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There is a reason why analytics, big data & data science are being considered hot fields today. The landscape of tools is changing every 6 months. If we were to ask you: Can you think of complete replacement of Hadoop ecosystem in Big Data Industry? Think and proceed !
Pachyderm is one of the big data / analytics startup incubated at Y Combinator Winter 2024 Batch. They claim to offer a complete replacement for Hadoop ecosystem. They provide an open source analytics engine that uses Docker containers for distributed computations. Their product is known to have the power of MapReduce without the complexity of Hadoop. This very idea caught our attention and we decided to catch up with the management of Pachyderm to know about this idea and their ways of doing work.
Even in his extremely busy schedule, Mr. Joe Doliner, Co-Founder & CEO of Pachyderm agreed to do an exclusive interview with us.
This conversation was aimed at knowing more about this exciting startup and how it is making using innovation to simplify handling big data. We were enthralled by his knowledge of big data / analytics domain. Talking with Joe gave us a lot of insights on how can creativity be applied to analytics which we’ll share with you!
Below is the brief transcript of this conversation:
AV(Analytics Vidhya): Thanks Joe for taking time out of your busy schedule. Doing analytics using docker is a new concept. Tell us more about this concept. How did you get this idea?
Joe: I’ve been interested in building a better Hadoop for a while. It always seemed needlessly inaccessible to me which is a shame because it’s such a powerful technology if you can harness it. However, it’s also a very hard problem and I didn’t see a way to solve it until Solomon showed me Docker.
I got an early peek at Docker when I was working at RethinkDB. This was really early on, in fact Docker was just a file that faked the interface, but I could already tell it was going to be cool. I really wanted to play with it and had a hunch that it might be the missing piece of the puzzle, so I set to work hacking with it. That code eventually turned into Pachyderm.
AV: Tell us about your products & services? How would you plan to position it in the market?
Joe: Pachyderm is a set of tools for doing analytics with Docker. Docker’s a platform on which a lot of great things are going to be built on. It’s very important that we position ourselves as part of that movement. Already we’re finding that our earliest adopters are people and companies that have heavily invested in the Docker ecosystem.
AV: I am sure you would have faced many hurdles before reaching this stage. What were these hurdles? How did you tackle them?
Joe: Geez, there have been a bunch. Getting people, especially investors, to even consider that Hadoop could be replaced has been a big challenge. I wouldn’t say that one’s fully tackled yet, but the only solution is to ship products that get users excited.
AV: What would be the plan B, if this hadn’t worked out for you?
Joe: This was the plan B, I wanted to be an astronaut.
I’m actually not sure what plan B would have been. Pachyderm really just started as me hacking on a side project because it seemed interesting. Even if we hadn’t gotten into YC or gotten investments from anyone, I’m pretty sure I’d still be hacking on it. Although I’d certainly have less time to do so. That’s the nice thing about personal projects, the only way they don’t work out is if you give up on them.
AV: As per your website, ‘Pachyderm will eventually be a complete replacement for the Hadoop ecosystem’. How do you plan to do so?
Joe: By empowering open-source developers. That’s how Hadoop got to where they are today. Hadoop actually started out as a component of another project, Nutch, but it was very hackable and people wound up repurposing it to their needs. We’ve built Pachyderm from the ground up to be easily hackable because that’s the only way we can succeed. Open-source, when done correctly, lets thousands of developers all work together to create something great. That’s really the only way to create an ecosystem, you can’t just hire that many people and even if you could, good luck managing that team.
Open-source, when done correctly, lets thousands of developers all work together to create something great. That’s really the only way to create an ecosystem, you can’t just hire that many people and even if you could, good luck managing that team.
– Mr. Joe Doliner, Co-Founder & CEO of Pachyderm
AV: What will be the impact of Docker on current set of softwares available in analytics industry? Do you think Docker can bring a change in the way current analytics industry is being operated?
Joe: The first order effect is that a lot of things should get less annoying. Things like setting up standard environments so that results can easily be reproduced are low hanging fruit that Docker can already solve well.
AV: Where do you see the market of Big Data industry evolving – 3 years down the line? 5 years down the line?
