Predictions and Unpredictions for 2013

Last year I made a handful of unpredictions – things that I don’t expect to happen in the coming year. (You can see how I did here.) Because there’s been so much development in email during the past year and a host of innovations are quietly changing the email landscape, I wanted to include some predictions this time around based on ideas that I think will have a serious impact on 2013.

Here they are:

Prediction: Marketing and Security Will Join Forces to Fight Phishing

Cooperative anti-phishing partnerships between marketing and security teams will become commonplace by the end of 2013, especially within heavily phished brands. This is already happening, especially in large financial services firms, but it’s a relatively new development in the fight against email fraud. The surprising part of this is how long it’s taken for these collaborative efforts to develop. Phishing has always been a problem for both groups, undermining marketing relationships and brand value, and threatening network security. Now that more companies are finding ways to bring the groups together to solve the problem—and they’re succeeding—the model is there for others to adopt. Over the next 12 months, they will.

Unprediction: Most Email Won’t Be Read on Mobile Devices

In 2012 more email was opened on mobile devices than on any other platform, approaching 40% of the total. But mobile email won’t cross the 50% threshold in 2013. Here’s why: Mobile opens increased mainly at the expense of webmail over the past year as people checked email on smartphones and tablets instead of home computers. But desktop email clients (i.e., Outlook) retained most of their share – roughly a third of total opens. These are office computers, and until corporate IT departments adopt cloud-based email solutions (and they will, but not this year), they’ll keep the bulk of their share of email opens. Undoubtedly more messages will be read on mobile platforms, but they won’t represent the majority until desktop usage recedes.

Unprediction: Mobile Optimized Email Won’t See Widespread Adoption

Approaches to making the mobile email user experience better, like responsive design, will separate the most intelligent marketers from the pack in 2013, but the pack will represent the bulk of senders. Until we reach the mobile email tipping point, not just for opens but for purchase path entries (where smartphones trail other devices), most senders won’t prioritize mobile usability initiatives. To be sure these will be on every marketing team’s wish list – especially as early adopters increasingly drive more engagement and better response from mobile efforts. But they may need to leave a lot of money on the table before they get the budget they need to catch up to mobile email.

Prediction: Consumers Will Control the Inbox

There are technologies on the horizon that will transform the inbox into a multichannel control panel. That won’t happen in 2013, but some of the foundations of that experience are already widely used, and over the next twelve months they’ll allow consumers to actively control the way they read and respond to email. First they’ll use automated sorting (think Gmail’s Priority Inbox or Return Path’s OtherInbox) to segregate and filter commercial email. Then they’ll reschedule it (Boomerang for Gmail, or FollowUp.cc) to receive it when it’s convenient for them – nullifying some campaign planning that marketers sweat over. And finally they’ll engage with messages in new ways, like building to-do lists from them (Active Inbox or MailPilot), or scraping key information from email to use elsewhere (the way TripIt generates travel itineraries from confirmation messages). Consumer control and deeper engagement represents a great opportunity to build customer relationships through email, but it also puts more pressure on marketers to demonstrate the value of every message. The same tools that make it easier to actively manage email also make it easy to dismiss it.

In 2013 I expect more big changes in email than we’ve seen in years. Whether or not I’m right about which ones make the biggest splash, I’m excited to watch it unfold. What did I miss? I’d like to hear what the rest of the email community thinks will be big next year, so please leave a comment and let us know.