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What email looks like in 5 years

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Hello from San Francisco!

Litmus hosted the Email Design Conference in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday and it was fantastic to be around so many smart people in email. If you missed it, it will be in London and Boston very soon.

I gave a talk entitled “How customer-centricity is changing email”. The ideas in the talk are mostly from conversations with you about what your big pains are in your business that relate to email and data.

After letting feedback over the past 2 years digest, I distilled the ideas down in to three areas:

Multi-channel aggregation

People interact with your business on twitter, facebook, phone, support email, mobile app, website.

Wouldn’t it be great to pull all that data in and build a unified view of a customer?

Multi-channel image

That’s what CRM has promised but fails to deliver on. CRM today is largely manual data entry. Nobody likes manual data entry.

We’re going to see a unified view of the customer that’s available in all the places you need it. Places like customer support, your email platform, your sales tool.

This is a big deal, and hard to do. I’m excited to see what people like end up doing on this front.

Real-time targeting

Once you have a unified view of a customer and all of the great data coming in, you want to be able to act on that data.

A lot of companies today (especially larger ones) have a week turn-around time (or more) to send a targeted email. That’s painful for you, the people responsible for sending emails. It also leads to a lot of poorly targeted emails with poor open, click and conversion rates.

Here’s an early design from our designer Steve that shows where we’re going with our thinking about the interface to manage these things:

Convert more people

Combine real-time targeting with multi-channel aggregation and you’ll be able to easily do things like email all the people who tweeted about us in the past 10 days and emailed support. today does part of that, but the more data we have the more powerful it is.

Real-time targeting makes sure that content goes to the right people at the right time.

Recommendation engines

The last piece of the puzzle is content recommendations. You’ll be able to use all of the great data you’ve collected to give people better content in their emails.

Companies like Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and LinkedIn all use recommendations to great success, but they’ve built them in-house. For Netflix, 75% of what people watch is the result of a recommendation.

Netflix thinks I like dictators

For you to build something in-house you’re looking at spending $500,000 or more. I think we’ll see more companies focusing on content recommendations.

For example, in the Shopify app store, you can use Directed Edge to do recommendations for your Shopify store. In the next 5 years, I’m looking forward to easier recommendations both on-site and in email.

These 3 things combined are going to decrease email volume per person, but increase the quality of email people receive and how much value you’re going to be able to give them.

That’s a short summary of what was covered in the talk. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Is there something critical that’s missing from this suite of tools for you?

Let everyone know in the comments.


P.S. I know this is late notice, but if you’re in San Francisco, I’m hosting a happy hour for our customers tonight from 6 – 8 at Mars Bar. I’d love to meet you.