (popular in many countries) has allowed for brands to interact with customers, and Atomic Rewards can offer gamified micro-incentives to encourage attention and the sharing of personal information (also called zero-party data). AMP, WhatsApp and Atomic Rewards can thus drive inbox engagement and action funnels closer to consumers. AMP and WhatsApp can even replace apps – and combined with the advantage of ‘push’ give marketers control to initiate conversations which can lead to conversions.

AMP, because of its underlying email base, costs a fraction of that of WhatsApp (which is controlled by Meta). While still in its infancy in terms of use cases being deployed, AMP will enable what I call “All-in-Mails”. From filling forms to lead generation, from spinning wheels for offers to using calculators for answers, from getting additional product information to acting on abandoned shopping carts, from searching to paying – AMP is the future of email. Think of it as Email 2.0 – email without the need for clickthroughs and landing pages, a world without redirects.

… AMP in email, WhatsApp and Atomic Rewards convert the unidirectional push channels into two-way rich interactive hotlines, thus finally enabling marketers to bridge the chasm between new customer acquisition and attracting traffic to their properties. Hotlines are thus the gateways to building deep and lasting relationships, a win-win for both brands and customers.

The premise and promise of inbox commerce lies in the fact that it brings the conversion funnel closer to customers. Every friction point that is removed can lead to a magnitude increase in actions. What’s exciting is that almost all the push channels are now moving to becoming two-way, evolving from simply being communication channels to powering conversation and commerce. Generative AI in its ChatGPT avatar can make conversation better, making chatbots and even search bars as funnels for commerce.

Consider the promise of conversational search in ecommerce. Today, the search ends with a list of products shown. Now imagine being able to continue to refine the product list with the search – much as one would talk to a salesperson in a store. “I like the first item, but can you show it to me in a lighter shade of blue?” The basic idea is the same as inbox commerce: reduce the steps, clicks and friction to enable a transaction.


As Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” This is what we are now living through. Even as the macro environment screams slowdown and recession, the pace of innovation across sectors is amazing. Entrepreneurs are working to solve problems – as they always do, but the speed at which new solutions can be brought to the market is accelerating. Inbox commerce is one such innovation which promises to transform the way we transact with brands. I will end this series with the 2-pager flyer we distributed at eTail and Shoptalk giving a glimpse of tomorrow’s world – which is here today!

The Coming of Inbox Commerce (Part 4)

Trade Show Wow

I had written in a previous essay on my recent US visit about my attending two ecommerce trade shows (eTail West and Shoptalk): “The focus for us [at Netcore and Unbxd] was on two innovations: AMP in Email (what we termed as All-in-Email) and AI-enriched catalog (which is the key to getting product discovery and personalisation right).” This needs some elaboration.

At eTail, Netcore was sponsoring roundtables – each was a 20 minute conversation with 7-8 marketers. Initially, we discussed personalisation and the friction points being faced, and then mentioned how Netcore could solve the problem because of its ability to use AI to enrich the product catalog (going beyond human input) and combine it with unified customer data to do significantly better personalisation than competition. While this was exciting, it did not elicit the excitement that we were looking for to drive traffic to our booth and leads for future conversations. We then decided to change our approach. In the last few roundtables, we started by showing how the Gmail inbox could become a shopping channel – starting with a product catalog, being able to add items to the cart, then selecting a shipping address, and finally making a payment – all right inside the email inbox. The marketers were blown away by what they saw! It was one of those “wow” moments where they realised this could be the future of their business. Interest in our offerings spiked and we had a complete turnaround in inbound interest at our booth! As I told one of my colleagues in Hindi, “Paisa vasool.” (I guess the closest English translation would be – great RoI!)

Shoptalk was very similar. In fact, at a 1:1 meeting with the founder of a D2C company I had started by explaining about Netcore and what we did. After a couple minutes of listening, the founder cut me short and said, “What you are describing is what 50 other companies at this show are talking about. What is different about you?” Realising that I was a few seconds away from losing the prospect, I opened my iPad and showed “inbox commerce” – exactly what had wowed the audience at eTail West. I could sense the awe in the founder as he saw the transaction being completed right inside Gmail. He then said, “Why didn’t you start with this? These 30 seconds are all you need to sell me to talk more to your company.”

