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The Future of Email According to the Triangle AMA Email Panel

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The Triangle chapter of the American Marketing Association hosted a panel this month with four experts on email. If you missed the panel, I highly recommend reading Karl Sakas’ recap.

The panel included Kelly Lorenz (@KNLorenz) of Bronto, Anissa Starnes (@ctct_anissa) of Constant Contact, Jeffrey Rohrs (@jkrohrs) of ExactTarget, and James Wong (@CommunityMGR) of iContact. It was moderated by our own Gregory Ng (@GregoryNg). The panel had a lot of great insights to share, but I want to focus on what they said about the future of email.

There was quite a lot of discussion on The Wall Street Journal’s “Email is Dead” article. The consensus from the panel? No it’s not. Here’s why:

  • Email is the hub for all of the new communication services like Twitter and Facebook. James pointed out that email is your “home base” for social media.
  • Jeffrey said that email is one thing we always check. The Twitter stream may pass us by, but we look at the vast majority of the stuff in our inbox.
  • Email is more ubiquitous than ever. Kelly threw out a statistic that 4-10% of B2C email opens are on a mobile device.

Still, future emails are going to have to change with the times. The email of 10 years ago is not the same as the email of today. Email strategy is becoming more and more advanced, scientific, and testable.

The panel talked a lot about testing in email. They suggested several things you can test in email: subject lines, length of the emails, specific content for specific segments of your list, and email design. A lot of your ESPs will have built-in testing options, but you can also divide your list manually and track your clicks via Google Analytics if you don’t have built-in testing. Even if you do use your built-in testing option, be sure to integrate your other analytics platforms on the back end! It’s more powerful when you can get the complete picture from email open, to click-through, to where they went on your site after the click-through.

So what’s next in email’s evolution, according to the panel? Better integration with social media, better displays and integration with mobile devices, and more testing!

What would you add to the discussion? Where do you see email headed, and what are the next advances in email you think we’ll see?