Every year there are notable technology and marketing trends, but 2004 saw events that had a massive effect on the e-mail marketing industry. This is the first year I can recall with so many significant e-mail marketing developments. Let's look back at 2004 with an eye to 2005, as the full effect of the five major changes hasn't yet been fully realized:
- CAN-SPAM legislation. Though it hasn't slowed the spam flow, it rescued the industry from the prospect of the channel-crippling SB 186 California legislation, preempted when CAN-SPAM became law on January 1, 2004. The CAN-SPAM act also drove permission-based marketers to scrutinize their mailing practices at an organizational level, which made best practices required practices. As for the bad guys, we've seen one conviction under CAN-SPAM and dozens of lawsuits filed; Microsoft alone has filed 41 under the act.
- Sender authentication.I discussed the current state of sender identity schemes in my last column. Although many proposed standards are caught up in heated debate, the industry as a whole has at least made some progress in implementing these various standards. I imagine we'll see further consolidation of these multiple approaches in 2005, which is a necessary first step to slow not just the nuisance of spam but also more harmful phishing (define) and spoofing (define) attacks.
- Reputation services. Although sender accreditation and reputation services can't be fully realized until a sender identity scheme is in place, 2004 marked the first time large receivers got on board with sender accreditation services when Microsoft embraced IronPort's Bonded Sender program. Such a move is evidence ISPs don't want to be in the business of managing sender reputations. That task is best left to third-party vendors that can remain neutral. Look for more vendors to enter this market in coming months. Reputation services are set to grow in 2005.
- Co-registration. Co-registration isn't a new idea. But CAN-SPAM, the desire not to be perceived as a spammer, and the declining performance of traditional e-mail list rental helped put co-registration squarely on the map in 2004. Return Path acquired NetCreations and that company's double opt-in co-registration service, PostMasterDirect. Aptimus, one of the larger co-registration vendors, had a banner year, with year-over-year revenues up about 200 percent. Anecdotally, I've heard some great stories about the performance of lists derived from co-registration. Although not as large and popular as paid search, co-registration should become a more central part of acquisition strategies in 2005.
- E-mail marketing sophistication. Over the past year, I've seen several indications the market as a whole is becoming more sophisticated in e-mail marketing tactics. Domain-level reporting quickly became a must-have for e-mail marketers in 2004 in the wake of deliverability issues. My work at Jupiter Research seems to indicate targeting tactics are slightly more sophisticated than they used to be, specifically using behavioral data to segment lists. In 2002, only 24 percent of marketers used CTRs (define) to segment their lists to target follow-on campaigns. Though not a huge jump, in 2004 31 percent of marketers employed the tactic. Given the customer data we have access to, we still have a long way to go in terms of the tactics we use. In 2005, I expect to see modest growth in deployment of richer segmentation schemes and use of targeting tools such as dynamic content.
I'm looking forward to seeing all of these practices flourish next year. Let me know if you have any of them on your 2005 resolutions list.
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