The experience of my colleagues was very similar. It was then that I realised that we were on to something big, perhaps even a new category. In the US, email is one of the most important channels marketers use for their communications with consumers. (SMS is now rising rapidly but has many limitations which RCS promises to fix.) Actions inside email had so far been restricted to simply clicking through to a landing page. What we were showing was extraordinary – the ability to do “all-in-email” – search, browse, add to wishlist, add to cart, pay, and a lot more – right inside the email. This was something no one had ever seen or experienced. And that is when I knew we were on to something big. A colleague expanded “All-in-Email” to “inbox commerce” since it could also apply to other channels. This could become one of the biggest innovations in ecommerce offering a big win-win for both buyers and sellers.

The Coming of Inbox Commerce (Part 3)

Overview – 2

I asked ChatGPT to suggest alternate phrases for “inbox commerce”:

  1. Messaging-based commerce
  2. Conversational commerce
  3. In-app purchasing
  4. Direct inbox transactions
  5. Chat-based commerce
  6. Messaging-enabled commerce
  7. Inbox-driven sales
  8. Integrated messaging commerce
  9. Message-centric commerce
  10. Communication platform commerce

[Rajesh] I then asked which platforms offer inbox commerce:

  1. WeChat: A popular Chinese messaging app that allows users to shop, make payments, and interact with businesses directly within the app through WeChat Pay, WeChat Stores, Mini Programs, and Official Accounts.
  2. WhatsApp: With WhatsApp Business, companies can create business profiles, showcase products, send promotional messages, and provide customer support through the popular messaging platform.
  3. Facebook Messenger: Businesses can use Messenger to engage with customers, provide support, and facilitate transactions using chatbots or live agents.
  4. Instagram: Instagram’s shopping features allow businesses to tag products in their posts and stories, enabling users to make purchases directly within the app.
  5. RCS (Rich Communication Services): As an upgrade to traditional SMS, RCS enables businesses to send rich media messages, promote products or services, and facilitate transactions through interactive content.
  6. Email platforms with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages): Platforms like Gmail and Outlook support AMP, allowing businesses to create dynamic and interactive email content that enables users to browse products, fill out forms, and make purchases without leaving the email.
  7. Apple Business Chat: Apple’s messaging platform for businesses allows companies to engage with customers, provide support, and facilitate transactions within the Messages app on iOS devices.

[Rajesh] I inquired about WeChat and inbox commerce:

WeChat is a good example of inbox commerce. WeChat is a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app developed by Tencent. It offers a wide range of features, including instant messaging, voice and video calls, social networking, and mobile payments.

WeChat has integrated various commerce-related functionalities into its platform, allowing users to engage with businesses, make purchases, and perform transactions without leaving the app. Some of the features that make WeChat a good example of inbox commerce are:

  1. WeChat Pay: Users can make mobile payments directly within the app for both online and offline transactions.
  2. WeChat Stores: Businesses can set up their online stores within the WeChat platform, allowing users to browse products, make purchases, and track orders seamlessly.
  3. Mini Programs: WeChat allows developers to create small apps within its ecosystem, offering various services like e-commerce, ride-hailing, and food delivery.
  4. Official Accounts: Businesses can create official accounts to engage with customers, share promotional content, and provide customer support through WeChat’s messaging system.
  5. WeChat Advertising: Companies can run targeted advertisements on WeChat, promoting their products or services to users based on their interests and browsing habits.

[Rajesh] So, there we are. A few questions and we have an overview of what the state-of-the-art looks like for inbox commerce. Next, we will look into the future promise of inbox commerce.

(As an aside: the previous two posts where I quoted ChatGPT answers took barely 5 minutes to write; had I thought, researched, and written them, it would have taken me over an hour. And I probably would not have been as comprehensive. This is the power of ChatGPT as copilot. Once I came up with the idea of “inbox commerce”, I could use it to help me with the writing.)

