You’ve Got Programmatic Email

February 17, 2015 — by Suneet Bhatt    

MediaMath is committed to creating an open ecosystem for digital marketers which allows them to customize their marketing stacks and drive outcomes against their unique business goals. Our consumers are marketers and advertisers, so in an effort to educate marketers about the most impactful trends, help them navigate the landscape, and share the unique perspectives of our partners, we’ve asked the CMOs and heads of marketing from partner companies to share their thoughts on their particular pocket of the industry.

Suneet Bhatt, CMO at LiveIntent, a MediaMath OPEN supply partner, shares his thoughts on the current state and future of programmatic email marketing in the first of our “Keep it OPEN” Series.

Email is “old” as technology goes (some say it was invented in 1973). What is programmatic doing to change the way advertisers think of, and use, email as a channel to engage with consumers?

Marketing is fraught with waste. Think about your mailbox at home. The average home receives over 2 pieces of direct mail every single day — and about half of that is thrown away unopened.

Digital has not been much different (though without the environmental challenges — display advertising isn’t responsible for any deforestation that I’m aware of.) And within digital, the channel that has lagged advancement and progress the most has been email.

For all of email’s ubiquity (expected to grow from 4.1 billion to 4.7 billion email addresses by 2017) and wonder, the current commercial uses look even bleaker than direct mail. The good news: 82% of consumers have signed-up and requested email from a brand they like. The bad news: Only 12% of those emails sent by the brand are opened. So what happens to the 88% who aren’t opening?

On the one hand, people are interested in getting messages. On the other, they’re overwhelmed by the number of messages they’re receiving. And this disconnect has created a tremendous inefficiency in the market.

Until 2010, e-mailers didn’t have many options to change market dynamics. They could segment more effectively. They had a better understanding of performance of sends and opens. But once a campaign was sent, and once the e-mailer let it fly, the best they could do was clasp their hands together, pray, and hope for the best. Because everything that happened after the moment of send was beyond their control.

Real-time, programmatic, in-the-inbox technology fixed these problems and gave more power back to the marketer.

What is the promise of programmatic email, and how does LiveIntent realize that promise?

First, programmatic in the inbox has made it possible for marketers to reach their customers in email where they are already paying attention—without sending more email. How? Because the 88% of customers who aren’t opening your email, are, in many cases, opening other emails. Perhaps a newsletter from the New York Times or ESPN? Perhaps a recipe in the inbox from Kraft? Perhaps a bounced email notification from AOL? The problem had always been thought of as looking inward, “How do I get a subscriber to open my specific email?” The true answer was always, “How do I get a subscriber to receive my message?”

From an efficiency standpoint, this is a massive step forward. It makes delivering messages to prospects and customers possible without sending more email.

But efficiency of delivery was only part of the problem. If all the options for messaging and context were still limited to the “send,” then relevancy to the customer still takes a backseat. Programmatic and real-time solved that problem, too. It made context important. It pushed the decision around what message the specific customer would see from the moment of send all the way down the supply chain to the precise moment of email open. So if you open an email on your phone at 3pm in the afternoon the day before Mother’s Day, you’ll get an ad served to you that factors in all of that context (device, time of day, location, and potential offers and campaigns). But if you opened that same email several days later, say after you came back from vacation and well after Mother’s Day, on your laptop, and at work — well, you wouldn’t see anything about Mother’s Day.

Programmatic and real-time have made the inbox a smarter place to market to. Waste is reduced. Prospects and customers are more likely to engage with messages in emails because they’re seeing them when and where they are already paying attention (for LiveIntent, the evidence is in the numbers, where our ads perform 3-5x better than traditional display for that very reason). Marketers have more control and flexibility over what messages are delivered, and in what context, which makes for an improved match of message to person: right message, right person, right place, right time.

As a marketer, I have to love what programmatic has made possible in email. It has helped us make progress on the ultimate promise of digital: precision, relevancy, and attribution.

Learn more about LiveIntent by visiting the LiveIntent partner page.

Suneet Bhatt

Suneet Bhatt is responsible for marketing at LiveIntent, who were recently named to Forbes' Most Promising Companies of 2015 list and named by Crain’s as the fastest growing technology company in New York. As the CMO of LiveIntent, he ensures that our sales, product, people, and operations feel well supported, our customers feel well represented, and our company represents itself well. Prior to joining LiveIntent, Suneet held executive positions at Chartbeat, WPP’s POSSIBLE, and NAVEX Global. When he’s not at LiveIntent, he tries to spend his time with the people he loves, wrapping himself even further around his daughter’s finger.