Author Archives: Riaz Kanani

Riaz Kanani

About Riaz Kanani

Riaz is the founder at Connected Paths as well as serving on the Email Marketing Council at the DMA where he manages the Council's social media communications (including this blog) and a guest speaker at the Institute of Digital and Direct Marketing.

Previously, Riaz founded Digital Oxygen, the digital marketing services agency that translated sophisticated offline direct marketing techniques to email. Digital Oxygen was later acquired by Silverpop where Riaz built out the international Services, Marketing and Alliances teams.

Prior to this, Riaz founded First Media, the pioneer of online video advertising. He managed the technology and services groups delivering integrated enterprise marketing solutions and global video marketing campaigns. Throughout Riaz has also consulted on cutting edge digital projects for clients internationally.

Riaz also writes on his marketing blog and you can follow his tweets here and his presentations here.

A look back at email marketing in 2012

Well. Another year has passed by and sitting here pondering 2012, the first thought that comes to mind is just how much happened last year. It really was a busy year for marketers with so many events happening and email played a big part throughout – from the Olympics emails to the heavy use of email in the US elections.

The biggest topic in the first half of 2012 though, was the cookie law. Having been passed back in May 2011, it finally came into force in May 2012. It generated plenty of discussion here and was by far our most popular post in 2012. If you missed it, you can find the latest guidance from the DMA here and watch Skip Fidura, Vice-Chair of the Email Marketing Council look back on the law here. The latter part of the year saw the discussion start around the new EU Data Protection Regulations, which I encourage you to get involved in – if only through commenting on the various blog posts you can read here.

The most widely covered topic in email marketing last year was of course mobile email design. Christmas Day alone saw 17.4m new smartphones being activated  and mobile email usage grew throughout the year with Litmus showing 38% of all opens were on a mobile back in September. Just don’t forget that people click through from those mobile friendly emails – and the last thing they want is an unfriendly mobile website!

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 15.19.39

You should definitely have seen some of these special characters hitting your inboxes last year. There were plenty of marketers making use of them to increase the amount of readable information in subject lines and a few that.. well just took it too far ;)

One of the popular predictions at the end of 2011 was for HTML5 video to take off in emails and whilst there were a few examples of it early in the year, it wasn’t till the end of the year that several  retailers and media companies really made use of it. So it is no surprise then that understanding autoplay and video in emails was our second most popular post in 2012 and similar to Chad’s prediction, I expect to see even more usage in 2013.

Less exciting maybe was the new draft version of DMARC being released - a technical specification that aims to reduce the potential for email-based abuse backed by Google, Microsoft and AOL amongst others. Just before the holidays, Microsoft announced its support for DMARC inside and so the momentum continues to build towards its submission to the IETF  sometime in 2013.

Finally, it was Tim Roe’s approach to developing an email marketing strategy that took the third most popular post gong last year helping marketers to get started using just three different stages. Sometimes it is hard to just get started and this post helps you do that.

So 2013 will of course be another exciting year for email marketing – not least because we are starting to see more and more innovation in the email client space. Gmail (now 8 years old) is finally being challenged by new webmail clients like and AOL’s soon to be launched Altomail.

DMA Email Client Benchmark Report

A few weeks back, the DMA launched their annual look at what client side marketers think of email marketing. For those that have not seen the report yet, you can download it here (DMA membership required). The results from the report show that 2011 was another resounding year for email and that email marketers’ priorities have been shifting.

In fact, Justin Pearse – Editor of New Media Age after listening to the presentations commented that “Email marketing has proved its value but it needs to be viewed as more than your reliable marketing warhorse.  Email marketing always delivers solid results. Its return on investment can be startling. However, to really leverage the power of this channel marketers need to ratchet it up a notch.” You can read all of his commentary here.

This was reflected in the presentations on the day. Some of the key takeaways were:

1. The lack of resource internally for email marketing remains a major challenge. In fact 4 out of the top 7 issues email marketers face related to resource in 2011.

2. Staying with resources challenge, Olly Beckett from Opodo commented on balancing his time between social media and email marketing.

3. Email marketers are moving beyond focusing on deliverability and open/click rates and focusing on conversion rates instead.

All the presentations from the event are now online and can be found using the links below:

Findings from the Email Client Benchmark Report – Fiona Robson, Rocketseed and Anthony Wilkey, Emailvision.

Email: Still my favourite channel – Olly Beckett, Opodo.

Are marketers still maximising the ROI in this channel and could outsourcing be the key to scalign up your email marketing programme – Dela Quist, Alchemy Worx


Open Tracking and the New Cookie Law – Event

With the EU e-Privacy Directive’s compliance ‘deadline’ just a month away, the DMA is hosting an event on 2nd May to help ensure you are ready in good time.

As has been discussed in our two recent posts on this topic (here and here), it doesn’t just apply to websites and so the event will look at the following:

  • A summary of the DMA 10 step guide to managing cookies
  • A closer look at what the regulation means for you and your brand
  • An introduction to the DMA email and mobile marketing guidance
  • A Q&A with the panel of experts to answer any questions or provide further insight

The DMA is also working with DataGuidance on a short cookies awareness survey. It only takes a minute to complete so please do respond when you have a moment.

The event will also see the launch of the discussion paper on how the Cookie law affects email marketers.

Spaces are extremely limited for this event so please RSVP soon if you would like to attend by clicking here.


