The first email was sent in 1971 by a scientist named Ray Tomlinson. He sent it to another computer at the BBN Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The two computers were side-by-side, and the only connection was through ARPANET, the first wide-area network and precursor to the internet.
The first email message wasn’t a sales pitch, but today it would be considered spam. It said: “QWERTYUIOP.” Tomlinson is also credited for the @ in an email address. He did this so he could tell where the user was “at.”
The first email management database was developed in 1972 by Larry Roberts, a program director at ARPA. He developed host-to-host software that allowed people to send and respond to messages in a wide-area network.
In 1974, Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn used the term internet as a shorthand for internetwork, but computer networks weren’t connected yet. That would happen in 1990.
1978. We are still in Boston where all the action was. A marketing exec at the Digital Equipment Corporation named Gary Thuek sent the first email blast to 400 people -it was an ad for a computer. To everyone’s surprise, the world’s first email marketing campaign generated $13 million in sales. Thuek is now known as the father of e-marketing and more disparagingly, the father of spam.
This was the official beginning of email marketing, but it was still called an “electronic mail message.” The word “email” wasn’t adopted until 1982.
The seeds were planted and in the1980’s email marketing started to grow. Personal computers were flying off the shelves – finally, a computer for the single nontechnical user. 3.7 million PCs were sold in 1985. Lotus Notes was also introduced. It was the first widely used email software service where you could send and receive an email, schedule appointments, and use spreadsheets for work. But it wasn’t until the 90’s that email marketing blossomed.
In 1990, Tim Berners-Lee introduced the world to the World Wide Web. This was the official beginning of the internet. His specifications of URLs, HTTP, and HTML created online accessibility all over the world. Now that email could be sent everywhere, marketers found a new way to reach customers. But soon inboxes were overflowing with unwanted emails. They were called ‘spam.’
Hotmail, the first free web-based email service, sparked an explosion of email marketing. There were 20 million internet users in the country now and email marketers were salivating. Huge email blasts were rolling out like waves in the sea. 1996 saw one of the biggest email marketing campaigns in history – a package of software products sold by Xoom that was sent out to 6 million users.
Although Bill Clinton was the first President to have a public e-mail address in 1993, it wasn’t until the 2000 Bush-Gore campaign that email marketing was used in a national effort. Email headlines like “Gore Coverup Revealed!” were part of the Republican’s email arsenal. This is when it was said that Al Gore had invented the internet.
In 2003, the Can-Spam Act was passed to set regulations for commercial emails and there were tough penalties for violators. One of the regulations was that all email marketing had to include an opt-out.
Google went public in 2004 and along with sites and providers like Hotmail, Six Degrees, Friendster, Myspace, and AOL, the world wide web took off like a rocket. They offered huge possibilities for email marketers because consumer purchasing behavior had changed. Research revealed that a majority of customers wanted products and services that were advertised online.
Marketing automation was also developed in the mid-2000s. It managed marketing processes and multichannel campaigns automatically. With marketing automation, marketers were able to target consumers with automated messages with email, social sites, and text.
In 2007, Apple introduced the first iPhone.By 2011, Apple had sold over 100 million iPhones.
In 2008 and 2012, the Obama campaign effectively used email marketing to reach voters. Some of the headers for his campaigns were “Meet me for dinner,” “Hey,” and “Are you in?”
In 2009, research said that nearly 30% of commercial emails sent to users did not reach their inboxes. A lack of relevance was the biggest reason users opted out of emails, so marketers had to devise new strategies that made their campaigns compelling.
By 2012, it was revealed that 40% of marketing emails were opened on a mobile device. Once again, marketers had to refine their campaigns, so it was tailored to mobile users.
Email and the internet have transformed how we communicate. Now 332 billion emails are sent out every day. And email marketing has transformed how businesses connect with customers. We have computer visionaries like Ray Tomlinson, Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Gary Thuek, and Tim Berners-Lee to thank for the incredible experience that we enjoy today with just a click of a button.