Is email dying?
If you were following the tech industry news in the past 2 decades you have surely come across articles that pop-every January announcing the Death of email. So it’s settled - email is dead - why else would this be a recurring topic every year? But there is a contradiction right there - the death of email has been announced by many writers for 2 decades and now, at the end of 2023 I’m writing an article about this very topic.
As far as I can tell the industry is well and alive - but it sure is aging fast. While the 2 decades of email obituaries may seem like a proof of invincibility I don’t believe that is the case - there are factors that may render email obsolete.
One of these factors is the shift in email use we are seeing among the younger generations. Our recent study performed in central Europe showed an increase in use of email by people aged 18-25. That’s good news right? Yes and no. That study also shows that this age group is turning to email for all the wrong reasons. Reasons that marketers should be beware of - as a source of discounts and sales.
Now you might be thinking this is a good thing but that’s actually very dangerous. It changes the role of email from a method of communication into a passively consumed marketing channel. It won’t take much time to find other examples of passive marketing channels that died out over time. Remember banners, or how about all the social networks that came and passed? There is even an example of a communication channel that turned into a marketing channel - the old school snail mail… when was the last time you sent a postcard?
One of the reasons for why this is happening is how email as a marketing channel is being used (and abused) by marketers. Rarely the focus is on making a valuable connection with the customer. In most cases marketers just want to sell… and sell… and sell some more. We can’t blame them though since email is dirt cheap.
If you look at the pricing of most marketing platforms you’ll notice most are charging by everything but the email. It could be price per recipient in the list for the lower-end solutions or price per event and time stored for CDPs. The email price itself is an afterthought. This highly incentivises increased send volumes and less focus on actual value of the message.
Email also appears to be stuck in the past when it comes to user-experience. There are no videos, no live interaction. It just sits in the mailbox and waits for you to take action. Except that’s also not really the case - AMP was around for years and allows for very engaging and interactive emails… but when was the last time you saw one? I usually get one or two AMP emails per year and those usually come from industry professionals showcasing their new AMP tools. And the reason for low adoption of AMP - email is dirt cheap - or at least should be. Marketing managers simply are not giving the email the budget it deserves to be done right.
But it’s not all that grim. Mailbox providers are pushing marketers to be better by requiring more engagement and better technical setup for emails to be placed in front of the recipients. Gmail and Yahoo just announced a big step in this direction. Now it will be the marketer’s move to do better and save the channel they love so much for it’s ROI.