Joe: I expect we’ll see it pervading companies more. The last 5 years we’ve seen big data explode on the back of a few well understood, important use cases. Things like optimizing user revenue and churn, those were the low hanging fruit. But over the next 5 years we’re going to see the long tail in which companies discover all the other ways data can inform their decisions. This is also going to turn employees who can do a bit of data science on top of their normal responsibilities into really valuable assets, since they’ll be able to see the ways that data can help the team. I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one, but if you’ve been thinking about brushing up on your data skills now is a good time to do it.
AV: What are the present challenges in your mind and what are your future plans for next 3 years?
Joe: As I mentioned before, we live and die by our community, so nailing that experience is our biggest challenge and probably will be for the next several years. Jump starting those developer communities is always hard for small companies. That’s one of the biggest things we’ll be grading ourselves on in the next few years.
Hiring is also a big immediate challenge that we face. But that’s every tech company’s biggest problem.
AV: I see a lot of people who are interested to make a shift in big data analytics. What would be your guiding suggestions for them?
Joe: First off, I’d 100% recommend that they take the plunge. Second I’d recommend thinking in terms of projects rather than abstract goals like “learn tool X.” I’ve never been able to learn things when I think about it like that. You’ll fair a lot better if set out to learn something cool from a data set and use that as an excuse to learn tool X. Actually early on Pachyderm was an excuse for me to learn Docker and Go. The third thing is to look out for the good communities. Long term the most relevant tools always wind up being the ones with the best communities around them.
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1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.
Spyne is a Deep Tech startup helping businesses and marketplaces create and upgrade high-quality product images and videos at scale with AI. Creating good catalogs today is a manual, expensive, and time-taking process. As a result, less than 10% of the sellers today on eCommerce marketplaces create catalogs. Spyne is building the industry’s first AI-powered visual cataloging platform that enables businesses to create studio-finish images 500x faster, at 1/4th cost & at scale. You don’t need expensive studios or photography skills, nor have to follow any complex, time-consuming processes. With Spyne, one can create stunning catalogs within minutes, driving approximately 40% better conversions. Currently, we are serving 80+ customers including MFC, Volkswagen, Megadealers, Sell Any Car, Karvi, Amazon India, Flipkart, etc., across 15+ countries in the automotive, food, and retail verticals.2. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company? 3. Brief us about the founders of the company and their contributions to the company and the industry.
I, being the Co-Founder and CEO, am leading the strategic goals of the company and constructing the company’s roadmap. I am also leading the product, tech, AI, and business teams. In the past, I have held leadership positions and led major initiatives at Amazon, Oyo, Fashion & You, Rocket Internet, and Yatra. Keeping customers and innovation at the heart of everything I have launched multiple successful products used by millions of customers globally.4. What is your biggest USP that diﬀerentiates the company from competitors?
We are enabling businesses to automate their entire cataloging process (shoot, edit, and publish) by replacing their traditional processes with cutting-edge AI technology. We standout in this area as our AI delivers accurate results and can help businesses infinitely scale, 500X faster at 1/4th the cost.5. Kindly mention some of the major challenges the company has faced till now.
One of the earliest challenges we faced was how to train our AI models to give accurate outputs. To get near-studio image outputs with AI, we needed to solve multiple problems, each of which required focused resolution and data training.
For example, how do we bring out the best image output of a car if the car is not shot from the correct angle or if the light is too low when the car is shot in the evening post sunset. There were also issues of surrounding objects and trees showing through the see-through windows of the cars, reflections of buildings/ trees on a car’s body, etc.
All of these were real challenges and required focused training data that photographers needed solutions. Getting a huge volume of images for each of these specific issues was extremely difficult. Therefore, we set up a data annotation team, which helped us generate focused data for each of these problems from our ongoing client projects. This strategy helped us improvise and train our AI/ML models to make them more efficient and accurate over time. As a result, our models improved their outputs from about 60-70% accuracy at the beginning to 99%+ accuracy.6. Please brief us about the products/solutions you provide to your customers and tell us how they get value out of it.
We are helping businesses and marketplaces create studio-finish product catalog images at scale with our industry-first, computer vision, and AI-powered solutions. Our products leverage deep learning to understand the visual intent far more quickly than humans.
Through our products such as Whitelabel apps and SDK solutions, we are reducing the 2+ weeks of catalog photography process to just a few minutes. This decreases the product’s time-to-market by 80% allowing them to scale faster and efficiently.
