The From Line

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The Boldest 2009 Predictions For Email Marketing

Every January email marketing pundits try to make predictions of what the industry will bring for the upcoming year. They range from the career conservative to off-the-wall reckless. Some self-serving predictions blur the line between editorial and advertising so much that only a New Year's hangover can help you tell the difference between the two. Even though the accuracy of annual email marketing conjectures can be debated, almost all have some sort of truth to them. With that being said, below are my four bold predictions for 2009 prefaced by the fact that I have a short-term 50% accuracy rate and an 80% long-term rate. So I'm usually right, eventually.

The price per email for the middle and enterprise marketplaces will drop.

Commercial email and the ESPs used to send them are both commodities. In a depressed economy, most commodity prices fall, especially ones with excess supply. Technologically speaking, with few exceptions, there's no difference between the commercial email you and your competitor send even if you use a more expensive ESP. It's true that more expensive ESPs tend to provide better feature sets and customer service -- however, feature and service parity have been achieved in the Soho market and are rapidly becoming reality in the middle and enterprise marketplaces. Therefore, I predict that customers using middle and enterprise market ESPs will squeeze hard during the contract renewal process in 2009, forcing the industry average price per email down. No rocket science here!

Commercial email volume will increase exponentially, forcing down email's lofty ROI.

Based on my above assumption, simple economics suggests that any high-demand commodity with an infinite supply and falling price will be over-consumed. Unlike traditional business models, the overconsumption of commercial email will cause a positive relationship between falling prices and ROI. The reason for this positive relationship is simple. As consumers receive more commercial email, marketing messages are lost in the clutter, making the medium less effective, and challenging marketers to come up with new ways to grab consumer attention. Hence my next prediction....

The demand to stream video via email will increase.

All savvy email marketers know that it's impossible to stream video via email as a result of enhanced anti-spam technology. What was once considered an advanced email marketing trick in 2002 quickly fizzled as inbox providers rushed to put anti-rendering measures in to curb the onslaught of spam, thus destroying many early ESPs' video-via-email business models. However, increased bandwidth and the fanfare of YouTube and similar video Web sites have resurrected the demand for video via email, prompting companies such as GoodMail to develop solutions that will keep both ISP and marketer happy. The catch is that not every marketer will qualify for GoodMail's certified video service -- creating two sets of have and have-not marketers, and forcing the have-nots to simulate video players with still images encouraging click-thoughs to a video-enabled landing page.

Social networking sites will become the new inbox providers.

I made the above prediction in January of '08 and was off the mark, but I'm going to continue to stick with it in '09, as I'm confident it will come to fruition (any year now). I laugh every time I hear someone claim that social networking will kill email marketing. It's true that social networking has cut into email's market share of consumers' personal communication, but this phenomenon will be short-lived as social networking sites rush to become the new inbox providers. The reason for my confidence is that social networking sites have yet to live up to financial expectations, forcing them to find other avenues to monetize their traffic. This has already started the early adoption of traditional ad models, allowing social networking sites to nibble at Yahoo, MSN and Google's market share. With the adoption of a traditional ad model comes inbox services, as email is one of the largest consumers of Internet time. If MySpace, FaceBook and the like want to sell more ad space, they will need to guarantee activities with proven performance.

Do you think my predictions makes sense for 2009 -- or are they completely off the mark? I guess we'll have to wait until next year to find out. In the meantime, if you have any additional insights you would like to share, please comment below.


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