The Coming of Inbox Commerce (Part 2)

Overview – 1

When I did a search for “inbox commerce” and “inbox ecommerce”, I got less than 15,000 results combined, and almost all of them were not relevant to the topic we are discussing. Inbox and ecommerce have not been discussed in the same breath! That is about to change. I asked ChatGPT for an overview of inbox commerce:

Inbox commerce refers to the practice of conducting business transactions, promoting products or services, and engaging with customers within messaging platforms or email inboxes. The idea is to streamline the customer experience and make it more convenient by allowing users to interact with businesses and make purchases directly within the messaging apps or emails, without leaving the platform.

In the context of messaging apps like WhatsApp, RCS (Rich Communication Services), 2-way SMS, and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) in email, inbox commerce can take various forms:

  1. Conversational commerce: Businesses use chatbots or live agents to engage with customers, answer queries, and help them make purchases through messaging apps. This can include personalized product recommendations, support, and payment processing.
  2. Promotional messages: Companies can send promotional messages or offers to customers via these messaging platforms, encouraging them to make a purchase or learn more about the products or services offered.
  3. Transactional messages: Businesses can send transactional messages like order confirmations, shipping updates, and payment receipts to customers via messaging apps, creating a more unified and convenient customer experience.
  4. Interactive content: AMP for email allows businesses to create dynamic and interactive email content, which can include product carousels, forms, and other interactive elements that enable users to engage with the content and make purchases without leaving the email.

Inbox commerce is becoming increasingly popular due to its ability to create a seamless and personalized customer experience, as well as its potential to increase engagement, conversion rates, and customer retention.

[Rajesh] I asked about why inbox commerce is so important for marketers and brands:

Inbox commerce is important for marketers and brands for several reasons, as it offers a unique and convenient way to engage with customers, drive sales, and build lasting relationships. Some key benefits of inbox commerce for marketers and brands include:

  1. Convenience: Inbox commerce allows customers to interact with businesses, browse products, and make purchases without leaving their messaging apps or email inboxes. This convenience can lead to increased customer satisfaction and higher conversion rates.
  2. Personalization: Messaging platforms and emails enable businesses to deliver personalized content based on user preferences, behavior, and past interactions. This targeted approach can lead to improved engagement and higher sales.
  3. Enhanced customer support: Inbox commerce allows businesses to provide real-time customer support through chatbots or live agents, resulting in faster resolution of issues and improved customer satisfaction.
  4. Better open and engagement rates: Compared to traditional marketing channels, messaging apps and emails often have higher open and engagement rates. This means that marketing messages delivered via inbox commerce are more likely to be seen and acted upon by customers.
  5. Increased customer retention: By offering a seamless and convenient shopping experience through inbox commerce, businesses can foster long-term relationships with their customers and encourage repeat purchases.
  6. Integration with other marketing channels: Inbox commerce can be integrated with other marketing channels such as social media, websites, and apps to create a cohesive and consistent customer journey, reinforcing brand messaging and driving sales.
  7. Data-driven insights: Businesses can gather valuable data on customer behavior and preferences through interactions on messaging platforms and emails, which can inform future marketing strategies and help optimize campaigns for better results.

[Rajesh] In summary, inbox commerce is important for marketers and brands because it allows them to create a more convenient, personalized, and engaging shopping experience for customers, ultimately leading to higher conversion rates, increased customer loyalty, and better overall business performance.

The Coming of Inbox Commerce (Part 1)

Why Now

The past few months have been all about Generative AI and the promise that it holds for transforming our lives. Whether as copilot or autopilot, Generative AI will improve productivity and outcomes. But in all the excitement about it, there is one important trend that has been missed out. Our inboxes are becoming two-way and commerce friendly. This shift from being just a communication tool to enabling conversation and commerce will be very important for sellers because it removes the friction that forces buyers to click through to websites and apps for doing transactions. Think of this as a shift from “far” commerce to “near” commerce – search, browse, and buy comes right into our inboxes. The easier those transactions become, the less that brands will have to spend on wasteful new customer acquisition, and therefore the higher will be their profitability.

