Yet, enterprise platform companies will continue to invest to fill gaps in their marketing stacks in 2014, experts predict.
Email, one of the oldest of digital channels, still remains an attractive target for platform and ad-tech companies. Retargeter AdRoll’s recent acquisition of email and CRM startup Userfox and programmatic email targeting platform LiveIntent’s recent $20 million funding injection both illustrate this interest.
This is because email is a critical data point and still draws internal investment dollars in the enterprise. There is “no doubt we still see a lot of activity from people who are either in divisions of companies or in smaller companies still selecting email providers for the first time,” said Julie Hopkins, research director at Gartner.
Email marketing may still have an image as one of the less exciting parts of the digital marketing engagement story, but Hopkins notes there’s still significant budget devoted to it, largely because it’s a cost-effective customer engagement medium.
That being said, email marketing companies like StrongView are aware they need to expand their horizons. Formerly StrongMail, the vendor rebranded as a cross-channel technologies provider to better frame its scope of services. “We find ourselves [in an enterprise environment] being brought in next to [IBM’s] Unica to facilitate those email and cross-channel needs marketers have,” said company CEO Bill Wagner.
Therein lies the benefit for advertisers: Email inventory is as easy to buy, sell, target and optimize using machines as any other media channel, and is embedded now into a much larger digital marketing narrative that crosses channels and use cases.
“As you start to think about it as a way to track a user and connect that to cookie data and more actions on-site, and then the priorities of personalization for digital marketers, a lot of that starts to build really compelling stories,” Hopkins said.
For instance, the email identifier is a data point wherein the user has provided their information as part of a transaction or ongoing relationship with a company, and can be more sustainably applied to ongoing life-cycle management.
“Email is no longer about just sending email,” said Matt Keiser, CEO of LiveIntent. “One of the reasons email was overlooked as an opportunity for innovation [in advertising was] because it’s so effective for content delivery, CRM and loyalty programs because it was more like direct mail than digital media. You targeted to a list and everybody got the same experience.”
Companies like LiveIntent and Sailthru, however, have looked to make the mass, list-based email target into a container for individualized messaging. As enterprise platform companies continue to design and price campaign management capabilities by customer "profile," this level of targeting will become increasingly congruous.
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