We also have a web tool, called Spyne Darkroom that helps AI validate & edit the existing images that sellers have and instantly convert them to high-quality images for better engagement & conversions. This solution is helpful for SMB businesses who have limited SKUs and wish to change their products’ look and feel for online selling.
Our AI Editing technology is built for scale, typically editing 500+ images per minute. Enterprise and marketplaces opt for API integrations to transform their catalog at scale at nearly 1/4th the cost.7. How do you see the company and the industry in the future ahead?
Ecommerce cataloging is a huge $40 billion+ industry. Right now, we have enterprise first approach. We want to launch our product for B2B2C at least for specific categories (automotive, eCommerce, fashion, food) in the next year. Our long-term goal is to integrate our AI camera application via SDK integration with all the major marketplaces in India and abroad.8. AI is projected to be the next market. How is AI contributing to the making of your products and services?
The second problem we are solving is how to convert these smartphone-shot images to match up to the studio-quality images for online selling. With AI, we are automating the entire manual editing process to replace and add backgrounds, autosize, colour correct, add shadows, etc., and get the final images within seconds.9. What are your growth plans for the next 12 months?
Currently, Spyne caters majorly to enterprises and marketplaces. We have a major clientele in the automotive, eCommerce, and food industries. However, going ahead, we aim to soon launch our services for the B2B2C segment specifically for automotive dealerships, e-Commerce, and fashion businesses. Edging forward into the future, we have big plans to expand into Metaverse and Omniverse with the AR/VR technology that we are parallelly developing.
Unless you’ve been living inside a cave for the past month, you’d have heard about Zoom and how easy it has made video conferencing for organizations, educational institutions, and casual users around the globe.
Zoom offers the ability to add up to 1000 people to video meetings at a given time and with so many people sharing ideas in groups, it might be for the meeting host to conduct meetings and control the members at the same time.
To help meeting organizers sort this, Zoom offers the ability to add a co-host during a meeting session. When you, as a host, assign another participant as a co-host, they will be able to share some of the controls you have including managing the attendees and other administrative aspects during a meeting.
The following guide will help you set a co-host to your meeting and also teach you how a co-host is different from participants and alternative hosts in a meeting session.
Note: Co-hosting on Zoom is only available to Pro, Business, Education, or API Partner subscribers of Zoom, meaning only Licensed (Paid) Zoom users will be able to access the feature on the Zoom app.
What do you need
Zoom app: Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, or iOS
Licensed Zoom account: Any of the Zoom’s Pro, Business, Education, or API Partner plans
NOT available in Zoom basic free plan
Who can be a co-host
A host will be able to assign any participant during a meeting as a co-host. After the host assigns them as co-host, they will be able to share some of their hosting privileges with another user.
The co-host will be able to save meeting chats, start polls, mute/unmute others, stop participant videos, remove them, or put them on hold. Co-hosts can be used by hosts as a means of assistance when managing the meeting without giving them entire control over the meeting session.
How is a co-host different from an alternative host
While they share most of the privileges that hosts have, co-hosts lose out on the ability to start a meeting.
That’s where alternative hosts step in. Alternative hosts share the exact same controls during a meeting as co-hosts do but with the added benefit of starting a meeting. If a host is not present, then a scheduled meeting cannot start, unless the alternative host is available.
While hosts can schedule a meeting and set them to start with an alternative host, the latter also has the right to schedule meetings in the host’s absence.
This means that an alternative host can be assigned prior to a scheduled meeting but co-hosts can only be assigned during a meeting and not ahead of time.
What controls do co-hosts have over participants
As has been explained before this, any participant can be assigned as a co-host by the meeting host. When a participant turns into a co-host they will be able to execute the following duties over other participants:
Keep attendees on hold after a meeting starts
Save chats of the meeting session
Create and conduct polls
Mute or unmute other participants in the meeting
Turn participants’ video OFF
Request participant to switch video ON
Spotlight a participant to push a participants video to all members
Control who the attendees can chat with
Start a recording or prevent participants from recording
How to enable the Co-host feature on Zoom
The Co-host feature on Zoom can be enabled for yourself as well as for all participants in a group or the entire organization. You can do so my follow the steps below.
Note: Make sure you’re subscribed to any one of Zoom’s Pro, Business, Education, or API Partner plans before trying to enable it on your Zoom account. Here’s how you can upgrade your Zoom account from the free Basic plan.