The coming rise of inbox commerce is being driven by a number of changes in our inboxes:

  • AMP in Email eliminates redirects and can be used to create mini-apps inside email.
  • SMS is becoming two-way. (A stupid regulation in India still keeps it one-way.)
  • WhatsApp has, over the past year, opened its platform for brand conversations. As WhatsApp Pay proliferates, buying inside the app will become simpler.
  • RCS (think of it as an SMS upgrade) can also bring commerce closer to consumers.
  • AI-enriched product catalogs can improve relevance and power recommendations across channels.
  • Chatbots can simplify the creation of search and browse workflows.
  • While not an “inbox”, ChatGPT has shown how a search bar can become a window to almost anything.

Taken together, all these innovations will change the “where” of commerce. For long, it has been assumed that brands must bring their buyers to their websites and apps for completing transactions. This has been a point of friction since unidirectional push messages (like emails and SMSes) had to persuade consumers to click and change context to the brand properties. Now, the interactivity that is coming in the push channels can ensure that commerce can be done right inside the inbox. Netcore’s early customers for AMP in Email have seen an increase of 5-15 times (500-1500%) in actions being performed inside the email when the option is provided to consumers. While engagement has been the primary use case so far, the next obvious step is to enable shopping. Once the payment layer gets streamlined and embedded inside the messages, frictionless commerce will be here – right inside the inbox where all of us spend so much time each day. It is what WeChat has been doing in China for many years; the rest of us are now going to see the same seamlessness of marketing and transacting in our inboxes. This will herald one of the biggest leaps in ecommerce in years, if not the past couple decades.

AMPifier: The Heart of Email 2.0 Hotlines

Published April 25, 2023


Email 2.0

Billions of emails are sent by businesses to their customers daily. Netcore, as an email service provider (ESP), processes over 600 million emails for its enterprise customers each day. The basic format of the email has not changed much over many years. The email creative with the marketing is crafted by the brand, a list of email IDs is selected based on certain rules (segmentation) typically via a marketing automation platform (MAP), and then the promotional emails are sent to the ESP for delivery. The process differs for transactional and triggered messages where the communication is for a single recipient based on a specific event (for example, a purchase receipt or an abandoned cart). The MAP or ESP will append a tracker in the links to monitor click throughs. A zero-pixel image is also added to track opens. This has now become less useful because some inbox providers and email client applications have started caching images to speed up display of the email; thus the ‘open’ could be by a bot rather than the intended recipient.

Email’s baseline numbers have not changed much through the years: 1 in 10 marketing emails is opened and 1 in 100 is clicked. Yet, the low cost of sending an email ensures the channel has the highest RoI among all push messaging options a brand has available to bring its customers to its properties (website and app) for eventual transactions.

In previous essays, I have outlined many new email innovations which promise to convert the 1-way push messaging channel to a 2-way hotline. These include:

  • Ems, which offer daily short messages with informative content to be consumed in 15-30 seconds
  • AMP, which brings in interactivity, and can potentially eliminate the clickthrough to the landing page, thus removing a step (and friction) from the conversion funnel
  • Atomic Rewards, which offers micro-incentives to consumers for specific actions (like feedback, ratings, zero-party data)
  • AMPlets, which can combine AMP and Atomic Rewards to transform the email footer with brandlets and gamelets
  • Adlets, which can potentially make B2C emails free

The primary objective of these initiatives (which I broadly club under ‘Email 2.0’) is to improve the efficacy of the email channel and thus help solve the crux of the brand-customer relationship: a communication and interaction which both parties benefit from. Customers get personalised messages with greater relevance and with reduced friction in the interaction. Brands get better engagement with their existing customers which can bring down the need to retarget via Big Adtech and thus cut down on AdWaste which could account for half of their digital market spend.

In this series, we will discuss the “How” – how do brands, martech players and ESPs work together to make this new world of email marketing come to life?


The Processor

Almost 30 years ago, I was working on a software product I had called “Image WorkBench”. It was an image processing solution. It would take in an image and then apply various ‘transforms’ to it. For those who saw the output, it almost seemed magical: contrasts between the gray scales enhanced to reveal insights that would otherwise not be easily visible, edges becoming sharper, and objects being counted. IWB, as I called the software, failed. I could only sell two copies of it over a two-year period. I eventually had to shut it down.

