The End Of Email - Celebrating The Imminent Death

Courtesy of flippabotamatic via Flickr Email is dying, mark my words. It will soon go the way of Morse code, the ham radio, and hand-written letters.

Whisper it to yourself: "No. More. Email." It's scary, but freeing at the same time. It sounds like heresy, doesn't it?

So how can email be dying? Emarketer reports that almost a quarter of Americans check their email upon waking in the morning and more than a third check email throughout the day. But there is evidence that email will soon be a thing of the past.

Here are the reasons why you and your customers have numbered days with the ol' email address.

  • They aren't getting your email - Email recipients simply aren't receiving your message. Jupiter Research (now with Forrester) reports that 17% of the U.S. population changes email addresses every six months. You cannot maintain or build a relationship that way. This churn is steadily (and increasingly) chipping away at your list.
  • They don't care about your email - Email's value is decreasing. Open rates have declined for the last three years and 60% of subscribers don't interact with your email messages at all. (The joint M+R/NTEN study examined non-profits - I think it's safe to say that the results for businesses would be even more dismal.)
  • They opt for Facebook over email - I have seen personally and professionally a move toward communication via social network rather than email address. By self-selecting a social group, the individual avoids spam. Quantcast reports a decline in Hotmail traffic corresponding to an increase in Facebook traffic (Yahoo and Google results inconclusive). (Seb Chan has some good ideas about why this is.)
  • They might like microblogging more than social networks - As astute marketer Rich Brooks says, "While there will always be the telephone and email for us 'old folks,' a lot of important conversations will be going on exclusively in the social media arena." Even though email takes less than a minute, the ambient awareness offered by microblogging platforms like Twitter and Plurk allows for a lifestream rather than direct contact or lengthy carbon copy lists.
  • They switched from an address to a URL - You just aren't a good marketer if you haven't read Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. If you have, you know that one out of six of your customers is a "creator" - someone who regularly blogs, uploads video, or keeps a website (pg. 43 and 131). With their online home changing from inbox to blog/avatar/podcast, your customers are more find-able than ever before. The dominance of search accentuates the importance of a home base website.

Your customers don't get your email and, when they do, they likely don't care enough to open it. They prefer their regular hangouts like Facebook and Twitter over a boring email address. And finally, who needs an email address when they have a Google-indexed, searchable contact page on their website?

Do you notice how all of these are similar? What is shared by all the nails in email's coffin?

Customer Empowerment

The theme that connects all of these trends is that the customer is more in charge. Hence, you cannot be shocked then at the increasing prevalence of these developments.

Marketers are no longer interrupting customers' lives with sales pitches. Instead, they (or the good ones, at least) are concerned with providing value so that the customer will want to visit their site. The push economy has replaced the pull economy.

Are you seeing similar development in your business or personal life? Is it possible we could abandon email? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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