Complex Made Simple

Email has stood the test of time, but is it time to put it in trash?

Most Gen Z workers loathe email, citing shortcomings such as errant messages in spam folders and anxiety around timely replies. But workers over 30 say email remains a top collaboration tool

Some have been trying to get rid of email for years email isn’t a dying communication form, but does need a refresh 81% of all emails are now opened and read on mobile devices

Most Gen Z workers (those born between 1997 and 2012) loathe email, citing shortcomings such as errant messages in spam folders and anxiety around timely replies. They prefer video chats, live collaborative docs or instant messaging. But workers over 30 say email remains a top collaboration tool, the consulting firm Creative Strategies found.

Roberto J., Backup & Restore, Automation, Compliance, Team Leading, Teaching professional, said: “Email is like a letter. It shouldn’t be used for timely replies. Sometimes it gets lost like letters. Emails force you to describe a topic precisely, in detail and in an understandable way. In my experience, this is the main reason why (GenZs) despise email. They don’t bother to perform these steps and they prefer to do all that directly when speaking to other people.”

(All graphs below relate to email stats)

Laura Caruso, Ph.D. student at IMDEA Networks Institute said that email would still be an effective tool if used properly (implying a concise, effective, straightforward, clear communication style).

“I personally hate instant messaging. It puts you in constant hyperarousal, hyper-vigilant, hyper distracted, hyper whatever state, generating anxiety way more than what emails already do. Information gets lost, lots of misunderstandings happen, conversations can go on for an unnecessary amount of time, breaking focus and conveying a false sense of urgency.”

“Companies should invest in educating people on how to use these tools effectively and in a healthy way, while still prioritizing real-world human interactions.”  

GEN Z- email antagonists

According to a 2020 study from the consulting firm Creative Strategies, there’s a generational gap in primary work tools. The survey found that for those 30 and above, email was among the top tools they used for collaboration. For those under 30, Google Docs was the app workers associated most with collaboration, followed by Zoom and iMessage.

Adam Simmons, 24, prefers to communicate using “literally anything but email.” Simmons, who is based in Los Angeles, started his own video production company after graduating from the University of Oregon in 2019. He primarily communicates with his eight employees and his clients, which are mostly sports teams, over text, Instagram messages and Zoom calls.

“Email is all your stressors in one area, which makes the burnout thing so much harder,” he said. “You look at your email and have work stuff, which is the priority, and then rent’s due from your landlord and then Netflix bills. And I think that’s a really negative way to live your life.”

In a recent survey by the consulting firm Deloitte, 46% of Gen Z respondents reported feeling stressed all or most of the time in 2020 and 35% said they had taken time off work because of stress and anxiety.

The shortcomings of email have only been exacerbated by the pandemic because it has replaced too much: Decisions that were once made by stopping by a co-worker’s desk have been relegated to inbox ping-pong. Some people wrote about feeling a sense of guilt for not being able to reply faster or for adding emails to their colleagues’ inboxes. Others described how responding to a barrage of emails caused them to lose track of other tasks, creating a cycle that’s at best unproductive and at worse infuriating.

Some have been trying to get rid of email for years. Writers like Cal Newport, whose book “A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload” was published in March, have long argued that the “tyranny of the inbox” causes us to lose our ability to concentrate. Switching rapidly between email, Slack and other tasks creates a pileup in our brains. “We also feel frustrated. We feel tired. We feel anxious. Because the human brain can’t do it,” Newport told The Times’s Ezra Klein in March.  

In 2017, a study found that the average inbox had 199 unread emails.  

Email not dead

News of the demise of email has been greatly exaggerated, believes Indian entrepreneur Aquibur Rahman. The announcement today by two leading tech sector investors of a $2 million seed round for his year-old start-up Mailmodo rather suggests they agree with him.

Rahman’s thesis is that email isn’t a dying communication form, but does need a refresh. Younger people may increasingly depend on social media platforms for messaging, but the world still sends 300 billion emails every single day, he points out, and the number is increasing. And for businesses, reaching out to customers by email is far more straightforward.

“The problem is that email has barely changed as a technology since it first became ubiquitous in the 1990s,” Rahman argues.  

Rahman has a background in marketing with start-ups and fintech businesses and has a particular frustration with the low conversion rates typically experienced by marketers using email campaigns. The problem, he argues, is that when you send a customer – or potential customer – an email, acting on it almost always requires them to step out of the message. They typically need to click through to a website to respond; this type of friction is a killer, which is why response rates are so low.

Enter Mailmodo. AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, allow senders of emails to embed interactive elements in the message itself. Suddenly, you can send messages including everything from application forms to purchase buttons that enable the recipient to respond while remaining in the email, rather than having to go elsewhere.

“We started experimenting with a customer and AMP emails last year and saw conversion rates on that first campaign increase by 250%,” he recalls. “It was such a huge increase that we wondered whether it was beginner’s luck, but we were able to repeat the success over and again.”

Here’s the thing though. AMP email technology has not been widely adopted and requires some technical know-how to implement effectively.

Mailmodo offers subscribers a platform through which they can build their email campaigns using templates and shortcuts, rather than having to build code for themselves.

The platform enables businesses to create emails that do everything from collecting feedback from users to booking meetings with prospects, and from recovering abandoned shopping carts to generating new leads.

“Email is far from dead,” insists Rahman. “It just needs an upgrade.”

Email stats of note

Today, 81% of all emails are now opened and read on mobile devices.

Can you guess what your readers do when you send them an email that isn’t optimized for mobile? They delete it. In fact, 80% delete the email immediately!

Further research shows that subscribers are most likely to read your email at either 10 am, after they arrived at work, or at 1 pm when they are catching up on their emails after lunch.

And that 23% of all email opens occur during the first hour after delivery. After 24 hours, an email’s chance of being opened drops below 1%.