The idea of a ‘transform’ is what came back to me recently as I started to think about email and what could be done to make it better. What the email pipeline lacked was a ‘processor’ – a workbench which gave marketers tools to leverage the new ideas of Ems, AMP, Atomic Rewards, AMPlets and Adlets, without adding new layers of complexity to the emailing process. In other words, marketers needed an “Email WorkBench.”

The current email value chain looks like this – a relay from the brand to a marketing automation platform (MAP) to an ESP (email service provider) and then onward to the customer’s inbox.

In some cases, the MAP and ESP could be the same entity, as in the case of Netcore which offers a full-stack martech solution to brands.

Into this chain, we need to inject an email processor, which can take the raw HTML email as input and output an ‘AMPified’ email suitably modified as per the marketer’s instructions. For starters,  the email body could be converted into an AMP email to bring in interactivity by bringing elements from the landing page (a form, for example) into the email itself. Mu (as micro-incentives) could also be added for click throughs and other actions a marketer wants done.

The exciting ideas relate to what can be done with the other elements of the email. The email Subject could have the Mu count added as a prefix to signal that the email has rewards. The Header of the email could have a Search bar which displays results within the email (and can have Add to Cart and Payment options powered via AMP) or simply a scroll of the latest headlines or brand news. The Footer could have brandlets to collect feedback and zero-party data with each action earning Mu. It could also have gamelets to enable redemption of Mu. Finally, the adlet could show AMP-powered ads which could be many times more effective than a simple banner ad.

Another idea for an AMPifier is to create a parallel email track of sending Ems (short emails with informative content). Think of these as AM-PM Emails. They are sent daily at the same time – in the morning (AM) or evening (PM). Content could be created by AI and personalised for an individual. The AM-PM Maker’s objective would be to serve as a temporary intervention to train users to open brand emails and thus improve domain reputation which would then ensure more brand emails land in the primary inbox.

In addition, the AMPifier could also create a link in the non-AMP email component for recipients to click and view the AMPified email – should their inbox not support AMP. The AMPifier could also be the place where integrations with eCommerce platforms like Shopify could be handled. Also, it could help map mobile numbers and email IDs, thus helping companies reach out across an additional channel to their customers.

All of these additions could be inserted by the AMPifier since AMP is the underlying technology used in most of the elements. The AMPifier thus is the processor which converts a plain vanilla HTML email into a powerful interactive message.

The next question is: where does the AMPifier reside?



The AMPifier is an external software that can be accessed by the brand, MAP or ESP.

It has a single purpose: take an email and based on the embedded instructions ‘transform’ it prior to delivery to the brand’s customer. It can make interventions and thus appropriately edit the email Subject, Header, Body or Footer. By making it external to the brand, MAP and ESP, it can potentially work with everyone – much like Google Analytics has become a de facto standard.

The AMPifier itself could connect to multiple other software elements:

  • AMP Editor and AMP Store, which can ease the creation and addition of AMP components
  • MuCo, for managing the Atomic Rewards distribution and redemption
  • Ad Server, for showing the Adlets

As the AMPifier unifies the actions of all the other software components, what the end customer will get is an email totally transformed. Even as the core brand message stays intact, there is now a wrapper that becomes as important for driving action. Remember: 9 of 10 marketing emails are not opened and 99 of 100 emails are not clicked. So, there is plenty of room for improvement. That is the focus of the AMPifier intervention: to increase manifold email engagement and thus help brands build better and deeper relationships with their existing customers.

This is how the email ecosystem looks like with the AMPifier:

The AMPifier is at the heart of Email 2.0. It brings in many new capabilities inside the email – each of which helps improve engagement. The AMPifier simplifies the journey for brands into the Email 2.0 world. It is additive in every respect – there is no ‘harm’ done to any email, no deterioration of experience for any customer. Accessing AMPifiy can introduce a delay of a few seconds into the email value chain but that is not a problem at all because marketing messages are not that time sensitive. Of course, the AMPifier can also be used to transform transactional and triggered messages but their volume is much lower than that of the promotional ones.

