Nobody Uses Email Anymore

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Young people don’t use email anymore. They see it as a traditional form of communication. They use it to thank their grandparents for a Birthday gift (or other times when they have to speak with old people).

The above was a paraphrase of something I’ve heard Don Tapscott (author of Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital) says countless times in his live presentation.

Are you done laughing yet? Do you feel old?

"Use of online social networking, text messaging and cell phones is diminishing the effectiveness of email marketing, especially among consumers that say promotional messages inspire their purchases, according to a report from JupiterResearch, MarketingCharts writes."

That was the headline from a September 5th, 2008 news item titled, Email’s Effectiveness Erodes Against Texting, SocNets, Mobile, from MarketingVOX.

It goes on to say:

"’Consumers’ confidence in email has become shaken by irrelevant communications and high message frequency, which are top drivers of subscribers’ churn and channel skepticism,’ said David Daniels, VP, research director and lead analyst of the report for JupiterResearch. ‘People receive such a high volume of email that they are unable to pay attention to every message. It is so important for marketers to be relevant and succinct when they send messages to consumers’ inboxes."’

Then, just today, MarketingVOX has another news item titled, Youth More Receptive to Email, vs. SocNet, Marketing.

"The ExactTarget study outlined six personas and measured how they interact with different media. Highlights (via the companion release):

1. Wired Users: 20% subscribed for marketing communications via SMS (more so than any other group) but want to receive texts only for urgent customer service issues, like financial alerts or travel updates.

2. Young Homemakers: Over half use social networks and SMS during the day, but direct mail and email are their preferred marketing channels.

3. Retired: 81% purchased online and 94% have been influenced by some form of direct marketing to make a purchase.

4. College Students: Very spam-savvy, they believe private communication channels (e.g., SMS, social networks) are off-limits for marketers.

5. Teens: Though they use social networking more than any other group, they are more likely to make a purchase from direct mail, followed by email, SMS, and social network sites.

6. Established Professionals: Within this group, women are more likely than men to use new digital media channels like IM, SMS, and social networking to communicate with friends and family. Both men and women, however, shop online — 92% of consumers in this group have made an online purchase."

Grain of salt time: ExactTarget – who commissioned this new report – is an Email Marketing service provider.

While there may be confusion over whether or not email marketing is still a relevant channel if you bounce between both of the news items above, most people doing any form of email marketing know the real truth: it is a very powerful CRM tool if you have a clean list, delivering relevant and personal content in a timely manner. If anything, I’ve been privy to some eye-opening open rates, unsubscribe rates and conversation metrics that speak highly to the power and efficacy of a strong email marketing campaign.

Beyond that, email is still – overall – a very heavily used communication channel (no matter which news report you choose to believe from above). With both the iPhone and BlackBerry sporting some very interesting numbers recently. Check out this from Computerworld as they were live Blogging the Apple Q4 Earnings conference call from two days ago:

"Apple beat RIM. In their most recent quarter, Research in Motion, or RIM, reported selling 6.1 million BlackBerry devices. Compared to our most recent quarter sales of 6.9 million iPhones, Apple outsold RIM last quarter and this is a milestone for us. RIM is a good company that makes good products and so it is surprising that after only 15 months in the market, we could outsell them in any quarter.

But even more remarkable is this – measured by revenues, Apple has become the world’s third-largest mobile phone supplier. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true – as measured in revenues, not units, Apple has become the third largest mobile phone supplier… Pretty amazing."

As of now, the rumors of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated.


  1. Email will stay the main formal way to communicate in B2B situations. It’s the only standardized way to messaging people. All the they others technologies stated in the post aren’t supported on all hardware and some are available through private websites. Example, I have the impression most adults still prefer receiving email newsletters than reading news through RSS news readers.
    It’s possible that teenagers might use more social networks and SMS to send messages to their friends. In the case of direct marketing, I guess the best way would be viral marketing instead of direct mailing.