For your own use
Step 2: Now, under ‘In Meeting (Basic)’ settings in the Meeting tab, you will find the Co-host option. Toggle it ON.
For all participants in your organization
Step 2: Now, under ‘In Meeting (Basic)’ settings in the Meeting tab, you will find the Co-host option. Toggle it ON.
For all participants of a group
Step 3: Now, under ‘In Meeting (Basic)’ settings in the Meeting tab, you will find the Co-host option. Toggle it ON.
How to assign a co-host during a Zoom meeting
A host can assign a participant as co-host only after the meeting commences. If you’re a host, you can set a participant as co-host through an individual’s video feed or the Participants window that lists all the participants available in a meeting.
Through the participant’s video feed inside a meeting
Step 1: Start a meeting as a host on Zoom.
Step 3: In the drop-down menu, select the ‘Make Co-Host’ option. This will make the selected participant as co-host.
Through the Participants window inside a meeting
Step 1: Start a meeting as a host on Zoom.
When a participant has been turned into a co-host, they will have all the controls that are mentioned above.
How to remove a co-host in a Zoom meeting
If you wish to remove a participant from their co-host role during a meeting, you can do so by following the steps below.
Step 3: When the drop down menu appears, select the ‘Withdraw Co-Host Permission’ option.
That’s it! The participant you selected as co-host has been withdrawn from their co-host role.
I first became aware of Dustin when he dropped my name in a post (which is still a very effective way to get someone’s attention). I ended up meeting him at the first SMX Advanced networking function and we’ve been friends ever since. We’ve called upon Dustin to speak at multiple SearchFest events in Portland and his search marketing insights, offered both in person and online, mix keen intuition with real-world business awareness.
1. Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.
I’m a veteran in-house SEO who finally went out-house. By “out-house,” I mean I now work out of my house as a Seattle-based SEO consultant. Like many SEOs, I focus on other web topics like domaining, social media, usability and analytics. Unlike many SEOs, I also dabble in filmmaking.
2. We’ve both been in SEO for roughly a decade. How has SEO changed /evolved over the last 10 years?
In many ways it has changed tremendously, in others it hasn’t changed at all. In the early days SEO was hardly an agreed upon term and even when it gained industry-wide acceptance, most people, even web professionals, didn’t know what it was or how it worked.
SEO was considered magical and often mythical. Despite the plethora of “Dustin work your magic” requests and successes, it was often difficult to get executive buy-in on SEO. Often the power of search would fall into the shadow of the latest piece of technology or eye-candy. One time I had to put my job on the line to keep the company from switching to an all-flash website because a self-declared web visionary tried to convince our company that “no one uses search engines to find websites.”
Even after SEO became widely accepted, many “experts” have claimed that SEO is dead. With the recent social media movement a number of marketers & media personalities are preaching this once again. What I think they don’t realize is that even if search engines were to disappear (which will never happen), SEO professionals would still thrive. In truth, most SEOs are really web traffic optimizers and dominate more than just search. The most successful Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Facebook campaigns often have an “SEO” behind them.
3. Many in our industry (such as yourself) have transitioned from corporate jobs to home-based consultants. How has that transition worked for you?
The corporate atmosphere certainly comes with the benefits of stable income, social interaction, and the opportunity to be a shining star within the organization. The downside is red tape, politics, and working with people who may not get it.
Taking the plunge to self-employed, especially when you are a father of two with a large mortgage to pay, can be scary. There’s nothing steady about it and the future is always uncertain. I’ve had periods where I had little work and others, like a couple days ago, where I worked 24 straight hours. There’s a tremendous amount of flexibility working for yourself, which is both a blessing and a curse. I’m a person who likes try many things so I have to watch what I’m spending my time on closely. For example, I’m experimenting with trading some of my time for equity to help out a couple startups in the Seattle-area.
I’m getting closer to having a set number of steady clients and look forward to the time when I have to decide if I want to run an agency with other employees or if I want to stick to being a one-man show. I also make 3-6 times what I made an hour as an in-house SEO and my skills can benefit a number of companies, rather than just one.
4. How do you differentiate your services from prospective clients that might be considering you versus a full-service agency?