When: May 2nd, 2012 8:30 AM until 11:00 AM
Where: Osborne Clarke, One London Wall, London, EC2Y 5EB (map)

Event Fee(s)
DMA member (inc VAT) £ 0.00
Non-member (inc VAT) £ 36.00

DMA Email Tracking Study Launch: The Inner Circle

On Thursday 6th October, the DMA hosts an event to mark the release of the DMA’s Email Tracking Study which asks consumers their views on the emails marketers are sending them and more. It is an invaluable insight into the state of the email marketing channel and let me tell you, the results this year are both surprising and insightful.

One of the details that came out of the study was that there is an inner circle or Email VIP list that consumers have when it comes to marketing emails.  You can find out more about how to get into this inner circle from Dela Quist at Alchemy Worx and hear about all the rest of the findings from the study from Paul Seabrook, director at fast.MAP.

Still maintaining the theme of the inner circle, the final session focuses on how Ticketmaster used email to enter the inner circle and establish itself as the market leader in online ticket purchasing.

You can find out more about the event on the DMA’s website by clicking here.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Google continues to ignore email

Google recently announced it is to close the long running Google Friends newsletter. Launching in 1998, whilst Google was still on Stanford’s servers it has been delivered monthly. That is until now. From next month, the newsletter will cease to exist because subscriber numbers had stalled. But a wider look at Google suggests it doesn’t pay much attention to using email as a channel to communicate with its users.

First, lets take a quick look at the Google Friends newsletter.

Google outgrew this newsletter a long time ago. Each month, the newsletter provided a mix of tips and news across Google’s vast array of products. One month it was Google Toolbar, a Daily puzzle, Google Docs, Earth Day and a power tip for Google Map Maker. Another month it was a power tip on Google Voice and news on Google Places, Youtube, Google Translate and a Doodle for Google contest.

Unless you were interested in everything Google, this newsletter was not for you.

There are perhaps a small niche of people that might like the vast array of news updates across the whole of Google. Given the size of Google, and Larry Page’s new more autonomous business unit approach. Collating and combining these centrally may just have become too expensive versus the benefits. Of course these are their most ardent fans, so ignoring them is an interesting approach.

Overall though, Google’s approach to email is scattered and unorganised at best.

Google pushes out a huge amount of information, highly targeted not just by product but also by country. You can find the full list here, it is truly impressive in scale. You can subscribe to receive this information via Twitter, Facebook, RSS and (of course) Google Buzz! Surprisingly there is no mention of email at all. Given the scale of email (3.1 billion email accounts – click for more stats), its ability to remind users of your products/features and persistently store your message so you can come back to it, not promoting email subscriptions seems like a lost opportunity. Sure, it can be misused but so can all channels.

Relying on Twitter or Facebook for Google updates can easily lead to missed updates as unless I spend all day watching for their updates (not likely!) or proactively remember to visit their profiles on these network, Google is merely hoping I catch their updates in my newsfeeds.  Further you cannot search the Facebook newsfeed at all and searching  Twitter only results in tweets going back a few days.

Subscribing via RSS is an option for me as I am a heavy RSS user, but the usage numbers are low generally especially with a mainstream audience. So low in fact, that the last metric I can find on RSS numbers is from 2005. A rather tiny 275m wordwide.

Finally there is Google Buzz! Is anyone still using Google Buzz?

So where is email? It is there, but to find it you have to click through on some of the blog links where you will sometimes bring up the option of subscribing via email. There is obviously no standardised approach to this. The Blogger buzz blog had it in the right sidebar, the Google Analytics blog doesn’t have it anywhere. It is hit and miss based on the template used.

Email is different.
Different channels offer different benefits. Twitter and Facebook are great for offering casual connections to brands. Brands you really want to hear from? Not so good. For those situations, email is the right tool for the job.

If you are spending all that time creating content, getting in front of as many people who want to read it would seem to be a good thing. People can always unsubscribe. Google even provides that service inside Gmail.

The top 5 posts of 2010

Following on from yesterday’s review of 2010, I thought it would be interesting to see which posts caught people’s eye and garnered the most visits to this corner of the email marketing world in 2010.

So without further ado, the top post of 2010 was:

Email best practice is dead, long live best practice by Tim Watson of Smartfocus. The post looked at how not all best practice, especially email creative best practice is not created equal and when should it be followed and when should you consider ignoring it or doing the opposite. Click here to read the post.

It narrowly beat out the DMA’s Deliverability White Paper Outlining 10 Steps for Improving Inbox Placement by Margaret Farmakis of Return Path. The post referenced DMA’s deliverability whitepaper and outlined the major factors impacting on deliverability in simple and easy to understand terms. Click here to read the post.

Leaving the following three posts making up the top 5:

3. 2010 DMA National Email Marketing Report by Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights
4. What does the Gmail Priority Inbox mean for email marketers? by Riaz Kanani, Lyris
5. How to grow email lists through offline touch points by Tim Watson, Smartfocus

A big thank you to all the authors who contributed throughout 2010, this blog could not function without it!

A quick review of email marketing in 2010

With the new year upon us, I always find it interesting to pause and look back on what happened in 2010 – it was a big year in email marketing.

We saw major changes to the inbox with Microsoft and Yahoo changing the way people can see their inbox thanks to filters which show only emails from your friends and family. Google went further and released their Priority Inbox feature, which aimed to learn which emails are important to you and promote them to the top of your inbox accordingly. It was also a bad year for postmasters with major ISPs continuing to increase automation of spam filters and reputation and decrease staffing.

The much prophesied death of email continued to be delayed, despite continuous proclamations that social media would lead to its death. In the end, Facebook ate their words and upped their game “launching” new email features that group messages by sender rather than conversation or date (Note: it doesn’t seem to be widely available yet!). I sense integration between these two channels is set to intensify in 2011.

I am sure there is plenty more that I have forgotten – feel free to add your highlights in the comments below.