Email — Still the Alpha Channel

Nearly half of us can’t even use the bathroom without checking email. This is just one of the surprising — or not — findings from Adobe Campaign’s second annual consumer email survey released today. The report surveyed more than 1,000 white-collar workers in the United States to glean insights related to the good, the bad, and the awkward when it comes to personal and work email habits. In sum, Americans are addicted to email.

Compared to last year’s survey results, respondents now spend even more time checking email, despite the growing popularity of Snapchat, Slack, and other communication platforms. As a society, we are multitasking on the go and have started to accept email intrusions on our personal and work conversations. Here are some key findings from this year’s survey, along with insights on how to maximize what can only be called the “Alpha Channel” in cross-channel marketing success.

We’re Addicted to Email—At Home, Work, and Play

It’s no surprise that Americans are still completely tied to email, constantly looking at both personal and work email 24/7, on the go. Year-over-year, time spent checking email has increased 17 percent, with smartphones overtaking computers as the preferred device for sending and receiving email.

We love to multitask with email. Survey respondents say they check email while watching TV or while watching a movie (69 percent), in bed (57 percent), and on vacation (79 percent). Percentages increase across the board for millennials (ages 18-34), with a disturbing 20 percent more checking email while driving. A quarter of Americans report checking email regularly right up until they go to bed, with three percent actually getting up in the middle of the night to check messages!

While this is great news for email marketers, this also points toward an increase in email received. The growing volume of email highlights the need for marketers to think even more strategically about what is being sent and when, and that less is more likely to mean more impact. Smart brands must offer consumers highly personalized, mobile-optimized, contextually relevant experiences – or risk people moving on to competitors. Determining when people open or engage with email is the first step toward improving open rates, clicks and conversations. With more noise in all of our inboxes, strategic marketers recognize the importance of analyzing their entire email program in the context of the bigger picture of how consumers engage with their brand.

An “Always On,” Informal Email Culture Has Emerged in Business

Almost half of survey respondents said they expect a response to work email in less than an hour. Expectations are even higher with millennials: more than a quarter of those surveyed expect responses within a few minutes! The “always on” email work culture persists on the weekend — with people sending an average of 19 emails and reading 29 work emails. What’s more, 79 percent admit to checking email while on vacation.

Seventy percent of respondents said text messages impact how they communicate via other channels, making emails less formal (38 percent) and shorter (30 percent). And emoji use is on fleek at work. More than half of 25-34 year olds have used an emoji in a work email, with 42 percent using the “thumbs-up” emoji. But should B2B marketers use emojis in email campaigns? Consider how you want your brand to be portrayed and experiment to find the balance between risk and reward. Some would argue that people are more willing to read a subject line that includes an emoji and, when used tactfully, it can communicate tone or feelings more effectively than words alone. This all maps back to personalization.

Email Interruption is Acceptable

One thing that really stood out to me is that only 9 percent of respondents reported annoyance when a friend or family member checks email during a face-to-face conversation. Apparently email that interrupts is becoming the norm. However, Pokémon Go players beware: playing games was cited as the most annoying thing someone can do during a conversation!

The good news for marketers is that nearly 50 percent of consumers prefer to receive marketing offers via email followed by direct mail at 22 percent and social media at 9 percent. Receiving email too often is most likely to annoy people (47 percent), followed by wordy offers (25 percent) and emails containing inaccurate personal data (23 percent).

The Takeaway

Email is still the number one most effective one-to-one communication channel for marketers, even though there is more noise in all of our inboxes, and despite growth in mobile apps, social media, and text. Savvy marketers see these statistics as evidence to support an integrated cross-channel marketing strategy that continues to rely on email as the “Alpha Channel.” Power rests in being close to the data to help determine the right email message and when to deliver it. Highly successful emails are relevant and timely, and delivering the message when people are most likely to open or engage with email is the key to driving more revenue with the email channel.