Adobe: email is still the “alpha channel”

October 12, 2016: Email is a relatively ancient communications channel – in fact, the first email message was sent in 1971 – 13 years before Mark Zuckerberg was born. But in 2016, it turns out that electronic mail remains a surprisingly strong channel, according to Adobe, whose second annual survey of U.S. based electronic mail usage by white collar professionals was published last week.

Here are some highlights that should lay to rest the myth that “email is dead.”

25 percent of respondents “report checking email regularly right up until they go to bed.”

1. Americans are constantly checking their email. Facebook loves to tout the fact that the average Facebook user checks into the network fourteen times a day, but that impressive metric pales when compared to our fondness for checking, reading, and posting electronic mail. According to Adobe, even on weekends, Americans “send 19 work emails and read 29 emails on average. 79 percent admit to checking work email on vacation and nearly one-fourth divulge that they frequently or constantly check email on vacation.” And 25 percent of respondents “report checking email regularly right up until they go to bed, with  three percent actually getting up in the middle of the night to check messages”Interestingly, nearly half of Adobe’s respondent report that they’ve been forced to “detox” (withdraw from exposure to electronic mail) to deal stresses associated with this constant usage.

2. Email enjoys a privileged position in the multi-use, multi-screen world messaging universe. Americans often check into their electronic mail while streaming a video, chatting on social media, chatting face-to-face, or, more perilously, while driving. When people receive a new email (or a notification that a new message has been received) that interrupts a conversation or other group activity, it’s not considered a faux pas to pay close attention to it. According to Adobe, “only 9 percent of respondents reported annoyance when a friend or family member checks email during a face-to-face conversation.”

3. Email is an action-oriented channel. When people send an electronic mail to a friend or colleague, they expect a response to happen quickly. According to Adobe, “almost half of survey respondents said they expect a response to work email in less than an hour. Expectations are even higher with millennials: more than a quarter of those surveyed expect responses within a few minutes.” This makes electronic mail a medium of “urgency” where the exchange of important, time-sensitive information is the norm, and engagement is consequently very high.

4. Electronic mail is a business-friendly channel. While spam has been a problem for as long as electronic mail has existed, electronic mail users seem remarkably open to receiving commercial solicitations. Half of Adobe’s respondents “prefer to be contacted by brands via email, followed by direct mail at 22 percent and social media at nine percent.” But the overwhelming majority of users don’t open commercial emails whose content (or whose subject lines) fails to be interesting to them.

Email has a strong future

In effect, people – are as loyal to email as they are to Facebook, Google, YouTube, SnapChat, or other internet service – perhaps more so.

Electronic mail is a mature communications channel that Americans continue to rely on each day to exchange important, often work-related information, and millenials appear to be just as hooked on electronic mail as their older generational cohorts are.

In effect, people – are as loyal to electronic mail as they are to Facebook, Google, YouTube, SnapChat, or other internet service  – perhaps more so. And yet – because spam filters have gotten very good at stopping unsolicited email from marketers – many marketers now eschew the channel, and that’s a mistake.

The preferable course is to use electronic mail wisely, playing off its inherent strengths, and avoiding its worst practices. Marketers must consistently give users a compelling reason to opt into their campaigns. This means using electronic mail for high-quality, informative, non-pushy messaging. It means not abusing users’ trust by adding them to lists without permission. And it means personalizing electronic mail campaigns so that they are relevant to micro-audiences.

Many marketers – including major publishers — do a great job of using email this way and it’s an approach that you should emulate in your own digital marketing campaigns.

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Adobe: email is still the “alpha channel”
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Adobe: email is still the “alpha channel”
Adobe's second annual survey of white-collar email users reveals that America's love of (and addiction to) email is stronger than ever.
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