April 15, 2004, 12:00 AM

What e-mail will look like in the future

Much like banner ads, e-mail’s performance as a marketing tool could diminish over time as shoppers grow accustomed to it. So the next generation of e-mail will be dynamic, says imaging technology provider Scene7.


Despite concerns about spam, retailers are still finding e-mail a profitable way to market to customers. But according to Doug Mack, CEO of online imaging technology provider Scene7, over the long term, e-mail in its current familiar format risks the same fate as banner ads. “Much like banner ads, after they first started, e-mail will atrophy in its performance because it starts to burn people out,” he says. “So the next generation of e-mail will be dynamic.”

Mack envisions e-mail in the future as a rich HTML message with images and graphics dynamically generated and customized by recipient, based on a shoppers’ online shopping and browsing behavior. Images, even video, could launch in an e-mail to grab the shopper’s attention. “People have the capability to delete an e-mail when it’s in preview, before they have actually read one word of it. But it’s almost impossible not to look at that image before you hit the delete button,” he says.

Put the right image and right product in front of the right customers, overlay them graphically with, for example, a free shipping offer if the customer has been shown to respond to free shipping promotions, and you have what Mack calls “the double whammy. It’s just going to pull you in.”

The company is working to develop a dynamic e-mail offering that may roll out later in the year. “Dynamic e-mail will help people who are already investing lots of money in e-mail for customer acquisition to take it up a step in terms of relevance to their customer and call to action,” Mack says. “We think it will be huge in terms of people’s willingness to engage with you online.”


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