In 2010, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg heralded the death of email*, stating that "We [Facebook] don't think a modern messaging system is going to be email". The death of email was on its way, after nearly 40 years in service we were going to be relieved of the irritation of being chained to our desks by the persistent pinging of our colleagues back and forth as to who finished up the milk in the office kitchen without replacing it.
Fast forward six years and email is...still very much a part of our lives. Over the past few years, many of us will have dappled with the likes of Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype (to name a few). Yet ultimately, email still stands front and centre as the main drain on our productivity – with the average person checking their inbox up to 10 times an hour and processing over 120 emails a day.
However, heralding the death of email was not entirely wrong, rather how we approach email both as brands and consumers has changed drastically. With the increase in channels we now use to communicate, we're now designating our social channels to different types of communications, rather than becoming solely reliant on one for all uses. Many opt to use email less for shorter conversational style communication, instead using it for more formal messaging of importance or of a work-related nature.
Consumers prefer to receive marketing offers via email: 50 percent prefer to be contacted by brands via email, followed by direct mail at 22 percent and social media at nine percent. Yet respondents find less than one-quarter of email offers interesting enough to open.
Adobe Data Insights
Email vs online ad space
From a marketing perspective, this makes email prime real estate for appealing directly to a customer. A marketing promotion is 5x more likely to be seen if sent by email than if posted on Facebook (sorry Zuckerberg!) and only 0.59% of users will buy from social media vs email's 4.24%. This can be attributed to the way in which emails are perceived. As we're opting to use email for messages of higher importance, when messages from brands are received in an inbox they too take a higher level of importance than those seen in our social media channels.
A huge deciding factor in this is the "opt in". Although social media marketing is getting more and more targeted, email communication is entirely chosen by the consumer themselves when they sign up. And because the user is in control of receiving this content, they are more likely to engage with it.
As an email developer, this means I'm not yet out of a job, which is always lovely news. Despite this, the multiple channels and messages that consumers are exposed to on a regular (hourly) basis provide the increasing challenge of creating emails that can keep up with our diminishing modern attention spans. To keep ahead of the <table> requires not only constantly being aware of updates and changes to what email clients support, but thinking ahead with the way customer interactions with email are evolving.
Email vs apps
In David Bailey's blog "2017 will be the year of interactive email" he puts forward a case not only for the miraculous resurrection of email, but how instead email is looking likely to replace our need for mobile apps, particularly from an e-commerce perspective.
Although there are limitations as you'd expect with any email, a fully functional (and incredibly well tested) email with multiple fallbacks could allow some customers to view their basket and simply buy straight from their inbox, further reducing the steps a customer must take to reach a purchase.
To conclude, email development gets a lot of bad press but change is slowly but surely paving the way for a time when email becomes such an integral part of any customer-centric communications there will be no doubt as to its importance. It opens the opportunity for personalised content that the user can make use of with as minimal effort as possible. Email is not dead, it's very much alive!
*the first claims of the 'death' of email began long before this, this is just one instance that comes up in the press which is easily citable.