Is Email dead? No, not yet anyway.

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One of our customers asked us about email the other day, and the role it’ll play in the future of communications for their organisation. It got us thinking. Many industry commentators forecast that time is up for email. It had its day and it needs to make way for all these new and better tools. Things like instant messaging, persistent chat and other ‘Teams’ environments. But is that really the case?

We’re not so sure that email is becoming a tool of the past, not any time soon anyway. Based on our recent research into our customers’ habits across the world, it would appear that email is here to stay and is defending its corner admirably.

Who’s still using email?

Email is still the most used digital communications tool overall with 86% of people using it two to three times a week in their personal lives. Whatsapp and Facebook are its closest rivals at 67% and 66% respectively. But people use email a significant amount more than other social media channels like Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.

It plays an important role in the customer service channel mix, but it does decrease in relevance as we move from older customers to younger customers. Six out of ten customers over the age of 55 use email to contact organisations, while this reduces to less than half for 16-34 year olds. It’s no real surprise, we see similar trends with mobile use; younger people have a greater propensity to use newer technologies.

What technology is hot on email’s heels?

Webchat poses the biggest challenge to email, particularly when people run into issues online. They prefer chat and messaging over email correspondence. One can assume that’s down to the immediacy of the feedback you get with the chat functionality. Sometimes when you send an email, you’re not sure if it’s going into a big black hole or not.

But with the challenges posed by new technologies, there’s also an opportunity for email. New technologies are keeping email relevant. When it comes to proactive customer service, email is the most preferred method of contact across all age groups. There’s a clear preference for private channels here – email, phone and SMS. People are less willing to let organisations infiltrate their social media space with customer service messages. As more organisations come to terms with big data, AI and marketing automation, we may even see the use of email begin to increase.

At BT, we’ve been running an extensive global research programme since 2010. We want to know what digital channels and devices our customers are using to communicate with companies, and if they’re satisfied with their experiences. Our latest output from this research programme is ‘Chat, tap, talk. Eight key trends in digital customer care’. Download your free copy here.

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Joseph Walsh

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