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Think Email Is Dying? Get Real. You Just Need a Better Strategy.

Think Email Is Dying? Get Real. You Just Need a Better Strategy.
Image credit: Damien Roué | Flickr

Email is dead? Not so fast.

Ever since Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her highly visibly pronouncement that email was going away five years ago, the debate about the usefulness and longevity of email has raged. With new generations embracing new communication tools and apps every day, there might just be a strong argument that it could outlive its usefulness.

Like most debates around technology, however, facts trump opinions.

Take, for example, the widely-shared viewpoint that Facebook was fading into its twilight years, with younger users leaving in droves for Instagram. Facebook, however, recently hit a new milestone with 1 billion active users in a single day. That hardly sounds like fading.

Another recent study revealed a positive trend in emails sent and email accounts created, with both estimated to increase 8 percent and 19 percent respectively from 2014 to 2017.

Related: The 5 Magic Elements That Boost Email Marketing ROI Into the Stratosphere

Need more evidence? Consider a report released last week by Adobe which looked into our email-consumption behavior. The study, which surveyed more than 400 white-collar workers in the U.S., seems to indicate that email is clearly not fading, and indeed our addiction to email may never have been stronger. Consider the following statistics about respondents’ behavior around email:

  • 70 percent check email while watching TV
  • 50 percent check email in bed
  • 50 percent check email while on vacation
  • 42 percent check email while in the bathroom (also known as the second office)
  • 43 percent check email while on the phone
  • 18 percent check email while driving
  • Respondents spend six hours per day checking email

I definitely fall into these categories -- each one of them.

Of course, this is good news for marketers who have struggled to find a way to reach consumers in the ever-changing-technology and content-consumption landscape. Marketers should not, however, rush out and press that "send" button to their distribution lists just yet.

Patrick Tripp, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Campaign, an email-campaign-management system for businesses, states that while consumers are still using email, data shows that they are very selective about how they use it.

  • 28 percent of consumers are annoyed to have to scroll through emails
  • 24 percent are annoyed with the layout not being optimized for mobile
  • 39 percent want to see fewer emails in general

And interestingly: 

  • 58 percent say that email is their preferred way to be contacted by a brand, but 
  • 32 percent say they want fewer repetitive emails from the brands with which they have relationships

With no historic numbers to compare, it is difficult to draw a conclusion about the trend in consumer preferences, but when you consider that almost one third of all respondents used email but had some issue with the format and content, marketers would be wise to take notice and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Related: Craft a Great Email Sales Pitch by Following This 5-Step Process

Before you swap your email-marketing strategy for a Snapchat strategy, consider these tips to get more benefit from your email campaigns.

1. Be mobile ready.

More people are consuming content via a handheld smart device, so email marketers should consider a "mobile first" strategy. In fact, all components of your email campaign -- from the email itself to the linked landing pages to the virtual checkout carts -- need to be mobile ready to assure a seamless experience.

2. Remember that less is more.

Though consumers are using email, they do not want to be inundated by it. Be respectful with their time, add value to their days and never send an email that does not make your customer’s life better in some way.

3. Let consumers set their pace.

Never make it feel like you are trying to manipulate the consumer to get contact information. Make it painfully easy for consumers to set their email options, including times and frequency. Also, ask for an occasional "re-opt in," which will clear out your email list while build trust with your loyal customers.

4. Personalize and add value.

As the Adobe study demonstrated, 58 percent of consumers want to be contacted by their favorite brands -- that is six in 10 customers who are giving you permission to send them an email. So how do you become one of the brands they want to hear from? More important, how do you avoid having that permission rescinded?  

The answer is to add value by providing useful content through personalized email campaigns using data and contextual information about your audience to help craft the right message, at the right time, to the right place (email address).

Consider, for example, that most business professionals have a business and a personal email account (sometimes more). Instead of sending one email to multiple email addresses several days a week, you should be targeting specific addresses based on your customer’s unique online behavior, perhaps using contextual data, such as location and weather.

Also, we spend much time talking about the “right time to send an email,” but the Adobe data shows we are consuming data at all times of the day. If you knew when your customer was in bed or in his "second office," you could better target delivery when they are reading email.

Of course, all of these tips are supplementary to a well-thought-out email strategy and requires time, effort and even some expense. The benefits, however, are quite substantial.

According to Adobe, "We know from data on actual site visits and conversions tracked within the Adobe Digital Index that loyal visitors who spend more and convert at higher rates are twice as likely to come from email than from the average channel."

That doesn't sound like email is dying.

What do you think? Is email dying or alive and well? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Related: 5 Ways to Respond to Negative, Evil Emails