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Evolution of Email Marketing

The Current state of commercial Email communications is the third or fourth iteration over the past 20 years.

Believe it or not, there was once an era in which there was no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Scary stuff right? Well, if you are under the age of 30. Since its invention, Email and Email Marketing have undergone various stages of developmental, structural, and regulatory metamorphoses to emerge in its current beautifully-complex stage. The Current state of commercial Email communications is the third or fourth iteration over the past 20 years.

Email Marketing: A short trip down memory lane.

It is safe to say that the growth of Email Marketing as a viable means of communication can be tracked alongside the development and subsequent ubiquity of the Internet itself. First came the Commercial Internet, and then Email and Email marketing almost at once.

It is said that the first ever Email was sent by Ray Tomlinson, a Trail-Blazing computer programmer who implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system, the precursor to the Internet, in 1971; he is internationally known and credited as the inventor of email.

Since then, the ability to send bulk emails over a dedicated network i.e Email Marketing has become the most cost-effective form of direct-to-consumer marketing. The sheer speed at which businesses of all sizes can get their message into the hands of their audiences, in addition to the low cost of this form of messaging is what makes Email Marketing so attractive to firms all over the world.

The Wild West

Even though Tomlinson is credited for being the inventor of Email and the first to send out an Email message, it was Gary Thuerk of Digital Equipment Corporation ( DEC) who would, in 1978 be the one to send out the first ever unsolicited bulk email campaign promoting his company’s products. Thuerk’s mass email would provoke outrage from some, but would later lead to over $13 million in revenue for DEC.

In 1994 Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, two U.S-based attorneys posted an unsolicited offer for their legal services in Usenet’s discussion groups. As you would expect, some were angry that these two layers would choose such a forum to advertise. This posting by the two would lead to over $100,000 in billable hours of work. These two major events along with others would signal the start of a new method of marketing.

Law and Order

The Late nineties, specifically, 1998, would mark the start of an era of much-needed regulation in the Email Marketing space. First came the Data Protection Act (DPA). The DPA was a United Kingdom law designed to protect personal data stored on computers or in an organized paper filing system.

The law would require Email Marketers to adhere to certain rules when storing and using consumers' personal information. One provision of the law mandated the availability of opt-out options in Email Marketing Campaigns. The United States Congress would follow suit and pass the CAN-SPAM regulation in 2003.

In 2004, Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations were passed in Europe to help regulate commercial email use. Then again in 2004 The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) law, serving as a sender email verification system. The SPF’s main purpose was to prevent SPAM by verifying the sender’s IP address.

America Online ( AOL), also launched a system 2004 to provide Feedback to ISP’s. And for the first time, email marketers got an insight into how their email messages were perceived by their recipients.

Rise of The ISP’s

The late 2000s would usher in various tools created by Internet Service Providers (ISP) to protect consumers from SPAM and SPAMMERS. Google introduced the priority inbox to help sort and prioritize your email inbox. The system would clearly label all incoming email and designate most Commercial Email messages to the “Promotions” inbox.

Microsoft launched Windows Live sender reputation in 2008, allowing consumers to vote on whether an email was SPAM or not. These major developments would change the game on how consumers generally interacted with Email Marketing. 2012 was the year “ Mobile” became a thing. It was reported that over 40% of all consumers accessed their email inboxes from a mobile device.

Facebook and Twitter would become ubiquitous in the digital communications ecosystem as consumers migrated to their mobile devices to access all sorts of content, including their social media accounts.

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