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Forrester: E-mail Vendors Increasingly Sophisticated

It's no longer that difficult to get an e-mail campaign delivered on time, so e-mail vendors are beginning to distinguish themselves through advanced features, according to a report released this week by Forrester Research.

The researchers who conducted the study, which was put together by interviewing 18 e-mail technology vendors, concluded that e-mail marketing is growing up, ironically because marketers told them they can't differentiate between e-mail service providers. No longer are e-mail companies judged by basic services like getting a campaign out on time. Instead, they're differentiating themselves by offering more advanced data-oriented features, responding to marketers' desires to go beyond "batch-and-blast" e-mailing.

The features that e-mail companies are developing are oriented toward allowing marketers to create one-to-one personalized campaigns, which involve dynamic content delivery based on user profiles. While all of the companies Forrester surveyed supported these capabilities to some extent, the researchers cited DoubleClick , Bigfoot Interactive and Yesmail as being furthest along with their tools, having begun to automate the complex exchange of data and content that such messaging requires.

Forrester especially thought it important for e-mail companies to be able to support the automatic delivery of sequences of messages based on consumer actions. Hewlett Packard, in a campaign it conducted through Digital Impact , uses purchase data to tailor a sequence of messages to customers based on the life cycle of the product they bought.

Other tools that Forrester sees as being important to the future of e-mail include:

  • Applications that allow marketers to merge their e-mail programs with behavioral and self-reported data gathered on a Web site.
  • Technology that links e-mail and offline direct marketing.
  • Infrastructure that supports the bi-directional exchange of user profile data and relevant content.

Besides the development of advanced features, e-mail vendors will begin to distinguish themselves by packaging their services to respond to needs within particular business sectors. Bigfoot, for one, has been developing and introducing "vertical market solutions," which are tailored to the needs of customers in various industries, including automotive, entertainment, financial services, and health care. In the financial services and health care industries, especially, companies' needs are likely to be extremely specialized, given the regulatory constraints under which these industries operate.

The Forrester researchers chose DoubleClick, EchoMail, and Bigfoot Interactive as leaders in the industry. DoubleClick's strengths, they wrote, lie in its ability to offer a wide array of marketing services. EchoMail was cited for strong creative services and unique technical offerings; and Bigfoot Interactive impressed with its platform, its data integration capabilities, and its partnership with modeling firm PreVision.



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