One point to note is that the AMPifier needs to custom craft each email because of the need to insert the Mu Count in the email Subject. That is the key which unlocks customer action; the Mu Count tells the customer that the email has incentives and the right Mu Count guards against spam.

We are now ready for the next transformation leap.


New Core

In its next evolution, the AMPifier will become central to the Email 2.0 ecosystem.

It will be much more efficient for the various components to interact directly with the AMPifier rather than in a chain. The Brand can send instructions directly to the AMPifier on what transforms it wants to apply to the email. The AMPifier can fetch the segmented database of whom to send the email from the MAP. It can then ready the AMPlets via its interactions with the AMP Editor and AMP Store. A query to MuCo gets the MuCount, along with the appropriate validations for adding Mu to brandlets and gamelets. An Ad server query adds the adlet. The new transformed email is now ready for dispatch to the ESP for onward delivery to the customer. Customer actions flow back to the AMPifier and then to the other entities (brand and MAP).

There are many other benefits of making the AMPifier as the core of the Email 2.0 universe. With aggregated analytics, better send time optimisation can be done. AI in the AMPifier could improve Subject lines. Industry dashboards could provide insights to improve best practices. Reactivation campaigns can be run within this ecosystem without the need for Big Adtech: if an end customer is interacting with Brand A and not with Brand B, then Brand B could run an adlet on a Brand A email (as long as they are non-competitive). AM-PM content could span across emails (comics, stories, tips), thus reducing the likelihood of an email being ignored. End customers could be incentivised for streaks in email actions across brands thus ensuring that email opening becomes a habit rather than a sporadic activity.


For the past decade, email stagnated. And yet, its utility did not diminish. It remains the best performing push channel for brands. The simplicity and openness of email is what has kept it going. The Email 2.0 innovations that I have proposed in this and previous essays are about making email even better with the focus on reducing (or even eliminating) friction for consumers, marketers and developers.

Just as cities upgrade their infrastructure every so often to make themselves attractive to new residents, Email 2.0 is also about bringing in millennials and Gen-Z customers who have grown up on messaging apps. The interactive and incentivised inbox will herald the renewal of email. For brands seeking profits, they need look no further than the AMPifier as the energiser the world needs to reboot and refresh email. At stake is the $200 billion AdWaste – half of the digital marketing spends done by brands. Also at stake is the path to profitability for brands. This journey runs via Email 2.0 hotlines, with the AMPifier as the underlying engine powering customer interactions.

Resetting ESP and Adtech Industries (Part 10)

The Urgency of Now

This is a unique moment in time: even as Generative AI ushers in a new revolution akin to that of the Internet and smartphone, there is a looming slowdown likely globally because of the excess money printing during the pandemic years which caused high inflation and is now resulting in interest rate increases to ensure a cooling. The easy/free money of the past couple years is over. With layoffs starting to happen as companies seek to conserve cash in expectation of a consumption slowdown, the time is right to reset the score in the email and adtech industries.

In this series, I have written about how two industries can be reset – ESPs and adtech. They are connected. It is the All-in-Email solution with its enabling of hotlines which opens up the possibility of redirecting AdWaste and thus resetting the adtech industry. The wider impact will be big: the power of Big Adtech diminishes as their revenues reduce, brands will have more to invest rather than being trapped in a customer acquisition cost (CAC) arms race for new customers, and consumers will be compensated for their attention and data. Everyone wins except Big Adtech. So, while we rejoice at the Second Search Wars, we must be careful not to replace one overlord for another; what brands and consumers need is freedom from BigAdtech.

We need to keep the big picture in mind. These three slides from Benedict Evans tell the story: global internet users continue to rise, digital advertising in all its formats has become the most important way to reach consumers, and India and China account for half of global Internet traffic.