  2. Email is still is a nefficient communication funnel even with the b2c situations. Maybe the next generation will change, but over 35, it’s the best way to reach people by web and develop relationship communication.

  3. I can vouch that email marketing is not dead. What is dead is BAD email marketing. People are not interested by irrelevant messages, and as such will not even give a second of attention to something that does not meet a specific need.
    I personally have tested variations of email communications, and those who are speaking to the customers about thing that matters to them are still making very good return, much higher then banners for example.

  4. What a load of guff. According to current research email is the commonly most used form of electronic communication. I love email. Yes, we get blasted with irrelevant information everyday but that just necessitates better time management.

  5. I’m 23 years old – I probably receive a large majority of my messages through social networks (I don’t have the email addresses of a number of friends – we keep in touch via facebook), but email remains a vital hub for managing communications.
    Keeping up with all of the messages on these fragmented sites would be nearly impossible if alerts weren’t sent to one central inbox. If email can maintain its position as a hub, it will stay relevant.

  6. hello mitch…
    sending love letters thru snail mail i think is considered the sweetest…
    emailing for me is still acceptable especially in my occupation as a freelancer (graphics)
    though text messaging comes in handy anytime especially when you’re not in front of your computer…

  7. I’m 19 and I would agree with the above comments, a lot of my communication is over the phone, SMS or on my social networking sites.
    Very rarely do a I send an email to someone my age or younger. It’s usually only to people who aren’t Facebook or if I’m trying to appear as professional as possible.

  8. Young people may not use e-mail anymore as their primary form of social communication, since Facebook, SMS and various IM networks offer something more instantaneous and perhaps personal, but Zac’s comment illustrates that e-mail isn’t dead for the younger generation, it has just taken on a different role. It’s becoming professional, a channel for more thought-out, composed communication and (hopefully) proper grammar and spelling, but e-mail hasn’t gone the way of letter writing, especially in a global system of wired people. Not everyone in the world is on Facebook or has an IM account, but 95% of the people I know have e-mail. That being said, I’m not receptive to any kind of online marketing, be it via e-mail, SMS, or social networks.

  9. It’s possible that teens might use more social networks to send messages to their friends, of course. Even me, i noticed that i prefer to use Facebook or MySpace to quickly communicate a message to a friend (if the guy is a facebooker) instead of a “traditional” e-mail. And spend a special attention to “quickly communicate a message”…
    So, is social network is the new kind of “Electronic Mail” ?

  10. Who would want to reach a user that doesn’t use e-mail? They are more than likely the same people that are downloading 80 gazillion gigs of pirated movies from torrents, surfing with Ubuntu, flaming articles on Digg, and working at Subway part time as an after school job.
    Anyone with a life uses email.

  11. I’ve seen this type of research before Mitch – just wait until they get into college and corporate america.
    this is bogus because even at that age i was using message boards and forums more than email (they had a PM feature) as well as IRC
    you email as you get older, its a more formal platform…not going anywhere
    i love how people declare things dead that have hardly even ‘matured’…there is always a motive behind this stuff to sell a service or product…not that you were, you were just stating research
    but this story/research comes up every few years, yet we see email still how it always was because with sensitive data, you dont want to use another channel as they arent secure

  12. Great comment by Adam. There’s a very BIG assumption in Tapscott’s argument – that consumption patterns don’t change over time. Just because somebody uses Facebook more than email at 18 doesn’t mean he won’t use email at 25.
    It seems to me that everybody is playing the game of one-upmanship in trend-spotting to the point that it becomes almost silly.