My first couple contracts surprised me. I was up against what I’d consider the top agencies in the industry and beat them out. I think what makes me attractive is my decade of working in-house for web companies. Audits and recommendations are one thing, but knowing how to implement and continually grow a company’s search traffic when all the basic & intermediate SEO tactics have been covered is what really sets me apart.
5. User-generated content is the holy grail for generating long-term search traffic. What’s are the best ways for generating it, harnessing it for maximum utility, and policing it so that it conforms within the high standards of the brand it represents?
Strangely enough, UGC tends to get overlooked by many SEOs. I think it is partly because people have trouble fathoming how large the long-tail of search is. There are some crafty ways to attack the long-tail from a programmatic standpoint, but harnessing user-generated content is usually more powerful and more effective.
When I worked at Wetpaint, I was in charge of SEO for 1.5 million user-generated sites. Our UGC portions focused mostly on wikis, forums, news coverage, but I’ve worked with and for other companies that used reviews, Q&A, and many custom-built pages or tools that allowed site visitors to contribute to the site. You’d be surprised how many of the most trafficked sites on the web focus primarily on UGC.
Adding UGC to site that didn’t have it before can be a daunting task. Usually a key ingredient is to already have a sizable audience to work with—the more passionate the better. Building UGC components certainly comes with technologic challenges, but I think the greatest challenge is getting company-wide buy in. Once you get past that hurdle, the key is to know your audience well enough to know what would encourage them to contribute. Some people are motivated by ego, others want to promote their business, and some just want to help create authoritative information on a topic they are passionate about.
Most successful UGC launches that I’ve been a part of involved a good amount of content seeding up front as nobody knows what to do when they look at an empty slate. It’s important to inspire & interact in the beginning stages. Later on, the community can police itself. Anyone who has ever edited a Wikipedia page realizes how fast the community can police content.
From an SEO standpoint, there are many things to look out for with UGC, including duplicate content, spam prevention, overwritten or deleted content, improper categorization, plagiarism, brand attacks, and even spammy SEOs who are trying to get backlinks.
There’s actually more to UGC than I can possibly cover in this interview. I’m actually launching a UGC SEO blog next week to help shed more light on this topic.
6. How can social media be best leveraged to help a company’s search effort?
There’s no secret that social media can play a large part in a company’s search efforts. Social media is where the conversation happens and having a large social media presence can certainly draw attention, and more importantly, links to your site. I really enjoy helping companies grow their Twitter accounts to the point where they become the largest influencers for their niche.
Making the homepage for sites like Digg and Reddit is a great way to instantly attract thousands of links, but it requires the creativity and connections most companies don’t have. Even without connections, it’s not hard to make waves with smaller social sites within any industry.
Traditional linkbuilding is not usually a fun task, but creating link bait and spreading it via social media can be very fun and very productive from an SEO standpoint.
7. What are the top 3 things SEO’s should understand about Domainers and what are the top 3 things Domainers should understand about SEO’s?
Many domainers don’t realize how much traffic search drives and how difficult it can be to rank for certain keywords. More and more domainers are starting to build out real properties, but often fail to look past one or two keywords because that is how domains work, but any SEO will tell you there’s a lot of traffic opportunity outside the top keywords and multi-word queries are much easier to win. The greatest challenge for a domainer who might be working with an SEO is to have patience. SEO results rarely happen fast, but when they do happen, they last for a very long time.
Gone are the days when the concept of cryptocurrency was looked upon with suspicion and considered detrimental to the conventional financial system which stands as a symbol of stability and security. Common people are getting more interested in investing their hard-earned money into cryptocurrencies, thanks to the ever-growing breed of accessible and versatile independent crypto exchanges allowing investors to trade in virtual currencies. Bitfinex is one such crypto exchange that believes in providing the investor with an unparalleled crypto investment experience. Analytics Insight has engaged in an exclusive interview with Paolo Ardoino, CTO, Bitfinex.1. Kindly brief us about the company, its specialization, and the services that your company offers.
Bifinex is a cryptocurrency exchange that is at the forefront of technological innovation in terms of digital token trading. Our mission has always been to give our users the ultimate cryptocurrency trading experience. As such, we continuously strive to provide our users with state-of-the-art trading tools, innovative technology, and unparalleled levels of customer service.2. With what mission and objectives, the company was set up? In short, tell us about your journey since the inception of the company?