Jim Barksdale said, “There are only two ways to make money in business: bundling and unbundling.” Google and Meta bundled free services in search and social to monetise attention for marketers seeking growth. It is now time to unbundle and divest. All-in-Email’s innovations (AMP, Atomic Rewards, AI, Progency, Prime, QuizMails, and Microbox) and ProfitXL’s SHUVAM (Story, Hotlines, Unistack, Velvet Rope Marketing, Acquisition, Metrics) framework offer marketers the building blocks to regain control of their P&L. The starting point for this is the need to reset the adtech industry by flipping focus from new customers to existing customers.

The reset of adtech can begin in India and then spread globally. Google and Meta’s combined revenues in India were at $5 billion for the year ending March 2022 – that is a potential AdWaste pool of $2.5 billion waiting to be tapped. This combined with the global ESP market of $7-8 billion means there is a $10 billion near-term global opportunity available for disruption with the All-in-Email and ProfitXL solutions. If the US slowdown turns into recession, the AdWaste pool will expand sharply to an additional $100-150 billion and the global pool to over $200 billion. This is the opportunity for entrepreneurs and startups to target. Email began the digital era of brand-customer relationships, and it is only fitting that it plays a starring role in its reinvention.

Resetting ESP and Adtech Industries (Part 9)

Waste Reallocation

In my ProfitXL essay which discussed how brands can supersize profits, I had outlined the SHUVAM framework.

I had written: “Done right, the SHUVAM framework unlocks the key to supersizing profits – and helps marketers reclaim control of their destiny which they have mortgaged to Badtech for many years. It will help them drive not just growth, but profitable growth. Happy customers will make that exponential and forever, thus laying the foundation for early adopters to build a firewall of profits in the category. By ensuring a “profits monopoly”, a profipoly can build longevity for itself. While not permanent (because innovators will always work to chip away), it can give incumbents a significant advantage against startups. In the tech world, Microsoft’s Windows and Office, Google’s Search, Apple’s high-margin iPhones all created profipolies which have helped them invest in new businesses. Modern marketers can do the same in hypercompetitive businesses. And the starting point needs to shift from LossXL to ProfitXL.”

The key to disrupting Adtech lies in reallocating the AdWaste. This $200 billion waste (growing at 25-30% annually) is split three ways.

The first is rewarding existing customers for their attention, data, ratings, reviews and referrals. As I have said in the past, brands should “pay existing customers, not Big Adtech.” Because if they don’t reward their existing customers, they will end up spending 10-100X more on new customers. So far, the challenge brands had was that it was hard to build deep relationships with their existing customers. The All-in-Email suite of innovations solve this problem by converting inert 1-way messages into enthralling 2-way hotlines.

The second is investing in better martech solutions and creating a new business unit for Best customers. Marketers need a unified stack rather than point solutions so they can get a single view of their customer across all channels. They need a better search, personalisation and recommendations solution. They need to audit their customer base, calculate lifetime value right, and decode the Best Customer Genome. They need to create differentiated experiences based on exclusivity, ease and access for their Best customers. Finally, they need to ensure that the new acquisition they actually do learns from data about their Best customers. Marketers need to invest in the right technologies to make all of this happen.

Once these investments in Atomic Rewards and a next-gen martech stack have been done, what’s left flows to the brand P&L. This is the third carveout of AdWaste. This is money brands can invest in R&D and new business acquisitions, thus building a foundation for exponential forever profitable growth and eventually, a profipoly. The All-in-Email intervention (as seen from the brand side) thus becomes the starting point to end AdWaste and supersize profits.

Resetting ESP and Adtech Industries (Part 8)

Disrupting Adtech

The biggest waste in digital advertising is happening because of wrong acquisition and reacquisition. About half of the newly acquired customers had no reason to be acquired – either they scooted right away or they should have been reactivated because they were already customers once. This is the $200B AdWaste that I have written about multiple times. [See Martech 2.0 and Web3: Solving Advertising’s 50% Problem and Solving the $200 Billion AdWaste Problem.] And where is waste, there is wealth – for entrepreneurs who can solve the problem. Adtech is an industry that is waiting to be reset. Bing’s possible success with GPT in search will only shift the ad dollars; the need of the hour is for the industry to shrink. The $200 billion is coming from the profits of brands and higher prices that consumers end up paying for products and services. This is the reset the global adtech industry needs. How can this happen?

