The Evolution of Email Marketing

by | Aug 7, 2020

When Ray Tomlinson sent the world’s first email in 1971, he probably had no idea what the technology would become. He sent the test message to himself, and then, the following year, Larry Roberts created the first email management system. It wasn’t long until marketers learned how to use this new technology to make money. Let’s dig into the evolution of email marketing.

1978 – The Beginning of Email Marketing

Gary Thuerk is the grandfather of email marketing. He worked for Digital Equipment Corp. in 1978 when he sent the first email blast. The blast went out to 400 people, and it proved to be a useful marketing tool. That email blast brought in $13 million worth of sales.

1982 – Email Is Born

Ray Tomlinson might have sent the first email in 1971, but back then, it was called an electronic mail message. It was shortened to the word “email” in 1982, and that’s what it’s been called ever since.

1988 – Spam Is Invented

Email marketing continued after that first blast, but often, it wasn’t solicited. Unsolicited emails started annoying people, and that’s when the word “spam” was introduced into the lexicon. Legitimate marketers realized if they were going to be successful, they couldn’t spam people.

1989 – Email Addiction Becomes a Thing

In 1989, AOL recorded the phrase, “You’ve got mail.” People began to crave hearing that iconic phrase. Many people credit that phrase for causing email addiction. The phrase might be retired now, but email addiction is still alive. 

1991 – The Modern Internet Is Born

You might have a hard time remembering the world before the internet, but it did exist. The modern internet was born in 1991, though, and with it came a modernized version of email marketing.

1998 – Email Offers More Options

The email hit its stride in 1998. Microsoft released its Internet Mail service. This would eventually evolve into Outlook. Also, Hotmail launched, and marketers started sending emails with HTML. This started the next wave of email marketing. 

1998 – Data Protection Act

While many marketers wanted to avoid spamming potential customers, not everyone followed suit. That caused lawmakers to update the Data Protection Act in 1988. The update included a provision that states that marketing emails have to include an opt-out option. Other laws would follow, including the Can-Spam Act and the Sender Policy Framework. While the new regulations created hoops for marketers to jump through, those hoops proved quite valuable. The laws protected consumers and legitimized email marketing. This improved the relationship between consumers and companies. 

2004 –Analytics Become Available

Before 2004, marketers didn’t have much information about email marketing campaigns. They could only look at conversions and guess if the campaign was successful. That changed in 2004. AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo started providing email service providers with recipient feedback. Spam complaints proved to be the most valuable metric. Marketers could look at the complaints and change their email marketing strategy if necessary.

2009 – Responsive Emails Hit the Market

Responsive emails hit the market in 2009, and this changed email marketing for the better. For the first time, marketers could create and transfer emails between devices. With responsive emails, people could use smartphones, tablets, or desktops to read emails.

Email Marketing Today

Email marketing has evolved quite a bit over the years. Now, marketers use emails to speak directly to their customer base. Many marketers even enjoy the highest return on investment with email marketing. One reason that email marketing continues to be successful is that it never stops evolving. Marketers continuously look for new ways to improve campaigns while reaching their customers. If you are willing to change, you can reach your customers and boost your conversion rates.

At TM, we use a specialized software to send any number of emails to targeted networks. We can help strengthen your business and brand at the click of a button. Please visit our website to learn more about our marketing services!

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