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Email Isn't Social Media, but It's Still Pretty Popular

Despite competing communication methods, usage is up

With the rise of social media and texting, some saw email as a communication vehicle that would eventually disappear. However, this mode of messaging is still an inescapable part of everyday life. 

In fact, usage is increasing (at least among white-collar workers). According to a June 2018 Adobe survey of smartphone-owning US internet users who worked in an office, personal email usage was up 17% over 2017. 

Email was also cited as the preferred contact method to receive an offer from brands, cited by 50% of respondents, though older consumers felt this sentiment more strongly. It was still first choice across age groups but was lower among those 18 to 24 (32%) and 25 to 34 (44%). Oddly, Adobe did not break out ages over 35. Taken as a whole, 55% of that older group preferred brands contact them through email. 

However, email is such a ubiquitous marketing tactic that it has become white noise. According to those surveyed, 31% of email offers over the past year were compelling enough to open. When asked what they would change about brand emails if they could, the leading response was being more informative rather than promotional, cited by 39%. A larger number of females (43%) and internet users 35 and older (44%) said this. More personalized content was also popular (27%). Being able to purchase within an email had lower interest generally (12%), but it was cited by 21% of those 18 to 24. 

The prominence of informational over promotional emails was slightly incongruous considering most consumers like offers and coupons. And sure enough, giving additional incentives to purchase was the leading role email played, cited by 37% of respondents. Among those 18 to 24, though, brand awareness was the leading benefit of email marketing (29%), while serving as a purchase reminder was tops (31%) with those 25 to 34. 

More than three-quarters of those polled thought email customization was at least of medium importance when communicating with brands. But one-third said receiving recommendations for items they weren't interested in was the most frustrating way that marketing emails got personalization wrong. Poor product suggestions is one of the biggest complaints among consumers. Many shoppers would stop patronizing a retailer that consistently got recommendations wrong. 

Despite this common misstep, email is the leading channel where retailers have focused their personalization efforts.