The starting point has to be to first understand why this additional spending is happening and what is the intervention that is needed to create the wedge for innovations to make an impact. I explained the problem in my recent ProfitXL essay: “Marketers spend money acquiring customers, and then hope to monetise them on their properties (website and app). This is easier said than done because unless marketers are able to imprint their brand on the consumers subconscious, they face a continuous battle to bring them back for transactions. This is done through a process called engagement: messages pushed to our already flooded inboxes, along with nudges and recommendations when consumers clickthrough. The problem is that as consumers we are numb to all these exhortations and ignore the incoming offers. This “attention recession” has serious consequences for marketers – because if we don’t open and act on their emails, SMSes, and push notifications, they have little choice but to retarget us on the Badtech auction platforms spending even more money to reactivate their relationship with us.”

This is where the All-in-Email solution comes in. By eliminating the (at times, interminable) wait for consumers, marketers can push the conversation, conversion and commerce funnels close to the user. The magic of interactivity and incentives in the inbox is something consumers have not experienced before. The convenience and excitement will help increase engagement by magnitudes. And as existing customers engage and buy more, brands will need to spend less on the adtech platforms acquiring new ones. All-in-Email (with WhatsApp in some countries) can “convert the unidirectional push channels into two-way rich interactive hotlines, thus finally enabling marketers to bridge the chasm between new customer acquisition and attracting traffic to their properties. Hotlines are thus the gateways to building deep and lasting relationships, a win-win for both brands and customers.”

Resetting ESP and Adtech Industries (Part 7)


The Challenger ESP (CESP) has all the ingredients to create the next generation of Email – let’s call it All-in-Email. Every action imagined by the marketer can be completed inside the email. From search to shop, pay to play, form fills to feedback, browse to bookings, chat to cart management, surveys to spin-the-wheel – everything can now be done inside emails. For brands, this is the solution to AdWaste by solving the twin problems of attention recession and data poverty, and creating a 2-way hotline with consumers. While AMP itself can be offered by any ESP, the CESP can create a monopoly and moat with the other elements: Atomic Rewards, AI, Progency, Prime, QuizMails and Micronbox. Let’s take this step-by-step.

The unlock to this new world comes with QuizMails. It ensures that consumers get experience  interactive and incentivised emails. By making it as both a “brain break” and a “brain booster”, the CESP can also ensure that the inbox is opened multiple times daily. This brings attention back to the email inbox from other inboxes like SMS, push notifications and WhatsApp. Once the inbox is opened more, the probability of consumers interacting with more brand emails goes up – especially if there is Mu in the Subject serving as an attractor. And once these emails are opened, there is the next big surprise: no old-style image heavy emails with the clickthrough to a landing page as the only action, but instead an app-like experience inside the email. A search bar can be a standard in all emails; abandoned cart emails can now have payment options inside the email; transaction confirmation mails can have NPS ratings with a single click. The email footer can have AMPlets to collect preferences (“zero-party data”) and gamelets to redeem Mu with 6-second games. Thus the email becomes an exciting communication from the brand, bringing in surprises and fun, besides saving time. Over time, the same experience can be provided with the second consumer unlock – the Micronbox, which could ensure AMP support for even B2B emails.

The CESP will need to go beyond just email sending and delivery, and become an active partner in the reinvention of the email channel. Using Generative AI can ease the marketer’s friction. Progency can help with creating the AMP emails with utilities like an AMP Editor and AMPifier which converts HTML emails to AMP emails in an instant; Prime can bring in the Mu to reward the brand’s users and also help expand dominance to other messaging channels. This entire ecosystem of solutions will be hard for incumbents to match. Network effects for Mu should kick in for both brands and consumers.

All-in-Email thus can become the way the incumbents in the ESP business can be disrupted and the entire value equation can be reset. Just as the digital advertising industry moved from CPM to CPC (impressions to clicks), the email industry also needs to move from cost per email to KPI-based pricing. The prize is a dominant share of the $7-8 billion ESP business, which as we shall see, can be made much bigger by focusing on AdWaste.