the (r)evolution of email marketing

From Spam to Customer 360: 

According to a recent survey by the DDMA (available in Dutch only), email marketing is hardly practised as an isolated activity anymore. Most respondents describe their current job in a different way: CRM marketer, online marketer, base marketer and digital marketer. The job description has changed because of the evolution from simple email campaign to customer 360.

How did that come about? First … let’s take a trip down memory lane …

The invention of email

The very first email (a text messages from one computer to another in the same network) was sent in 1971, a good twenty years before internet access became common and affordable for the masses. The very first marketing email is attributed to Gary Thuerk. He sent it on May 3rd, 1978 to prospective clients of Digital Equipment Corp. It resulted in orders to the value of $13 million. not bad ROI for a campaign consisting of a single email to 400 recipients!

By 1984, Pat and Julian explained on Thames TV how ‘very simple’ and convenient email was for them, using the Prestel network. The rest of the world had to wait until the 1990’s, when internet became available to a wider public. In the early days, the connection was established by dialing up through a phone line (for nostalgics: it sounded like this).

With the advances of cable internet, ever faster connections and WiFi, email really took off. In 2007 the smart phone was launched, and since then we can carry our inbox with us wherever we go. Today, we can hardly remember a world without access to electronic communication always and everywhere.


The advantages of marketing by email are obvious. At a fraction of the costs for direct mail, advertising in printed media or producing glossy brochures, you can reach a huge audience. Results of email campaigns can be measured and you can personalise messages. A big disadvantage was also clear from the very beginning: recipients complained about unwanted and annoying messages. Junk email, also known as spam, named for a Monty Python sketch.

As the popularity of email grew, the amount of annoying and inappropriate messages in your inbox increased. Older readers will remember the endless offers of cheap Viagra, or enlargement of an intimate bodypart only half the population possesses. Remember Gary Thuerk? Not only did he send the first marketing email, he also is credited with the first spam email. He got told off by his boss and had to promise to never do it again.

To block unwanted emails, providers created spamfilters. From 2003, increasingly strict laws were also enforced (CAN-SPAM, GDPR etc.) that made sending commercial emails without explicit consent of the recipient illegal.

From email campaign to customer journey

As a bona fide email marketer, you will want to avoid your emails being marked as spam. To keep the recipients engaged, you need to produce interesting and useful messages. Knowing who your customer is and what they like, will help you with this.

It’s nothing new that knowing your customer is good for business. successful retailers know the preferences of their regular customers. For organisations with a lot of customers this is harder to achieve than for the local shopkeeper. But because email opens, clicks and conversions can be measured, is has become possible to monitor customer behaviour at a large scale.

This has led to the development of broader applications where every touchpoint, like a purchase, a complaint or a service enquiry, can be captured and analyzed. This way, businesses are able to map the complete customer journey.

Smarter marketing is based on data

Research has proven time and time again that customers are willing to share personal information with companies. As long as this results in a more personal approach and relevant offers, that is. With data from the customers journey, marketers can segment their audiences according to region, gender, order history or purchase value.

By using audience segments, you can send your customers emails with offers and information that’s relevant and increase engagement and conversion. You can also prevent customers who have outstanding complaints from receiving inappropriate emails. Comprehensive platforms such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud come with built-in automations and artificial intelligence to help you with the timeconsuming work of making selections, reporting and analysis. This leaves you free to create interesting and engaging campaigns.

Customer 360

Most organisations know much more about their customers than they realise. The problem is how to collect the data from many different sources and many different departments in one place. Advances in database and cloud technology are making it easier to collect all this information into a complete picture of the customer, what we call customer 360.

Customer 360 contains all the information about your customer, from website visit to complaint procedure. It also makes this accessible to everyone in the organisation, so every employee has the same “Single Source of Truth” for every customer.

The Cloud Information Model … to infinity … and beyond!

Nowadays, there are numerous platforms available, in- and outside the cloud, to collect and process data. This presents a problem: all these applications use different data models and this makes it hard to connect data from different sources. To connect one data model to another, an open source solution was created by some of the largest players in the business. This is the Cloud Information Model.

The Cloud Information Model aims to become the new standard, so the digital transformation will not be delayed by problems with compatibility. It allows organizations to work even mor data-driven. So, email marketing has entered yet another new phase as part of customer 360. It offers infinite possibilities to get to know your customer better. You will be able to always deliver the relevant message at the right time through the preferred channel.

Are you looking for solutions to get more out of your data/ do you want to connect different data sources into on Single Source of Truth? Contact us by clicking on the button below. You can ask us questions in advance on the form, so we can back to you with the answers ready.


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