Email keeps evolving

Cloud, mobile spark innovation in the email space

Email image via Shutterstock.Email image via Shutterstock.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve read about the impending demise of email.

There’s been a long line of purported successors jockeying for position, aiming to disrupt the space. Various social channels, SMS and instant messaging quickly come to mind.

All have been unsuccessful in their pursuit. Sure, email is a flawed, imperfect and overwhelming medium with plenty room for improvement. But it’s this need for improvement that presents a window of opportunity for innovation.

It’s the reason why sagacious approaches to email such as Inbox Zero are being developed.

New apps and services have sparked innovation within the email space and this tried and true communications platform is reinventing itself, at least in the business world. There are a variety of influences that account for the recent surge in creativity. Three tends I’ve observed are:

1. Email is becoming increasingly sophisticated in the desktop browser. The cloud and other technologies have created opportunities.

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2. Deeper third-party integration. The recent addition of Dropbox to Yahoo! Mail is a great example of this.

3: Mobile has sparked a plethora of innovation in the email space, including location-based marketing, responsive email design, and native app development.

New ideas are reenergizing the consumption and marketing of email. In a column on Marketing Land, “3 New Ways To Measure Email Campaign Effectiveness,”  Tom Sather breaks down the ratio of personal versus marketing messages in the inbox and discusses the importance of differentiating yourself from the competition.

“Almost 70 percent of all messages in people’s inboxes are non-personal, meaning they are marketing offers, social updates, receipts and more,” writes Sather, who is the senior director of email research at Return Path. “This is both good news and bad news for marketers. The good news is the inbox is now more of a marketing channel than ever before. The bad news is there is more competition, and marketers need to work extra hard to stand out.”

Email campaigns that provide value to our clients can be extremely successful in real estate. However, they need to be optimized and personalized. Check out “Top tips to get personal,” by Inman Next contributor Sam DeBord. He has laid out some helpful tips and best practices on how to optimize your real estate email campaigns.

Nudge is a new app that helps real estate pros differentiate themselves from the competition by delivering a clean, simple message with a prominent call-to-action. I like to think of Nudge as the “anti-newsletter.”

Instead of having an overwhelming amount of traditional real estate related content (graphs, charts, lots of text, etc.) stuffed into a message, Nudge replaces the clutter with a short message and visual elements such as Instagram images.

Kickdynamic adds another interesting spin to email marketing. The app enables live content in email. For example, you can leverage location, time and social. Some of the features include a countdown clock, social stream, device detection and location targeting. The service provides a code snippet that is advertised to work with any email service provider.

BombBomb is another example of innovation in the email space. The platform combines email marketing and video. Recently selected for  NAR’s ‘tech accelerator’ program, BombBomb aims to engage users and build relationships by adding multimedia & interactivity to the email space. The service features different pricing tiers starting at $29 a month. The platform also showcases robust video analytics including real-time alerts, opens, clicks and play metrics.

On the consumer side, cutting-edge mail apps have caused quite a stir, particularly Mailbox. The Mailbox team recognized that mobile email was in disarray and set out to build a better mobile email app. The company had raised 5.3 million in 2011 and was most recently acquired by Dropbox. Mailbox is a prefect example of the innovation that is happening in the email space.

The official Gmail mobile app is another email application making creative strides. The updated app features swiping gestures, advanced search, the ability to attach photos and scribbles and supports up to five accounts.

OK, so maybe email won’t be the next BIG thing and I know that it’s tough to get excited about such an old platform. However, I believe there is still plenty of innovation still to come and that’s a pretty cool thing.

Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at tflanagan@residentialproperties.com or @tflan on Twitter.

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