Email is dying… or so we keep saying. With the emergence of new technologies like Slack, Asana, Yammer and Zinc, I keep waiting to hear that it’s official – the death rattle has sounded – email is dead.
But it’s not dead. Email is still here and, in fact, it’s very much alive with traffic growing by 5% annually.
So why is it that we’ve been calling for the end of email for years, yet it still has its hold on us – at home and in business?
Email is Accepted, and Expected
Unless you’re this woman, you’ve probably got an email address of your own (or two or ten of them).
Even if you’ve been riding proudly atop your anti-email high-horse for years, your first day on a new job – bam! You’re now the proud owner of your very own shiny inbox.
Try as you might, everywhere you turn – at work and at home – an email address is not just accepted, it’s expected.
Email is Central to Your Browsing Activity
Feel like getting social? You can’t even think about it until you’ve got an email address.
Interested in online shopping? Not possible without signing up first, and then verifying your account with an active email address.
Want to download that bit of software? Comment on a blog? Book a flight? Reserve a table at your favourite restaurant? Apply for a job? Hail an Uber? Join that free, public WiFi?
Yup, yup, and yup again. You got it. You need email and, without it, you’re not going to get very far online (or in life any more, for that matter).
Email Blends Simplicity, Practicality and Functionality
At its core, email is pretty simple to use. Drop an address in the “To” field, tap out your message, hit “Send” and away you go.
For power users, email also affords access to a whole host of advanced add-ins, applications and productivity tools.
This blend of simplicity, practicality and functionality has allowed email to be widely accepted and readily adopted by users of all ages, stages, backgrounds and levels of computer literacy.
Email is Immediate
The immediacy of email is one of its most brilliant qualities. What once would have taken days, or weeks, or months to deliver by post, now it takes only seconds with email.
The speed of email has put a massive dent in demand for traditional postal services all around the world, and in response, many post offices have been forced to slow or even halt delivery – making email even more appealing.
For most communication, particularly in business, ease and speed of delivery trumps the channel of delivery.
Email is Relatively Inexpensive
Overall, email offers some really good perks without putting a big dent in your hip pocket. It’s a very sophisticated technology which has undergone years of development. And yet – it’s relatively inexpensive.
Many of the most popular email clients are cheap or entirely free. So, all it really costs is the price of an internet connection or a walk to your nearest public WiFi hotspot.
Email is Open and Reliable
No one ‘owns’ email. As a technology, it doesn’t belong to a single provider. Rather, it’s an open product in a healthy, competitive marketplace.
There are many products from which to choose – and more coming onto the market each day. Whilst there’s lots of similarity between email clients, as they scramble to differentiate themselves and attract users, we get the benefit of both choice AND safety in numbers… if one email provider were to go under, it’s a sure bet there will be another ready to take its place.
Email Marketing is Still King
Email is still one the most effective forms of marketing.
In a recent study, MarketingSherpa found that 72% of adults say email is their preferred way to be contacted with marketing communication.
Consumer preference for email (versus other forms of) communication opens the door for businesses to quickly, easily and inexpensively reach their target audience.
Smart companies also understand that email campaigns are rich with consumer insights and analytics. Want to know who opened or clicked or forwarded that campaign, and who didn’t? Interested in where they live? What language they speak? What other campaigns have appealed to them in the past? Such information is at your fingertips with even the most basic and free eMarketing software.
As companies become more dexterous with big data, eMarketing presents an enormous opportunity for businesses to understand the habits of their customers, and then target them with the services and offers that are most likely to appeal and generate added revenue.
With so much opportunity (and money to be made) from eMarketing, it’s hard to imagine email is on its way out.
Put Simply: We’re Hooked on Email
A recent Adobe study found that we’re using “email six hours a day, or 30+ hours a week” and that people report most commonly checking their email “while watching TV (70%), from bed (52%), on vacation (50%), while on the phone (43%), from the bathroom (42%) and even—most dangerously—while driving (18%).”
Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Unsubscribe, writes brilliantly about the dangers of constant connectivity, the addictive-like behaviours many of us have with our email, and our Sisyphean pursuit of that illusive “inbox zero”… that moment when you have no unread messages and then “ping!—a new message rolls in. And then another. And another. The work will never be done, and yet email still inspires this strange sense of obligation.”
Until we (and the businesses we work for) realise an empty inbox does not equal productivity, and until we understand that our addiction to email is actually a distraction from deliberate and truly meaningful work, there’s not much hope of ditching our inboxes for good.
So what would you know?
Email, my friends, is not only NOT dead – it’s still very much alive.
Published - February 20, 2017