Author : Michael Harris, Principal Consultant, Strategic Services, OMC EMEA
I would assume we would all like to live in a world where we deal with less emails. However, there is no denying how integral and embedded email is to our daily lives. So, what would happen to our lives if email suddenly disappeared from existence. What would the immediate effects be and what would the future without email look like. Understanding a world without email could help us understand how to use email more efficiently and more effectively now.
First of all, let’s paint a picture of the current situation regarding email. By 2019 we can expect to see 2.9 billion worldwide email users (over one third of the global population). In 2017 269 billion emails were sent and received each day, with a forecast figure to reach 320 billion daily emails in 2021. In 2018 124.5 billion business emails and 111.1 billion consumer emails are sent and received each day. The average office worker received 121 emails per day. The world of business couldn’t run without email and the economy would stop but, how many of those daily emails received are necessary, useful, relevant and even read?
The types of emails sent and received include but not limited to, confirmation, newsletters, tickets, correspondence, spam/junk, deals, events, invitations, auto reply/out of office. Email has meant people can work and communicate from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection, resulting in an always on mentality, that has resulted increased pressures and extended working hours. An abundance of emails, working out prioritisation and being unable to manage the intake can have an overwhelming impact on the productivity of the typical office worker and can result in increased levels of anxiety and an emotionally disconnected work force.
When used correctly email can be an effective tool, however, in work we often fall into the email tree trap, where an excessive amount of emails are sent between a number of people just to make 1 decision. In summary, we receive an unnecessary high amount of emails a day.
So, what if email just disappeared? What would the communication of 269+ billion daily emails be immediately converted to. We’d have to look at how we worked before email became so dominant. Hand written letters and the postal service, fax machines, face to face conversation, telephone, dictation. All vary on efficiency and effectiveness when compared to email, especially losing the ability to send files immediately but also hand-written letters being significantly slower for communication to be received to the desired recipient, and face to face or telephone conversation relying on the needed person being available and on the recipient’s memory and note taking ability for detail. However, with these negatives, there are also positives with writing a letter or taking the time to talk to someone face to face giving communication a personal feel, with face to face enabling the reading of body language, giving context and overall confirmation over what is being discussed on the spot.
After the initial panic, confusion, stress on postal service and broken economy, due to a lack of communication in varying levels of detail from business to business, people and businesses would start to look to mobile first solutions. With 5 billion people worldwide with a mobile phone, and with many considering the mobile phone an extension of themselves, mobile would be the way to go for future communication, through SMS (Short Message Service), RCS (Rich Communication Service) or Apps. Apps needed for booking confirmations and tickets, updates on information and anything in between a customer would have with a business. The potential and application for RCS is huge with and without this scenario. A key takeaway is that people would look for ways communicate more efficiently and only to receive messages that are relevant to them as they would essentially be the ones searching for information rather than being the ones receiving it.
Taking into consideration what could happen if email died it is significant to acknowledge that currently as important as it is, how we currently abuse and over use email in such a way it starts to feel useless. The annoying habits used and mass generation of emails sent to everyone’s inbox, email becomes annoying and demoralising at times. The future of email will aim to add more value for all by becoming more personalised, accordingly formatted, more visual and interactive and give users more control. With the amount of email noise, emails are lost when not essential – what is the value of a meaningful interaction? Imagine a paid model. The currency of access. Imagine you only receive emails from those on an approved list of senders. Anyone else must pay you to access your inbox. Reducing useless spam/junk and emails you didn’t need and increasing personalised messaging. Making companies and people really consider who do we really need to target and ultimately increasing returns.
With the current state of emails, many may feel email needs to die but, it is a perfect opportunity to rethink email strategy and provide real value in all aspects of email. Mass email is dead, but the value in email is very much alive.