ESPs as communication brokers between consumers and brands

Marcel Becker, Director Product at AOL Mail, spoke about “Trust along the email value chain - opportunities and future challenges”. There was laughter throughout the room when he joked that people sometimes wonder if AOL is even still around. Indeed they are, providing content and technology to over 700 million users globally, and no longer just email. He disagreed with Ivo Ivanov’s view that email is a value chain and starts with ISPs. Becker sees a trend towards ESPs becoming brokers of communication between consumers and brands, along with ISPs and trust agencies like CSA. 

Email is by no means dead or dying, as often predicted, but how it is used is indeed changing. While a lot of personal communication has moved to instant messaging apps, a huge amount of commercial communication is done by email. Becker quoted a 2015 Adobe survey which found that 58% of consumers preferred to be contacted by companies by email rather than through other channels, and over a third wanted to read such emails on their smartphone. Most of these commercial emails are transactional, e.g. confirmation emails after purchases and details of flight bookings. 


There is a trend for ESPs to help end users identify the emails they really want with smart views, formatting and solutions that help users find the email they really need in an overflowing inbox (because hardly anyone actually deletes email anymore). Email- rich scenarios allow users to complete actions within the email client that previously they would have done on companies’ websites, e.g. paying bills or checking-in for flights. ESPs are enabling brands to communicate with consumers in ways that work and allow consumers to interact with their emails without leaving the medium. But for all of this to work, ESPs have to be able to be sure that the brand is who they say they are and trust them. Authentication and trust.