Social networks are a great way to connect with people regardless of geography, age or rank. But every now and again, there’s still no substitute for taking those relationships offline and sitting face to face with people you respect.

This is one of the many reasons Skip Fidura and I headed over to Miami for the annual Email Evolution Conference. Sun, Sea, Sand and email marketing – what more could you want from life?

But you’ll be glad to hear it wasn’t all play and no work! The conference was filled to the brim with ideas, old and new. It presented a wonderful opportunity to recharge and think about where the industry is heading.

One presentation in particular deserves a bit more attention – let’s take a look at the area and what it says about recent trends.

The inbox of tomorrow

There was much debate about the future of the inbox. ISPs have been busy making changes like Google’s Priority Inbox, but are such innovations also being driven by the emergence of new competitors like Facebook Messages?

Take Hotmail for and their recent changes, for instance. Its ActiveViews technology lets you view YouTube videos, Flickr pictures and even Javascript in your inbox. This gives email marketers exciting opportunities.

For example, imagine running a deal within an email which would automatically expire or change if the message was opened too late. This is dynamic content to the max!

Many of these changes have been driven by the use of HTML 5 and the continued migration to web browsers which support it. It’s an exciting time to be an email marketer- expect to see even more exciting possibilities in the future as ISPs look to modernise and drive even more content rich relevancy in the inbox.

Not all good news

I’m still amazed that simple email marketing techniques like segmentation are largely being ignored. This low level of adoption will have a massive effect on ROI and will give the upper hand to competitors that are doing it. However, it also makes me doubt how many of these new techniques and technologies will be adopted by marketers, even though they really should be!

The haves and have nots?

We know that many involved in email marketing are time poor and the question is whether building email marketing templates just got a little more technical and time consuming, notwithstanding the considerations we will all be giving mobile devices.

Remember though that help is at hand, there are many companies including ourselves that offer an outsourced managed service to help cope with these technicalities and time demands. If email marketers at some of the biggest companies in the country are still struggling with simpler techniques, what can we expect when it comes to adoption of more advanced and demanding tactics and strategies?

Is it inevitable that the gap between the best emails and the worst only increase? And what does that mean for the email marketing industry? In terms of how quickly everyone adopts these new techniques, its clear those that those that seek help and do will have the first move advantage.