Return Path Email Predictions for 2007

Over the last few weeks or so we’ve been enjoying (and participating in) the conversations going on in the industry predicting trends for 2007. In fact, we encourage you to check out the musings of the folks at eROI, Dave Pasternak and Dianna Dilworth at DMNews, and Jordan Ayan at SubscriberMail.

Here’s our pick for top 5 trends to watch in 2007.

More spam is on its way: The huge increase in the amount of spam being sent has had some serious implications for ISPs and other receivers as they grapple with the increased traffic on their networks. So far, email users have not been overly bothered by this, but that could change depending on how spam filtering technology evolves. The sharp increase in criminal activity by email (phishing, stock scams and so on) could erode consumer confidence if not curtailed. Look for increased activity around this problem by government, industry associations and businesses.

Marketers get to be marketers again: Despite the uptick in spam, the emphasis on content (i.e., use so-called spam words like “free”) as a way to filter email will wane. This is because it simply doesn’t work reliably. Instead, receivers will continue to focus on reputation factors, of which content is only a very small piece. Complaints will continue to dominate the root factors of delivery failures, followed by infrastructure issues, unknown users and spam traps. This means marketers can use the word free again, but they really have to work hard to please their readers. Marketers who focus their energy on creating great email programs that recipients love will reap the biggest gains in deliverability and response.

Rendering will be an even bigger challenge: While filtering decisions based on content will wane, that doesn’t mean content isn’t still an issue. In fact, the prevalence of “image spam” is going to make even more receivers shut down images by default, particularly on unknown senders. Reputation is still the key, here. Getting known by the receivers, including participation in all available feedback loop and whitelist programs, is going to put you ahead of the pack. It will also become even more important to encourage recipients to add you to a safe senders list. Finally, designing your email to work with our without images is going to mitigate problems associated with missing images.

Email lead generation grows up: The smartest marketers are going to get more bang for their buck by taking a campaign approach to email lead generation. Instead of a one-shot blast to new leads, marketers will create series of emails that engage with recipients on a deeper level than is possible with one message. These campaigns will enjoy higher ROI while also preserving the reputation of the advertiser.

Most email house files will not enjoy net new growth: We’ve had a good thing going for several years now, but as the medium matures the double-digit growth rates of many lists are likely to wane. Keeping existing subscribers happy and engaged with your brand is going to be even more important. This will start with the new subscribers you do generate as marketers focus on showing value quickly and then consistently. This also means pulling on all levers to maximize available growth will be key.

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