E-mail providers offer customers new products, services

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By Karen J. Bannan

It was a hot summer for deals and new product launches in the e-mail marketing space, as the industry moved to give customers a one-size-fits-all experience.

Take the new product offerings, which focused mainly on small and midsize businesses—a market that often can’t afford the high-touch service of an e-mail service provider.

SwiftPage E-mail introduced a server-based e-mail marketing application that integrates completely with ACT! 2005. Meanwhile, Carat Interactive announced in August a partnership with Emerging Interest for its Competitive E-mail Tracking System (CETS), an e-mail analytics program. Symantec in June released the 6.0 version of its Brightmail AntiSpam program, which filters messages in up to 11 languages; up to 20% of all spam is written in languages other than English, according to the company.

On the e-mail service provider side, in June E-mailLabs added advanced bounce handling and reporting to its core product. Also in June, Unica announced additions to its enterprise management software Affinium Suite. The new services, which include consulting, an e-mail delivery service and deliverability monitoring, are designed to help users bring e-mail campaigns in-house, according to company executives.

Another development was the merging of e-mail marketing and search engine marketing services. For example, online marketing company Digital Impact moved into the search engine arena when it paid nearly $3 million--$1.5 million in cash and $1.25 million in stock and options—for MarketLeap, a San Francisco-based company that offers search engine optimization and customer acquisition services. Also, search engine firm in June announced it was buying e-mail provider Digital Arrow for $1.05 million and 90,000 shares of stock.

The challenge for all of these vendors will be balancing their offerings with their partner relationships, said one analyst, because what’s good for the end-user may not be quite as beneficial for agencies.

"The search area is a natural progression or evolution to augment … revenue. So for some of those vendors it's likely to continue," said David Daniels, research director with Jupiter Research in New York. "The risk any of those vendors run is that they are replicating more of an agency type of service and may find that they are competing with some of their own agency clients. For any of these ESPs [e-mail service providers], the agencies represent a significant sales channel for them."

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