There’s a number of new marketing techniques that are currently being experimented with by those looking to ‘catch the moment’ and find alternative, disruptive ways to reach their audience. This can only be a good thing for an industry that prides itself on being progressive, reactive and innovative. Key drivers behind the need for innovation within the sector are twofold, the first being that the way consumers are interacting with communications is changing, meaning that brands are having to ensure that their content is something that their consumer truly needs, in order to make an impact. The second is the evolution of technology – and whilst this presents many opportunities that are undoubtedly beneficial for advancing marketing techniques, there are some instances when this can present problematic challenges that marketers must solve.

Google implemented a huge change back in 2013 when they introduced new email inbox categories, placing users in control of their account by allowing them to segment emails into ‘primary’, ‘social’, ‘promotion’ and ‘update’ folders. This fragmented the relationship between brands and customers, and so marketers had to update their strategy and make real-time content a core focus in order to deliver and provide context that added true value. Two years later, and Google has introduced another new update that will again result in changes being made by marketing teams to ensure that they are continuing to make an impact. This latest development, entitled ‘Smart Reply’, will suggest short responses for users based on the content of the email they receive, as well as an experimental Inbox app that is designed to make the process of email more streamlined. This means that marketers will have to re-evaluate the content and timings of their email so that they are still able to land in the inbox at the ‘moment of truth’, which is critical to customer lifecycles.

This presents many challenges, one of which being that the recipient has more control over the way in which they read and respond to communications. In essence, it can be perceived as a move towards reverse automation whereby responses are pre-prepared, yet in this case it’s the marketer that’s the recipient and the consumer that’s the driver.

When marketers are working to send communications that stem from individualised insights, a blanket response initiated by Google will, at first, make it slightly harder to find and analyse the useful information that powers future content, and therefore make it harder to have a true understanding of exactly what the consumer is trying to say.

This introduction from Google, however, is not something that should deter marketers from email being at the centre of their communication ecosystem. Indeed, the latest customer acquisition report by the DMA reveals that customers are most likely to provide their data to marketers by email, growing from 25% to 35% in the last year. Willingness from consumers to share data via this medium is something that is immensely valuable for marketers, and it’s vital that email is set up in a way that allows marketers to capture this data to understand what the customer wants and needs. This can then be used to drive the content of the email, and combined with advanced insights, deliver an email that prompts the customers to engage with the brand.

Brands must adapt to this latest technology by having a system in place that allows all existing data to be integrated with the new data available from Smart Reply. This involves having a central system that drives, evaluates and monitors responses and interactions from customers. By having this in place, it’s quickly obvious what works and doesn’t for individuals, and therefore campaigns can be tweaked throughout to ensure they have maximum impact. Real-time communication is at the forefront of the industry, and it’s here where marketers are able to monitor and improve campaigns.

Marketers must realise that as Smart Reply develops, it presents an opportunity to get actual feedback from customers about what is relevant for them, as opposed to hitting unsubscribe at the bottom of an email. Consumers providing an exact response that determines what is and isn’t relevant allows marketers to truly understand exactly what the customer needs, driving communications to be more effective than they ever were before. These replies can inform future segmentation strategies, and allows specific individualised communications programmes to be implemented in a more effective manner.

It’s a very early step in the next stage of innovation, and marketers should begin devising a programme that overcomes the challenges that Smart Reply may present, namely a system that allows real-time interaction that is initiated as a direct response to the consumer’s preferences and needs.

Mark Ash

Mark Ash


Mark Ash is Managing Director Teradata Interactive International.