Dead letter file: Is business email dying or evolving?

There have been many discussions about the future of business email. Some contend that emails are dead and back up their views by pointing to various technologies that they believe are killing it. In addition, there is a widespread belief that email is outdated especially at a time when we have dozens of collaboration and instant messaging tools that take communication to new heights and speeds.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, once noted that emails are near their end, when he introduced a bunch of features for Facebook such as instant messaging and text messages rolled into one. Zuckerberg is neither the first person nor the last person to voice opinions about the demise of emails. Many teens today use social media and instant messaging for communication, and emails are not even on their preferred list of communication apps.

How did emails lose their coveted position as the most preferred form of electronic communication? Let’s first look at some reasons why email is not as relevant as it was a decade or two back.

Fast-paced life

Life is moving really fast and no one today seems to have the time to type out a long message — one from deep down your heart to someone you love or care about. At a time when we are losing the art of writing as a society, emails don’t seem to excite the younger generation when it comes to communication. They prefer to say whatever they want with abbreviations and emojis through instant messaging apps or social media.

So, as of now, emails have become communication tools for Luddites (the older generations) who like to explain their thoughts in more than just 140-character bursts.

Business email as a collaboration tool

In the past, emails were used to quickly talk to each other and communicate across physical boundaries. In fact, that was one of the biggest reasons for its popularity. As we evolved, it became necessary to have an eye over all the moving parts of a collaboration that spanned over and beyond the mere exchange of messages, and in this aspect emails fell woefully short.

Worse, emails increase your dependency on others. For example, if you need any specific file or information, you email a coworker and this person sends the file to you. But if your coworker is busy with something or doesn’t reply to your email right away, you’re forced to spend your day simply waiting for it or maybe even chasing down your colleague for that message. No wonder productivity levels were low!

But with better tools, you can simply access the shared cloud storage and get the file you want or just post your requirement in a group and whoever is available can send it to you. How easy is that!

Productivity

Emails make it difficult to find the information you want or even consolidate related messages such as feedback, which tend to be on the same topic but from different users.

Let’s take a real world example to understand this point.

Let’s say your manager assigns a task and a deadline with it. But it is buried deep down a 15-message long thread in your inbox. To know your deadline, you have to search your inbox which can take a few minutes and can throw up many results. The other option is to look through each email thread to find the deadline. Compare it with a collaboration tool that displays the deadline right in front of you. This way, you don’t spend precious time searching for something that should be available readily. Over time, this leads to a loss of productivity and frustration because you’re obviously spending at least eight hours at work but unable to hit the deadlines.

To-do lists

Intermedia Exchange Email

You can convert your inbox into a to-do list, but you can’t share it with the rest of your team. In other words, only you know what is done, what you’re doing, and what you’ll be doing in the upcoming week.

Though this list may be enough for you to plan your workload, today’s business environment necessitates everyone to know common lists and who is doing what. For this, collaboration tools like Trello make it easy. While some argue that emails are not meant for collaboration, there is no denying the fact that our work is more about collaboration today and you need tools that enhance this process and even facilitate it.

Junk email

Three-quarters of all email is junk or spam. It is mostly unsolicited invitations or offers to products that you don’t want or don’t care about. In some ways, these junk messages reduce the importance of email and more people today, prefer to stick to social media where the feeds they see is more relevant and customizable.

Security

Security is another important aspect that discourages people from using email, especially if they have been affected by security attacks in the past. Lack of enough security measures and the easy route for malware and phishing attacks make emails highly vulnerable. So, do all these mean emails are dead? No, emails are not dead! Let’s look at some statistics that prove this.

Email usage statistics

Here are some interesting statistics about email use.

  • As of 2018, there are 6.69 billion email accounts, according to Radicati Group.
  • In 2018, there are 3.823 billion email users and this is expected to increase to 4.258 billion by 2022.
  • 281 billion emails were sent and received in 2018 and this number is likely to climb to 333.2 billion by 2022.
  • 72 percent of individuals in the EU used emails for communication in 2017 and this number was only 48 percent a decade ago.

These statistics clearly show that email is not dead and is not going to die anytime soon.

So we have two conflicting arguments, one that says emails are a thing of the past and a bunch of statistics that show email is growing. Which of the two is true?

Well, both! What’s happening is email is evolving. It is no longer being used as the No. 1 tool for communication, though some people and organizations continue to prefer emails for official communications. Rather, the purpose and use of emails are changing. Today, it is one of the best marketing tools that give some of the highest returns on investment and it also works for people who prefer to convey their thoughts in at least a couple of paragraphs.

Evolving use of business email

Many people today don’t use emails for communication, but rather use it for other jobs. According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, the top five reasons for email use are:

  • Exchanging documents (76 percent).
  • Sending information to groups (69 percent).
  • Improving communication across time zones (61 percent).
  • Accountability (60 percent).
  • Searching for information (59 percent).

If you notice, communication (the reason for which emails were designed in the first place) does not figure in this list.

Another report shows that email will turn into “i-mail,” or intelligent email, to fit the needs of future generations. This will be an intelligent email that combines workflow, instant messaging, analytics, and more to appeal to a generation that is growing up with social media and text messages instead of long emails.

Above all this, email marketing is becoming the most lucrative channel for digital marketers, and customers also seem to prefer this form of communication for offers, discounts, to get updates about new products, and any other form of communication with any business.

Business email: Changing, not dying

Business email — and personal email, as well — is not going away anytime soon. Rather it is evolving. People don’t use email for sending messages, though that was why it emerged as a communication tool in the first place. Rather, the changing ways of communication have made emails obsolete for exchanging mere information. But its use is growing in other areas such as marketing, archiving information, group communication, accountability, and more.

Thus, emails are relevant and not dead by any stretch of the imagination, but the way we use them is changing.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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