Are modern communications killing email?

Everyone uses email. Yet the advent of instant messaging apps and other forms of communications begs the question of how long it will remain relevant

Are modern communications killing email?

Emails have been the dominant means of online communication for decades. However, with the emergence of platforms like WhatsApp, Skype and Slack, the question is if it’s time to level up your company’s messaging game. 

To answer that you must first acknowledge the reasons behind emails’ lasting popularity – starting with the price. Gmail, for example, presently costs a minimum of £3.30 per employee account per month – or even nothing if you forgo an integrated company network. “Even a phone doesn’t have quite the same ubiquity because you’ve got to pay a phone bill, either go pay as you go or you’ve got your own deal, whereas for an email it doesn’t cost you anything,” argues Erica Wolfe-Murray, founder of Lola Media, the marketing agency.

Additionally, the simplicity provides a lot of value. “Its ability to send large documents and links easily in a cost-effective manner with speed and relatively few problems has made email the go-to platform for businesses,” suggests Jake Moore, cybersecurity expert at ESET, the cybersecurity company.

The accessibility seems to work its charm with many professionals like Mou Mukherjee, head of registry services at .Cloud, the domain provider. “It’s a form of direct communication, it’s private and it’s easy to track,” she argues. “Although instantaneous communication has many benefits, it’s not practical when your colleagues or customers are asleep on the other side of the world.”

But for its simplicity and its price-worthiness, emails still have downsides. For instance, they’re not as secure as many of the new messaging apps. “Unless you obviously choose to go through a unique email system they’re less secure than anything else and people can get hacked,” Wolfe-Murray argues. Indeed, 92% of malware – like viruses and spyware – come from links in emails, according to Verizon, the telecommunications company. That’s far more than the 6.3% from websites and the 1.3% from other sources. 

This is where the new type of messaging services like WhatsApp have a clear advantage – most of them use end-to-end encryption, meaning encoded messages only intended recipients can see. And this could be a reason why people may opt out of using emails. “I know people that do contact purely on WhatsApp because they know it can’t be diverted or broken into in the same way,” argues Wolfe-Murray.

Moreover, Ben Roberts, host of the Marketing Buzzword Podcast, argues emails lack transparency compared to new platforms. “Without the help of a third-party app, there’s no way of seeing [if] the recipient has opened and read your messages,” he explains. And while there are ways to find out whether your emails have been read, it’s often not as easy as a grey tick turning blue on WhatsApp. And that’s usually not good enough these days. “In 2019 people want to know if people have received and opened their message,” Roberts continues. “They want to know they’re not being ignored.” 

Additionally, the rise of flexible working has upped the need for reevaluating how you reach your staff. “With more people taking up remote working and flexible hours it’s increasingly important to consider the best way to communicate and, often, that’s something other than email,” says Richard Jackson, account manager at Vapour Cloud, the digital transformation specialist. Indeed, 68% of employees across the world quizzed by Owl Labs, the video conferencing hardware company, clock in remotely at least once a month, while 52% do so from home a minimum of once per week. “Email has to now find a way to fit into that vast mix of different approaches in which we can communicate via technology,” Jackson continues.

As an example of how combining emails with new tech can happen, Wolfe-Murray’s other company TAXO’D, the tax calculation service, allows emails to piggyback on the app by having merchant receipts sent through them, with the app doing most of the legwork. “You can give apps access to all the email data that you have so they can hunt out the bits of information they need within your inbox and I think those are just great, it just makes everything so easy,” Wolfe-Murray describes.

Emails also have another extremely useful ability – connecting with people in a way that you can’t do on Facebook, according to Michyl Culos, head of marketing communications at Mailjet USA and EMEA, the email delivery platform. “Where social platforms have steadily migrated away from allowing brands to organically reach their audiences with genuinely valuable content, email enables authors to connect with their most loyal customers organically and in increasingly personalised ways,” she says. Indeed, 73% of marketers believe return on investment from emails sent out to customers is good or excellent, according to Econsultancy, the digital business experts. Moreover, brands can use their consumer data to create bespoke email newsletters on factors like location and purchase history. “The net effect is that a mailing list of 1,000 people carries far more potency when it comes to ROI than 100,000 followers on Facebook or Twitter,” Culos continues. 

Given the benefits of emails, it’s clear the communication form will survive despite its limitations. “I think that emailing is just simple,” Wolfe-Murray concludes. “So you sort of want to go ‘Don’t mess with it.’” 

Angus Shaw
Angus Shaw

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