[unrev-II] E-mail Views: Interesting review of Radicalmail.com 'Streaming Rich E-mail'

From: John J. Deneen (JJDeneen@ricochet.net)
Date: Thu Jul 13 2000 - 10:05:09 PDT

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    We're transforming email from a static medium to one that's interactive
    by nature," says Jay Stevens, marketing director at RadicalMail.com. The
    technology allows you to make a purchase directly through the email,
    after it has "sniffed out" your Internet connection to deliver the
    content at appropriate speed. It also provides an incentive for you to
    forward the eye-catching promotion to a friend -- all the while tracking
    relevant conversion and pass-along data for the client.

    Because RadicalMail works by streaming in content through the Internet
    every time the email is opened (you must be online), it can
    differentiate content for different users and situations. (If you
    download your email to open it later offline, the RadicalMail email will
    contain a default message to the effect of: "Please view this email when
    connected to the Internet." In addition, RadicalMail doesn't want anyone
    to be bogged down with extraneously large files, so it limits the size
    of the initial message to roughly the size of a 500-word text message.)

    The audio and video content then streams in stages, and even then only
    when the recipient hits the "play" button within the email. For example,
    an email that had been forwarded to me by a friend might say, "Dear
    Craig, Your friend John thought you'd be interested in this office.com
    email. Click here for a special promotion and to receive other updates
    from office.com." But if I were to open that same email again after the
    promotion ended, it would say something different: "We're sorry, Craig,
    the office.com promotion has expired. Click here to learn more." (These
    messages are delivered in real time via the Web every time the email is
    opened, so, theoretically, an entirely new message could be displayed
    every time you forward or open the email.) With interactive, real-time
    features like these, it's no wonder that RadicalMail.com's clients --
    B2C and B2B -- are reporting impressive results. (Read about office.com
    and other companies' recent campaigns and results.)

    Because unsolicited email "hurts everyone in our field, we only work
    with companies that have pre-qualified, opt-in email lists," says
    Stevens. RadicalMail extensively tracks its super-distribution campaigns
    -- including the number of times the message was forwarded, the time of
    day it was forwarded, and how long it was kept open by the recipient.
    But it won't give clients the email addresses of people the messages
    were forwarded to unless those recipients subsequently opt in to receive
    further communications from the client.

    Does all this sound too good to be true? Well, there is a downside.
    Currently, only around 40 percent of email accounts can accept HTML
    emails, a requirement for rich email. But Forrester Research predicts
    that within five years, 92 percent of online consumers will use personal
    rich media once a month. At about that same time, Jupiter Communications
    estimates that every email recipient in the U.S. can expect to receive
    an average of 1,600 commercial emails per year, not to mention the 4,000
    emails they'll receive from other sources.

    Incidentally, the office.com email we received did, in fact, have a
    "friend referral" incentive: $25 off our next purchase of $50 or more by
    forwarding the message to three friends. Instead of hitting the
    conventional "forward" button on your email, RadicalMail asks that you
    fill in three email addresses in specially provided spaces within the
    email. This allows the company to track each pass-along because the
    emails are re-routed through RadicalMail's server, allowing for
    differentiated content. Cleverly, even though the forwarded email is
    relayed from RadicalMail, your name appears in the "from" box.

    With so many emails flying around the globe to your inbox, marketers who
    fail to incorporate rich media technology can expect their messages to
    get buried. Soon, you'll be able to download audio and video content
    almost instantly, so, with that in mind, take this quick quiz: Which
    promotional email would you be more likely to pay attention to and pass
    along in the future? One that asks you to read 15 lines of text to find
    out that "The Sixth Sense" is now available at your video store? Or one
    that plays a 15-second clip of the scene in which little Haley Joel
    Osment agonizingly whispers, "I see dead people"?

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