The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Trend: Designing for the tablet experience: Marketers will need to brand for optimization within the tablet interface.

iPad passes Mac computer in sales. The tablet is the new frontier.

It’s official. Consumers are tablet crazy; so much so that they are choosing the mobile devices over computers. It’s that time again marketers, just when you’ve finally optimized for mobile…

A look into Apples record breaking year provides an impressive example of the tablets’ rapid rise in popularity. In 2011, the company sold over 156 million iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), 55 million of which were iPads. To put this in perspective, in just one year combined sales of these mobile devices have exceeded the 122 million Mac computers ever sold. Since it was first available for pre-order in March of 2010, the sales trend of the iPad has blown all other Apple products out of the water (see figure below). CEO Tim Cook commented “This 55 is something no one would have guessed. Including us. To put it in context, it took us 22 years to sell 55 million Macs. It took us about 5 years to sell 22 million iPods, and it took us about 3 years to sell that many iPhones. And so, this thing is, as you said, it’s on a trajectory that’s off the charts.” There has been buzz for some time of the possible upcoming announcement of the iPad3, and today we have verification via Mashable that Apple has sent out invitations for an event on March 7th. The invitation states simply “We have something you really need to see. And touch” and according to Mashable is "superimposed on what is almost certainly an iPad". Knowing this, it is more crucial than ever for marketers to take to heart the magnitude of this trend. It has been rumored that the newest generation iPad will have a full operating system, providing the user with a full blown hand held computer, and conceivably further intensifying this trend. Yes, Apple is just one example, but I think it’s safe to say they are usually ahead of the trend. Assessing how we communicate via tablet will be paramount. 

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Trend: HTML 5 Gaining Momentum On Mobile & Email Platforms

HTML 5 and Email MarketingFor the widest audience reach, HTML 5 is your best bet.

Normally in Trends & Takeaways, we don’t discuss geeky technology topics. After all, this is a marketing blog. However, HTML 5 is emerging as a technology that marketers need to be mindful of when developing mobile and email strategies. HTML 5 has been around since 2009, and is the Web’s 5th generation markup language. Only recently, however, has the standard become widely adopted. In particular, this new markup language includes features to handle multimedia and graphical content on the web without the need for proprietary plugins such as Flash.

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Trend: Consumers Demand (& Win) In-Box Overhauls

Marketing Trends & Takeaways

Consumers Demand (& Win) In-Box Overhauls
Here Come the Opportunities for Marketers...

Web-based email has recently experienced a wave of changes, aligning with consumer expectations for several things -- improved user interfaces, seamless integration with everyday needs and an upgraded approach to in-box control.
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Streaming Video -- Coming To An Email Near You

According to comScore, more than 10 billion video clips are viewed online every month -- providing companies big and small with an incredible opportunity for cost-effective branding, product display and demonstration.   Ironically, the ability to incorporate streaming video into an email campaign was practiced in the early days of the commercial Internet, yet stymied when inbox providers and software developers started blocking javascript in email for obvious security reasons.   With cutting-edge video technologies now available and the pent-up demand for video integration with email from both marketers and consumers, inbox providers are heeding the call by developing new programs for marketers to tinker with email video delivery.

Gmail YouTube Capabilities

Gmail recently announced a new "Labs" feature allowing users to preview YouTube videos in emails. This technology is currently only for Gmail users, and is limited to YouTube videos, but it stands as significant progress in the move towards true video embedding.  Many marketers are experimenting with Gmail-only campaigns, segmenting their lists for subscribers and embedding short video clips as part of the campaign. 

GoodMail Systems CertifiedVideo

GoodMail Systems has also found a way to insert and play videos from email messages. The CertifiedVideo platform enables qualified senders to incorporate rich video and audio content directly in email messaging, without additional mouse clicks and pop?ups.  CertifiedVideo is based on Goodmail's core CertifiedEmail technology with the addition of a new CertifiedVideo tokenclass. Senders' messages are delivered directly to the inbox and ISP restrictions are lifted, enabling video to be instantly viewed by recipients. CertifiedVideo supports streaming and progressive download of .SWF and .FLV files, playable in Adobe Flash Player.  I met with Peter Horan, GoodMail's CEO, a few weeks ago at the Email Insider Summit in Captiva Island, Fla.  He seemed very enthusiastic about the beta testing that was completed with select clients and was eager to roll it out to the rest of us.  If you qualify for GoodMail services, you should definitely take a look at CertifiedVideo.

For those of you who do not have a lot of Gmail addresses and can't qualify for CertifiedVideo, there's still some hope for you.  Below are two additional tricks that work but are not as optimal as the above solutions.

Text Link

The simplest alternative to embedding video is to insert a text link to the video from your email. The video then opens in an external browser. While this approach is straightforward and uncomplicated, it lacks the obvious visual draw and speed of an embedded video or a related image. For this reason, the best practice for most marketers has been to insert a clickable screen shot or animated image of the video (discussed below).

Link with Image/Animated GIF

Simulating video with images typically generates more visual interest. How it works: once the video is loaded to your referring Web site, a screenshot is taken. HTML is coded to display this screenshot image when the email is opened, linking it to the eb page where the video resides.   Because images will render across all email platforms, this approach is considered a safe and alternative to embedding. Unfortunately, images also get blocked. Animated GIFs no longer run properly, as they are also blocked because spammers used to bypass filters. Marketers have a few options to bypass this obstacle, including the addition of a text link below the image and using alt attributes in the HTML code.  While using images to simulate video is an industry best?practice, this approach has its limitations.

What the Future May Bring

If none of the above sounds appealing to you, don't despair.  It is my intuition that email as a delivery mechanism for video will become so important in the coming year or so that inbox providers will make it much easier for marketers to do.   After all, they're going to have to continue pumping out new tricks to compete with social media for ad dollars.  And what better way to keep someone glued to their inbox than an old rerun of "Welcome Back Kotter" (for me at least).  As Vinnie Barbarino would say,  "up your nose with a rubber hose," social media.

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Quick Unorthodox Fix to the Spacer.gif Debacle

Since Microsoft decided to set Email Marketing back a few years by using Word's rendering engine , I see a fitting simple yet unorthodox kick in the hiney to them is in order. 

If you have ever worked your tail off to optimize your email message only to test it in Outlook 2007 (which for a split second before the preview kicks in gives you a nice false sense of hope) and watch it fall apart then here is a quick and simple solution that will work almost 100% of the time when spacer.gif’s are involved. 

Get ready for this solution because if you blink, you may miss it.  Rename your spacer.gif to spcer2.gif (or another file that doesn’t exist.)  I know that it’s completely unorthodox but it works.  I even tested it using Spam Assassin and it doesn’t change anything by having a few images that point to a preverbal black hole in Cyberspace.  If the message has a colored background, you may see a slim white line at the bottom of your message that may need to be tweaked a little bit, however if the background is white you will never notice it.

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