Since Bitfinex was founded in 2012, our team has gained invaluable experience in blockchain technology while also cementing our position as the go-to place for digital asset traders and institutions to trade.
The digital asset space is evolving at a breakneck pace and keeping up with such rapid technological innovation requires an equally forward-thinking and agile approach. Bitfinex provides state-of-the-art digital asset trading services for our users and global liquidity providers. We firmly believe that the best cryptocurrency trading experience should be available to everyone.3. Kindly share your point of view on the current scenario of Big Data Analytics and its future.
Today, big data is everywhere. You have cars basically selling traffic data to Google. You also can have lightbulbs with a WiFi chip. It’s very exciting. In the blockchain space, you have things like the Lightning Network.
This is a bitcoin second-layer solution that employs micropayment channels to increase the blockchain’s ability to process transactions more quickly. In a nutshell, the Lightning Network enables users to send bitcoin in a matter of seconds at a fraction of the cost. There have been various use cases of how the Lightning Network is being combined with AI and big data to spearhead innovation. We have seen self-driving cars, which rely on a combination of AI-generated data, begin to share data via an integrated network based on the BTC blockchain. With the emergence of the Lightning Network, the transmission of information on a secure and immutable network becomes possible. In the future, AI platforms will be able to communicate data more efficiently, allowing AI systems to better assess their surroundings in real-time.
Overall, the future of big data points to more digital growth, as almost every industry will come to depend on how information is stored, processed, and applied.4. How is IoT/Big Data/AI/Robotics evolving today in the industry as a whole? What are the most important trends that you see emerging across the globe?
The Internet of things (IoT) is a major trend at the moment. For example, we now have the technology where your fridge can detect that you’re out of milk and make an order for some milk. The capacity for devices to communicate with each other in the home is growing exponentially. IOT’s growth will play an important role as we move toward living in the homes and cities of the future.5. Please brief us about the products/services/solutions you provide to your customers and how they get value out of it.
In Bitfinex Pay we’ve created an intuitive and seamless way for online merchants to receive payments in crypto. Bitfinex Pay enables merchants to be easily equipped to support crypto payments as increasing numbers of consumers become more comfortable with paying for goods and services using digital tokens. Bitfinex also provides our customers with the capacity to lend out their crypto and take out a loan using cryptocurrency that can be converted into fiat.
Meanwhile, Bitfinex Securities, the securities platform of the exchange, is providing a better way to raise capital or list securities than traditional exchanges. As a leading exchange in the blockchain space, we are keen to support blockchain-related projects but the platform is not in any way limited to doing so. Bitfinex Securities provides the opportunity for small companies to access funding markets when that route je not available to them in traditional finance. Through blockchain-based securities, it provides the capacity to significantly reduce listing costs and streamline processes. It also increases accessibility to securities products among our member base. The monumental leap that the blockchain represents is an opportunity for new entrants to compete against the incumbent stock exchanges.6. What role has Bitfinex played in the innovations of new technologies?
At Bitfinex, we are extremely focused on innovation. You don’t have to look much further than our innovative product offerings. For example, Bitfinex Pay is disrupting the traditional payments industry. By furthering the use of crypto for transactions for payments and services, Bitfinex Pay is at the vanguard in a revolution for money and payments. We also have Bitfinex Securities which is disrupting the traditional exchange trading model for securities. Unlike exchanges in traditional finance, which are more geared to catering to larger and more established corporations, Bitfinex Securities is set to become a hub for innovative tech startups. It recently helped to raise Euro 6.75 mn through the issuance of the Blockstream Mining Note. This is unprecedented, and Bitfinex Securities offers capital raising and trading opportunities to a wide range of companies, that would not be able to get access to traditional capital markets.7. The industry is seeing the rising importance of Big Data Analytics and AI. How do you see these emerging technologies impact the business sector?
The rising importance of Big Data Analytics and AI will undoubtedly impact the business sector. The digital era has created an overwhelming amount of information which has proven to be immensely valuable to businesses. An increased capacity to analyze large data sets quicker and more efficiently, will not only improve business efficiency but also provide valuable insights needed to make better decisions.8. What are some of the challenges faced by the industry today?
