Please Build This: My Email Marketing Technology Wish List

Posted by George Bilbrey on

We’re beginning to see some sophisticated uses of machine learning to address email marketing problems.  Marketing clouds and email service providers (ESPs) have released some interesting and useful features.

Still, there are still many opportunities for new capabilities that could help email marketers drive more from their current email marketing investment.  I’ve compiled a list of things that clients frequently ask about (“Can your firm do this for me?”) that don’t exist in the market yet (as far as I know).

Content optimization beyond product/article recommendations and subject lines:  There has been some great work done on subject line optimization.  Several firms have released very sophisticated systems that allow you to increase opens (and as some claim) clicks and conversions through suggesting and testing better subject lines.

Several technology companies have built easy-to-use “recommendation systems” that customize the product or article that a client sees based on past Web and email behavior.  Not enough marketers are using these technologies. I’d love to move beyond these simple optimizations to see images, calls to action, offers and other variables optimized in a mostly automated, multivariate manner.

Data-based customer journey templates linked to a robust testing framework:  Most ESPs provide the ability to build customized customer journeys.  Some even provide example templates based on “best practices.”

In reality, most of these templates are simply examples and are not based on a detailed understanding of what works for different segments of a marketer’s industry. What’s needed are “starter” templates based on what can be empirically shown to work to increase customer lifetime value in a particular industry.  It would be even better if these journey templates were linked to a robust testing framework.

Better marketing cloud APIs and better support from ESPs: ESP APIs are generally poor.  The support provided by ESPs is generally minimal and slow.  If “marketing clouds” want to become more central to the lives of interactive marketers, they need to make it easier to get data into and out of their systems. (Note:  I haven’t heard this from a lot of clients, but it sure would make my life easier.)

Share of attention / share of transaction / share of wallet metrics for ecommerce: Most email marketers are measured by how much progress they’ve made from last year/last quarter in terms of opens/clicks, and (of course) revenue generated.  Smart ecmmerce marketers know that just doing better than last year isn’t enough.   Marketers need to know how much of a subscriber’s economic potential they are capturing.  If you have improved by 10% this year but you still only have 5% of the spend in your vertical from your customer base, it that good enough?  What’s needed is better reporting on how well ecommerce firms are doing vs. the competition in capturing economic potential..

Easier to implement attribution: It’s often difficult for email marketers to get enough resources to pay for new email marketing initiatives.  A large part of the problem is showing the value from email marketing.  Most of our clients use simple attribution methodologies that undervalue the contribution made by email marketing.  Very few clients have the time or staffing to implement a hold out study.  Building easy-to-implement attribution tools to show the true value of email marketing would (I think) make a business case for more investment in email easier.

So what do you think?  What technologies would you like to see built?   Are some of the technologies on the wish list already released, and I missed them? It will be interesting to check back at the end of the year and see what on this list was built and what new (unlisted) technologies hit the market.

This post originally appeared on Media Post


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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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