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Email Isn't Dead

Despite all the dire predictions, here's why the 30-year-old technology will continue to thrive.

Jörg röse-oberreich/Shutterstock

There has been a lot of debate in the last couple years about whether email is dead. The advent of new workplace communication solutions such as Slack, Handbrake and Facebook at Work, and existing offerings from Yammer, Jive Software, etc., has added fuel to that fire. Yes, some offer cool technology like incorporating hashtags to create conversations, and can be useful. And, yes, some of these technologies will prove to be valuable, but they will not kill email.

Email is here to stay.

In fact, it’s alive and thriving, and this will continue to be the case, especially if marketers take action now to optimize email. People rely on email in their personal lives and at work, and email is their preference when it comes to marketing communications. In fact, on average, people spend six and a half hours per workday on email, and they expect email will continue to be their primary way to communicate with work colleagues in five years.

Adobe released a survey today reinforcing America’s email addiction, and there are some surprising findings that brands can use to take advantage of it.

Email: The Bedrock of Workplace Communication

Despite the uptick in workplace social networks such as Slack and Facebook at Work, 32 percent of Americans still expect to communicate with work colleagues via email through the next five years. Even millennials, who are trailblazing new trends in the workplace, predict that email will still be a popular communication method in the workplace five years from now.

But why is this the case? While our survey didn’t dive into this reasoning, I see several contributing factors to this:

  • Comfort level with email. Email is globally recognized and used for communication. People trust it for reliability and consistency.
  • It’s all or nothing. Widespread adoption is a primary limiting factor for corporations rolling out a productivity or communication platform aimed at taking the place of email. Slack is an impressive tool, and I can see how it would work very well in startups and smaller organizations, but when larger companies look to roll something like this out across an organization, the reality is that it’s a massive undertaking to convince every single person to use the tool. And even if a company were to amazingly get all employees on board with the tool, they still need to rely on email for conversations with any external party such as customers, prospects and vendors. The result is that workers will be forced to check email and their other tool, adding yet another layer of friction to the adoption challenge.
  • Millennials lead the way, and they’re enamored with email. Millennials are already the dominant generation in the workforce, and many CMOs struggle with how to reach this coveted age group. One of our survey findings that stood out to me is that despite talk about millennials wanting an experience that’s inspired by the social media platforms they love so much, the reality is that these 18- to 34-year-olds check email more than any other age group.

It’s not always about introducing a new platform for millennials, especially in the case of email: It’s about how they customize email to make it their own and meet their lifestyle needs. Interestingly we found that:

  • Emojis continue to shape workplace email etiquette. Use of emojis in work email is typically considered appropriate only when communicating with peers, though a third of millennials believe it is appropriate to use emojis when communicating with a direct manager or senior executive.
  • Millennials are digital natives and willing to adopt new technology. But they expect technology to simply work, and aren’t eager to jump ship simply because something new arrives.

Brands Take Note: Less Is More

While email leads the way as the preferred method of communication with brands (58 percent), and the current marginal return is trending up, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to batch and blast emails. Marketers need to heed the 34 percent of Americans who report creating a new email address or switching email providers due to an overwhelming amount of spam.

Consumers want to see fewer emails (39 percent) and fewer repetitive emails from brands to make email offers less annoying and intrusive (32 percent).

Brands can steer clear of the spam folder by tracking consumer habits to understand the time of day and day of the week consumers want to receive mail. Our study found that millennials are more likely than any other age group to check email while in bed (45.2 percent), so why not experiment with sending emails first thing in the morning or late in the evening before they may be going to sleep with content relevant to that time of day?

Despite talk of email being dead due to too much noise, too much spam, too many distractions, millennials texting and Snapchatting instead — email is and will remain the preferred method of communication, both at work and in our personal lives. The brands that will be most successful will truly understand and address consumers’ email habits. After all, contextual email is key.

As director of email solutions globally, Kristin Naragon is responsible for driving business growth for Adobe in the email market. Naragon joined Adobe through the Neolane acquisition in 2013, where she focused on business development with Neolane’s North American partner ecosystem and developed some of the company’s most important external relationships. A proven force recognized as a leader in cross-channel management, Adobe has a long heritage and experience in email; Naragon focuses on driving success for these email customers such as, Air Canada, Club Med and Sephora.

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