I interviewed Lauren Smith from Litmus, the email analytics software provider about some of the latest changes in the email marketing industry and what marketers can do to make the most of them
Email is consistently ranked among the most effective forms of digital marketing. The DMA’s 2024 national email client report found that email has an average ROI of £38 for each £1 spent, which is spectacularly high. Given its effectiveness, email marketing is used by all kinds of businesses, from micro-businesses to the very biggest. To make the most of it you need to keep up to date with all the latest changes to platforms and tactics, which shift rapidly as ESPs launch new ways to view mail and mobile and desktop operating systems change the ways certain elements are displayed.
To help keep your email marketing efforts up to date, I interviewed Lauren Smith from Litmus, who are experts in all things email, to find out what the latest big changes were and what marketers can do to capitalize on them.
Q. Google launched Postmaster tools last year, can you let us know about some of the opportunities this new platform presents for marketers?
The launch of Postmaster Tools allows email marketers to analyze their email performance like never before. The tool gives marketers access to seven different dashboards, ranging from analysis of reported spam rates to domain reputation to delivery errors. These dashboards allow marketers to identify key trends over time and give insights into what impacts message deliverability, helping marketers ensure their emails reach inboxes instead of spam filters.
Q. Microsoft launched an Outlook app for iOS and Android. What formats (CSS, Divs, HTML etc) does that app support and what formats need to be avoided so they appear correctly in the Outlook app?
Compared to the usual rendering capabilities of Outlook clients, the Outlook app for iOS and Android is a major improvement. The Outlook app has great support from HTML and CSS, giving marketers the opportunity to experiment with CSS animation, animated gifs, media queries, and web fonts. Divs are also supported, which means table-based layouts can now be achieved in an Outlook client. By default, images on the Outlook app are automatically supported, however, HTML5 video is not supported. Instead, marketers can insert animated GIFs or images with play buttons in messages.
Q. Wearable’s were a big trend in 2024. How can marketers optimise emails for display on wearable such as the apple watch?
The launch of the Apple Watch was one of the most exciting email innovations in 2024. The increasing popularity of wearables should signal that email optimization on small screens is essential to avoiding frustration from subscribers. Traditional marketing standards that include HTML design, images, videos, and links will not display on the Apple Watch. Therefore, to get around the Watch’s limited capabilities and avoid warning messages, marketers should instead include simple and short calls to action in plain text.
Q. Windows 10 has a new default email client. Can you tell us about how this client works and the problems it presents for marketers?
Windows 10 comes with a new app, Outlook Mail, as its default email client. This email app is “universal,” meaning that it’s the same app across desktop, smartphones, and tablets. While the app is universal across all platforms, there are several pain points for marketers to be aware of. For example, images do not scale correctly, and there is no support for divs, CSS3, HTML5, or media queries.
Q. The IPhone 6 introduced 3D touch features to its email client. How do you see these kinds of features involving in the coming years? Will they become the industry standard?
The introduction of the 3D touch feature Peek and Pop on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is a another step toward more interactive features in the inbox. “Peeking” an email allows subscribers to view a portion of the email without fully opening it. This type of functionality mirrors Gmail’s Quick Actions, which lets users take action on things like restaurant reservations and flight details without leaving the inbox. These features save users time when navigating their inboxes, and I predict that ISPs will continue to invest in these time-saving functionalities.
Q. What changes to email clients do you think will benefit email marketers most this year? Name your top 3:
( 2 ) Yahoo! begins supporting media queries: With this update, Yahoo! Mail in the web interface and Yahoo! Mail’s mobile app both support a limited set of media queries, as well as min-width and max-width filters. This is big news to the email community and a major show of support from the team behind Yahoo! Mail. Styles that prevent media queries (commonly seen as a hack using attribute selectors) from activating in Yahoo! Mail are no longer necessary after these updates.
( 3 ) Outlook app for iOS and Android: Catering to those on-the-go, Outlook launched a mobile app for both Android and iOS phones and tablets. With great support for HTML and CSS, the groundwork has been laid for marketers to experiment with animated GIFs, CSS animation, web fonts, and media queries—upping the ante in email design possibilities for Outlook clients. Hopefully this is a sign that desktop apps will soon follow suit.
Q. 26% of all emails were opened over Webmail (Browser) rather than desktop clients for the first time ever in 2024. How might this impact email marketers?
