Big data and email marketing have a surprisingly symbiotic relationship, where each one makes the other better, something that will only increase in the future.

Big data – demographics, behavior, buying behavior in other channels, competitive intelligence – has been successful for digital marketers in large part because of email marketing. In turn, big data allows marketers to tie data to individual consumers through their email addresses.

It’s also reshaping the things we do in email, making it imperative to do a better job of collecting and managing customer email addresses.

Take preference centers. Marketers debate whether the data consumers report in them is any good, or whether behavioral data and data purchased from third-party providers outweigh it.

But that demographic, psychographic and interest-level data does have value. We can identify the consumer by tying consumers’ email addresses to their data, making the email personal identifiable information.


In the past, accessing that digital identity was hard because it was wrapped up in cookies and other identifiers. Now, the email address is the key that unlocks your access to a storehouse of data within and beyond the preference center.

Email marketers need to understand that they hold the keys to the kingdom in their email address databases and to make sure everybody else in their organizations gets the picture as well. But this high value on email addresses poses a major challenge for marketers.

Big data is changing not just how we think about consumers and what we know about them, but also how email marketing does business in acquisition and quality engagement.

Fake email addresses = Big data problem

Adestra’s 2016 Consumer Adoption & Usage Study turned up a scary statistic: More than 50 percent of consumers have given out fake email addresses when brands ask for them. This is a huge (Read more...) call for marketers who try to rake in as many email addresses as they can without concern for the quality of those addresses. Big data will be effective for marketers only if they focus on getting their customers’ real email addresses.

Using acquisition tools that include getting the customer’s real email address becomes the key to getting big data on that customer. If you strive for quantity, you’re just pulling in people with no regard for data accuracy or for using the address to identify your customers as individuals.


Big data informs how you identify your customers and how you use that data to target them. Without accurate information, you have to work much harder.

The next big challenge: Addressable TV

If the email industry doesn’t change its acquisition tactics, we’ll be ill-prepared to deal with the next big ad medium: addressable TV. That’s TV that can identify who’s watching it and where.

You thought social media and mobile were big, shiny objects that stole attention and budget from email? Addressable TV is going to be 10 times bigger. Television will no longer be just a box you watch, but a personalized information feed that uses big data to target advertising.

DirecTV, Comcast and other services can identify households because they know who has which set top box and who’s paying for which box. In turn, each of those companies are saying to third-party data providers, “Tell me more about these consumers.”

They’re getting back detailed information, which they will use to target messaging to viewers because they can identify individual households and build predictive models of what you’re going to buy.


Email’s role in addressable TV

You give your email address to a car manufacturer so you can get information on a certain make or model. Before too long, you’ll start seeing more car commercials from that manufacturer because it knows you are interested, it knows you have a specific box and email address and you probably just got an email about that car.

Ideally, the coordination of commercials and emails, all driven by data, will create messaging that resonates more than leaving it all to chance. Now can you see why genuine email addresses will be so important in this giant data universe?

Email marketers are at the center of that universe. They hold the key to the future of advertising to identifiable consumers. Address quality has to beat quantity because quality has so much more extension, and quantity does not.

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15.04.2015 Images at The Entertainer at Little Chalfont, Bucks (C) Emma Hollings Photography

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