  13. I predict that by this time next year, if not earlier, some study will come out proclaiming the social networking is dead. Next will come a study pronouncing the death of Twitter. Already this week I read about the death of blogging (via Wired; maybe you’ve heard of it; it’s a print magazine; I thought those died years ago).
    It’s all a symptom of human arrogance, that one-upmanship the trendspotters love so much, as Steve has already stated.
    It all reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw years and years ago:
    “God is dead.” – Nietzche
    “Nietzche is dead.” – God

  14. E-mail among certain demographic groups isn’t dead so much as in a state of evolution. And that state, as it is with any channel, is far from temporary.
    Media channels – new as well as old – are constantly evolving, so it would be naive of us to believe that the way they’re used today is identical to the way they’ll be used two years from now.
    I also take exception to the very binary, alive vs. dead approach to categorizing any technology. Yes, 8-track is dead. But it, too, went through various stages of evolution (i.e. life) before it was buried once and for all.
    Not that I see e-mail meeting 8-track’s fate anytime soon. But it’s got a lot of stages – each one differently flavoured depending on which demographic, social, cultural, professional (fill in your -ional here) group is using it.
    I envision us having similar exchanges about SMS, IM, Twittering and Facebooking in the months and years to come.

  15. Funny you mention it, because I just wrote about this recently. I think Email marketing is going to fade into the dark because of services like Twitter and other new ones that are bound to pop up. In this fast moving “too much information” age, people simply don’t have time for email like they used to.

  16. How young is young in this context then? I am 24 and email is still my top choice when it comes to communicating with ppl, given its convenience and flexibility. Of cos, I use mobile to reach others instantly and connect w frens thru facebk but email is still wat I use almost everyday. In fact, I check emails more than I log in to facebook n such. So I guess email will continue to linger ard for quite some time as a main form of communication…

  17. I use email for business or school communication and social networking or IM for communicating with peers.

  18. As with any channel or tactic, it is all in the way marketers use it or abuse it.
    Done with permission, exchange of value and relevance, it is an effective tool in B2B or B2C.
    That said, it is not a silo nor a silver bullet anymore (but smart marketers never treated it that way to begin with).
    More than ever it needs to be built into the overall communications strategy that acknowledges the breadth of communications points today. With, not instead of : )

  19. Not seeing why people feel that there’s a need to differentiate between email, sms, soc-nets, and IM.
    those are all just mediums of communication and will eventually be bridged, so you email a facebook contact and he gets it as an IM, you sms a buddy who get’s an email.
    The only real difference tends to be length and grammar, and those are just conventions.

  20. it’s just silly to say that email is young or old or that “texting” is the only way that young people communicate. For sure it’s a big thing because teens are using cheap mobile devices and cheap plans , probably paid for by their parents. Why would you text when you can email? I mean really? Because it’s cool? Because all the kids are doing it? My need to communicate quickly and efficiently does not change because I have a better mobile plan and an iPhone. Email is for old people – honestly, I’m so worked up I’m going to pop 2 Nyquils and go back to bed.

  21. Nobody uses email? What about the small companies that rely on it? What about the larger companies that uses it everyday?
    Not all of us have phones, and it’s quite expensive to call each and every member of the team, right? Sending an email requires only a few key presses, clicks, and that’s it, you’re good to go.
    Email will be still of use until the next decade or so.
    Dee – Woodworking Tools

  22. You cannot argue with the facts… e-mail gets about 20% open rate.. text gets 95% open rate. Furthermore, there are more smart phones than computers then add on top of that that people leave their home each day with keys, wallet (or purse), and smart phone. E-mail is just not as effective as texting… we can go on about most effective way to attract new leads… not e-mail.. rather facebook and twitter… best way to retain the leads? You guessed it… text then a far second e-mail.

  23. There is a gentlemen by the name of Frank Kern who is regarded as the worlds best e-mail copywriter and makes millions writing good sales copy via e-mail to his list. He shared that he gets about a 30% open rate and then a 15% click through rate. So for him e-mail is not dead.

  24. I disagree that nobody uses e-mail (I know that is broad catchy title). E-mail has more noise and distractions with all the spam and junk. If you provide really good e-mail content then you can push past the delete button. However, that being said we all need to communicate when and how the end user wishes.. e-mail, text, social avenues.. etc..

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