Over time, desktop email has slowly been replaced by mobile and web apps. Businesses are shifting email away from expensive desktop suites and moving to scalable services like Outlook 365 and Google Apps. As a result, email designers will have to shift which email clients they’re focusing their optimization efforts on.
In addition, users of free web-based email service, like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, typically have IMAP access to their messages, making their email accessible from virtual any email client they choose. For example, Gmail users can easily switch between opening on an iPhone (in a Gmail-specific app, or in the mobile browser), in a web browser, or in a desktop application like Outlook. Email marketers need to keep a close look at their subscriber open data—and how it shifts—to ensure that their emails look great in the email clients that are most popular with their subscribers.
Q. What are the five most annoying changes to email marketing clients from 2024 in your opinion? Are there any ways email marketers can get around them?
( 1 ) Outlook 2024: In September 2024, Microsoft launched the latest version of their Outlook client—Outlook 2024. Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed much from its predecessors. Like Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013, Outlook 2024 renders emails using Microsoft Word, which has poor support for HTML and CSS and has a ton of frustrating quirks.
Due to its lack of support for many CSS properties, table-based layouts are a necessity for optimization in Outlook 2024. Another way to optimize emails for Outlook 2024 is to target Outlook with specific styles with conditional CSS. In addition, since images are blocked by default, it’s crucial to use lots of HTML text, which is always readable by subscribers, even if images are disabled.
( 2 ) Windows 10’s universal Outlook app: In 2024, Microsoft introduced yet another email app for email marketers and designers to be concerned about. The latest versions of Windows comes equipped with a universal new email app—Outlook Mail. This means that it’s the same app across desktop, smartphones, and tablets.
While this helps maintain consistency across platforms, it comes with many headaches for email designers since it uses Microsoft Word as its rendering engine, even on the Windows Phone. This means Microsoft has brought many of its desktop quirks (like those found in Outlook 2024) to the mobile space. For example, there is no support for media queries, and there are viewport issues on mobile, where content doesn’t scale to the device width.
( 3 ) iOS 9 rendering quirks: While iOS historically has some of the best HTML and CSS support around, iOS 9 introduced a few quirks. iOS 9 will automatically zoom emails to fit the device’s screen width. While this feature is great in theory, it can have some undesirable effects depending on how your email is built. Using modern, responsive techniques, rather than fix-width emails, will help solve this issue.
( 4 ) Gmail’s ‘block’ functionality: In 2024, Gmail launched a new ‘block’ functionality, giving users yet another way to rid their inboxes of messages they don’t want. When a subscriber “blocks” a sender it means they’ll never see an email from that sender again. While this option appears to be an attempt to give users a more accurate way to express their displeasure with a brand—one that doesn’t rely on the brand to honor an opt-out and doesn’t tarnish the brand’s sender reputation by reporting it as spam or phishing—it is another way for subscribers to never see your emails again.
To prevent getting blocked, email marketers should make their preference centers more visible. Often times, a subscriber would be happy to continue receiving emails if only they could receive messages less often or on different topics. Be proactive with your preference centers. Key moments in the subscriber lifecycle are the perfect time to get your subscribers to update their preferences.
( 5 ) Apple Watch: While the introduction of the Apple Watch was a huge innovation in bringing wearables to the email fleet, it also introduced some major implications for email marketers. Not only is there now another email client to optimize for, but it’s an email client that doesn’t render HTML.
The debut of the Apple Watch makes it absolutely clear that marketers must continue to not only send multi-part MIME messages containing a plain text alternative, but to optimize that plain text alternative for wearables like the Watch.
Q. Plenty of people have predicted the ‘death of email marketing’ over the years, yet email is more effective than ever. Why do you think email is such a powerful marketing platform?
Email is a permission-based marketing channel. In fact, 72% of people say they prefer companies to communicate with them via email over any other channel. Email allows for personalization, dynamic content, and even predictive analysis which can make for a fantastic subscriber experience. Marketers have the ability to fully understand individuals and send the best emails they can based on these capabilities.
Q. If you had your way, what one thing would you get all email marketers to stop doing?
Using someone’s name in an email is not using personalization. Personalization is so much more than including a first name, it’s understanding your subscribers’ behaviors and interests. What are their pain points? What type of content are they interested in receiving? How often do they want to receive communications? Using in-app data, surveys, and preference centers will allow you to tailor your communications and actually create personalized communications.
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