A Story Of Email Marketing History: Evolution Of Email Communications

It’s always important to understand the history of something in order to understand why it’s important! Learn about the story of Email Marketing History to see how email marketing evolved as well as the challenges of offline direct-to-consumer or direct business-to-business marketing communications that email marketing has provided a solution to.

Before the Story of Email Marketing History: Remember the Days of Postal Mail Marketing?

Take a minute and take a walk to your mailbox. No, we don’t mean walk to your computer to check your inbox. We mean a walk to your actual, physical mailbox where people mail you paper letters and packages. Now take a moment to sort through the mail that you find there. Chances are that you will find several promotional or marketing flyers which are trying to sell you localized services. However, you may also find catalogs and promotional postcards for global or larger brands.

Now, take a moment to consider what the world would be like if postal mail to your physical mailbox were the only way to send you customized communications to market products and services. It would be a highly inefficient system. Because postal mailings need to be printed in bulk to reduce costs, your message could only be mildly customized to include your name. Then, whoever wanted to advertise to you would have to pay for not only the printing of the postcard, flyer or catalog to be mailed, but also for all of the stamps or postal costs to send the mailing. Finally, the marketer who sent the mailing would have to wait for a period of time for you to receive it. It may be several weeks until the post office delivered it, and it may be even longer until you removed the mailing from your mailbox and read it. Because of that timing, the offer that the marketer was sending to you couldn’t be specific and time relevant. Finally, the marketer had no way of knowing if the postal mailing had had any impact on you unless you then used a specific promotional code included on the mailing. There was no way to know if you’d even looked at or received your mailing!

Does this sound like an ineffective way to market your products or services to a mass consumer audience? Well, until as recently as the 1990s, it was largely the only way to get a marketing communication into the hands of a specific individual. Marketers came up with many ways to attempt to make postal marketing mailings more personalized and to better track their response rates, but the truth was that once you sent a postal mailing, figuring out if it worked or didn’t work was more guess-work than actual facts. The entire process was, and is, expensive, time consuming and difficult to judge the success of.

Fortunately for you and your consumer or business-to-business marketing needs, the 1990’s happened and the internet was born. Soon after, email began to become a primary form of both personal and business communications. Not long after the popularity of personal email exploded, email marketing became a specialty area for those with marketing expertise because of its improved capacity for customization, segmentation, frequency, relevancy of communications and, most importantly, tracking capabilities.

1991: The “Birth” of the Internet

While there are many people who “claim” to be the founder of the internet, experts say that the internet as we know it began in 1991 when CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) publicized a paper known as the New World Wide Web Project. Though a British scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, had actually been creating html, http and the world’s very first web pages at CERN as early as two years prior to the paper, the publishing of the paper is considered the “birth” of the internet. Not only did the internet change life as we know it, it also changed marketing as we know it!

Over the next decade, many experts estimate that the internet grew as much as one hundred percent per year in terms of bandwidth used. The greatest spikes of growth were seen in 1996 and 1997. Today, of course, you would have a hard time finding anybody who does not admit that the internet plays a key role in their daily lives, from information gathering to processing communications, primarily through the use of email and, more recently, social media.

1996: Hotmail Becomes the First Web-Based Email Service

One of the greatest benefits of the rise of the internet was the ability to use email, or electronic mail, to communicate with people. Email was fast, free and could speed up communications across the world in a way that most people had not previously imagined. However, during the first years of the internet, email was only available to people who fit into specific groups: college students using their college email address or employees who were able to use corporate email addresses. The second group typically had significant limitations on how they could use their email and whom they could communicate with. While some individuals could also get email services provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP), those services typically required that you checked your email specifically from the computer that was supported by your ISP. Email was not a “pick up and go anywhere” type of communication.

Then, in 1996, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launched what was then called Hotmail(with the letters being a reference to html). It was the first web-based email system, and suddenly email was available to anybody who had access to the internet. That didn’t just mean people who had home computers that were internet wired. It also meant anybody who could use a public computer at a library or business center. Suddenly, email was no longer limited to just a small group of people who needed to communicate primarily with each other. Email was out of the bag to the public, and anybody who wanted to communicate with anybody else could do so via Hotmail. Not surprisingly, people loved the service and flocked to it. A year later in 1997, Microsoft purchased Hotmail for four hundred million dollars and renamed it MSN Hotmail.

Just How Many People Use Email Today?

Today, Hotmail is still technically the largest web-based email service in terms of raw users, according to the most recent comScore data (August of 2010). Hotmail is reported to have three hundred and sixty-four million users. Yahoo! mail is the second largest with a reported two hundred and eighty million users, and Google’s Gmail is third with one hundred and ninety-one million users.

Beginning of Email Marketing History: The Birth of Email Marketing

While email began as a communications tool for academic and business purposes, it soon became a tool for personal communications among friends, relatives and even people who had never met in real life! As people began to spend more and more time using email as their primary communications tool, smart marketers realized that email communications were the future of marketing communications and began to make the shift into using email as a way to effectively communicate with customers. Email Marketing, even in its earliest days, presented a number of benefits over both postal marketing and telesales as a form of direct-to-consumer or direct business-to-business communications. We’ll look at those benefits in detail in the next section of this book, but today email marketing is a robust portion of any complete marketing plan and has entire industries built around helping businesses of all sizes effectively email market.

Comm100 Email Marketing would, of course, be an example of this. Comm100 Email Marketing works to develop email marketing software that streamline the sending of email to consumers or business contacts with customized messages and complete tracking. In addition to companies that focus primarily on developing email marketing solutions, individuals have become email marketing experts as well. Most mid-sized or larger companies employ at least one email marketing specialist and may have as many as several employees who focus on nothing but creating effective email marketing strategies and campaigns.

Of course, you may not need an entire staff, but you do need to understand the basics of email marketing strategy, benefits and tactics of email marketing. We’ll cover all of those in this book to make you your own email marketing expert by the end!

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