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Monday, September 19, 2011

How are companies adopting email marketing in India

India is seeing a larger attention in digital marketing space as younger and older population are getting online and their spending habits online fuelled by already established online travel companies which made their life much easier. Indian online population is enjoying now the ease with which they can book their tickets, or buying things at much cheaper prices.

Email being one of the prime digital channels for companies to continuously engage with their large subscriber base, Indian companies have long attempted multiple solutions from in-house SMTP mailers to MTA boxes to Email Solution Providers (ESP) of all sizes. As the internet email regulations have evolved over time and often dictated by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like yahoo, hotmail, Gmail and such and their continued redefinition of the rules for accepting and delivering mails to the inboxes of the recipients, Indian companies are more and more trying to use the Email Service Providers.

This has provided an opportunity for several companies to jump into providing bulk email solutions.

Some of the Indian companies have attempted to easily take some open source solutions like PHP Mailer and such and modifying or building to the needs of the Indian companies. These solutions mostly lack the authentication features required by ISPs like DKIM and speed throttling. Most of the solutions are not built for managing entire email life cycle communication and the data privacies required. Their infrastructure is not scalable and can't be separated for each of their client. This will complicate issues like IP and domain reputation. A company which has very good email practices can easily get hurt by some other company which has no good practices if they use such email solutions. Indian companies still being very slow and averse to use confirmed opt-in practices, can easily get their domain blacklisted and ISPs can soon either put their mails in spam folder or start blocking their mails.

Moreover these solutions that are not built for analytic driven marketing lack the analytic features. This makes the marketer not aware of his engaged audience by demographics, email behaviour and purchase behaviour. With no knowledge of such intelligence, Indian companies who are using such solutions are blindly shooting the mails to all subscribers, without knowing what their subscribers are doing with those emails. This can also treated by ISPs as bad senders and emails may be blocked or sent to spam folders by ISPs.

According to Reputation Authority, Indian Companies using home grown email communication platforms are sending more than 40% spam. It is very difficult for Indian email marketing solution providers to control the spam rate, as their solutions are not very sophisticated to handle all kinds of bounces, spam complaints and spam traps. Moreover there is no intelligence to analyse the active and inactive subscriber base over time.

They also lack the integration features for companies to manage their entire life cycle email communication with one solution and work with the company's portal and back end systems seamlessly.

Seeing the growth in the internet population and recent explosion in e-commerce and daily deals, several international email service providers (ESPs) have now entered the Indian market through sales team located elsewhere or in India and offering their more matured platforms to Indian companies. This is a most welcome trend.

Now there are more companies offering such solutions, the price competition is so much, International email service providers are competing with the Indian email service providers on price and dropping the account management, project management and integration features for Indian companies. When their minimum ticket size is more than 100K US Dollars per client in matured markets of USA and Europe, and they throw in a dedicated account manager, solutioning to automate the clients email communication and providing full services, the international email service providers are just providing a software tool to send bulk mails to Indian companies, with none of those needed services that are very much needed by Indian companies, as they are trying to adopt email as an effective medium.

According to Reputation Authority, even the international email service providers that are providing email platform as a tool for sending bulk email communications for Indian companies are not able to bring the spam to single digit, as they are not able to work with the Indian clients to strategise their email marketing efforts.

I see Indian companies as they trying to adopt email communication as a prime medium for their online business, is largely under served by both Indian companies who lack features and International email service providers who can't provide much needed strategy and expertise with local resources for companies to better engage their subscribers.

Email cost measured in CPM (cost per thousand) may be a deciding factor when you choose the email service provider. While each ESP may have a cost per CPM to compete, a self managed email platform may not be a single decisive factor.

Indian companies have to start looking at not only the platform, but also need to look at the expertise of the email service provider on their mailing infrastructure, security practices for their data, expertise in email marketing, though leadership, ability to do customizations, integrate their websites and backend systems for life cycle email communication and ability for managing their email campaigns.

I see some Indian companies have understood the importance of much needed services along with the email platform and are choosing the email service provider based on a broad spectrum and depth of services and expertise offered to better optimize the email medium.

I believe that most matured and smart Indian Companies are trying to stop blasting the emails to all in blind everyday and start using intelligent analytic driven customer engagement email communication in the days ahead.

This is most welcome news for the most spammed Indian Internet consumer.

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