Consumers Are Still Email Obsessed, But They’re Finding More Balance

Our love affair with email is still as strong as ever, but these days we’re finding a bit more balance with it. That’s just one of the insights from Adobe Campaign’s third annual consumer email survey. This year, we checked in with more than 1,000 white-collar workers in the U.S. to find out what’s happening between consumers and their inboxes, and what it all means for brands.

It turns out that consumers are still spending a large amount of time—5.4 hours each weekday—checking email and it’s still their preferred communication channel at work. Multitaskers even admit to checking email while walking, driving, attending formal ceremonies, talking on the phone, working out, and even tucked into bed. All of this suggests that even though politicians and entertainers embrace staccato communication bursts, most consumers still prefer longer form, more intimate email messages when we reach out to colleagues, friends and family.

Email Rules, But People Are Looking for Balance

Even though consumers’ love of email is strong, one of the most intriguing findings from this year’s survey is that people are striking a new life-email balance. The overall number of hours consumers spend on email each day decreased 27 percent from last year—with declines across both personal and work accounts.

Let’s look at some of the ways people are cutting back compared to last year. We’ve seen a 28 percent decrease in consumers checking email messages from bed in the morning (though 26 percent still do it). More than a quarter of consumers are even waiting until they get to the office to peek at their inboxes. One in five consumers never check email outside of normal work hours, and nearly half don’t check (or only rarely do) while they’re on vacation. In today’s high-speed, anxious world, this sounds like a positive evolution in our relationship to email—the occasional deep breath between messages may be just what we need.

Young People Are Email Overachievers

Since young consumers (between ages 18 and 34) are communications trendsetters, we took a closer look at their relationship with email. With all the hype around newer forms of communication like Slack and Snapchat, we supposed they might be migrating away from email. Surprisingly, it turns out email is just as sticky with them as it is with consumers overall. In fact, younger people are even more likely than other age groups to bring their email obsessions into every part of their day – from workouts, to eating with friends and family, and even driving (stop that last one!).

Not only are younger consumers deeply attached to email, they’re also most likely to overachieve on inbox tidiness. Sixty-six percent of them report reaching inbox zero—that golden moment when you’ve responded to, and quickly deleted or filed, all of your email messages. Inbox zero makes sense for this cohort—they’re ultra-responsive when it comes to communication, and so at ease with technology that they happily dispatch and archive messages, knowing they can simply search and find whatever they need later.

Email Is Exactly What Consumers Want from Brands

Consumers in our survey were also loud and clear about how they want to hear from brands. Sixty-one percent of consumers indicated that they prefer to receive offers via email, which is a 24 percent increase over last year.

And they know what they want in those messages, too. Based on what consumers told us, here are our top email tips for brands:

  • Personalize: 34 percent of consumers said they get frustrated when brands recommend items that don’t match their interests. Know your customers in order to communicate with them.
  • Inform: 40 percent of consumers told us that they wish email content was less promotional and more informative. They’re savvy about when someone’s selling too hard. Focus your messages on the information consumers want.
  • Mobilize: 21 percent of consumers who check messages on mobile devices are annoyed about brands’ lack of mobile optimization. Make sure they aren’t waiting for images to load or scrolling too much.
  • Pace Yourself: Half of consumers say that the most annoying thing about emails from brands is when they arrive too often. Respect the inbox zero crowd!

Consumers are telling us exactly what they want, so it’s up to brands to build the infrastructure and dedicate the creative resources that can hold up our end of this email relationship. We know people are keeping their eyes on their inboxes, even at dinner or the gym or walking down the street. This is the perfect opportunity for brands to delight them by sending exactly what they asked us for.

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