2012 Unpredictions: The Reckoning

Posted by Matt Blumberg 

I made four unpredictions for last year – things I didn’t think would happen. I always feel compelled to look back and evaluate my foresight, which in some years has been pretty good. This was one of them:

1. ISPs will not block messages to all users based on lack of engagement, but engagement will matter more than ever.

The reckoning: I hedged this one a bit, but no question it came true. Engagement does matter more than ever in the deliverability equation, and its impact is only growing. Last year we diagnosed more engagement-based issues than ever before, but even with a slight dip in worldwide inbox placement rates, 2012 was decidedly not the year that mail stopped reaching users because of behavioral trends.

2. Domain reputation will not be implemented in 2012, but planning for it will happen in earnest.

The reckoning: Spot on. True. Look at the way DMARC is focusing attention on domain-level reporting. We don’t yet have widely implemented solutions leveraging domain-based sending data, but finally the capability exists to monitor traffic originating from – and potentially work with registries to disable – specific domains.

3. Mobile will not be the dominant platform for reading email, but it will continue to steal share.

The reckoning: True. Mobile opens stole so much share that I almost missed this one. Late in 2012 mobile became the top source of email opens, ahead of webmail and desktop clients. Email is increasingly a smartphone experience for many consumers, and today roughly 40% of email is opened on a mobile device. I’ve got a hunch about what next year holds for mobile email, but you’ll have to wait for that one.

4. Social networks will not become the dominant messaging platform, but they will drive email use.

The reckoning: True. By a mile. We are indeed seeing more messages generated by social networks, but absolutely not an avalanche of volume. On the other hand, email volume from virtually all sources surged again in 2012 – so much that ISPs are starting to take real, impactful steps to control the increases that show no sign of slowing. This is no indication that social media communication is plateauing, either, but as I said last year, its dominance is a long way off and by no means assured.

Next week I'll look forward and share some of my expectations for the email ecosystem's evolution in 2013.

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About Matt Blumberg

Matt Blumberg founded Return Path in 1999 because he believed the world needed email to work better. Matt is passionate about enhancing the online relationship between email subscribers and marketers so that both sides of the equation benefit. It is with great pride that he has watched this initial creation grow to a company of more than 400 employees with the market leading brand, innovative products, and the email industry’s most renowned experts. Before Return Path, Matt ran marketing, product management, and the internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. from Princeton University. You can learn much more about Matt by reading his email marketing and entrepreneurship blog Only Once – one of the first CEO blogs on the Internet. Last year he wrote a book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business.

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