The first email, a test message from computer engineer Ray Tomlinson to himself, was sent way back in 1971. When Tomlinson sent that message, he could hardly have predicted how much email would evolve over the next 50 years or that it would become the most powerful tool companies have for communicating with their customers.
Today, there are around 4 billion email users, with more than 281 billion emails sent every day. That’s an audience and volume with which social media or instant messaging platforms cannot compete. You cannot engage online without an email address and so this is essentially each person’s digital home. As such, it’s also the perfect way to interact with people, which is why it’s seen such success in marketing, as well as a perfect notification medium.
In the coming years, email will continue to evolve, cementing its place as the most powerful tool in customer communications and defying predictions of its imminent demise.
The changing face of email
Anyone opening their inbox today will recognize how far email has come over the years. From the introduction of HTML elements in the late 1990s, allowing us to move beyond plain-text messages, to the rise of mobile emails in the late 2000s, and the introduction of interactive emails in the last couple of years, email looks and feels very different today than it did in the past.
Perhaps the biggest changes, however, have come in the approach that some organizations take when it comes to communicating with their customers.
Gone are the mass emails with the ‘one size fits all’ marketing approach. In their place are hyper-personalized messages, which use real-time data, dynamic content and artificial intelligence to create the perfect message for each person, at the perfect time.
Today’s digital communication experts also ensure that email fits perfectly into their omnichannel strategy and make use of automation to ensure customers receive relevant content at the right time.
With 53% of emails opened on a mobile device and 23% of readers who open an email on a mobile device opening it again later, tailoring emails for mobile use and engagement is only going to get more important.
As email continues to evolve, these changes will continue to grow in importance. Artificial intelligence, for example, will make it easier to personalize emails further, ensuring that customers have access to the right offer and message at the right time, when they expect it.
The power of authenticity
Of course, there will be ongoing cosmetic changes to email too. Games, competitions, GIFs, and VUE GIFS (think 3D) will all become more common in the email space. They’ll also all have a role to play in driving engagement and, ultimately, conversions.
As important as all these evolutionary steps are, however, they only enhance what made email so powerful in the first place: the ability to connect with another person.
Anyone looking to ramp up their digital customer communication should not, therefore, only focus on the latest tech or faddy trends. Instead, remember the power of email and incorporate it in all communication efforts as it lends itself to a far more personalized and content rich connection. Any organization that gets this balance right will see the benefits of email and continue to do so for years to come.
This article was first published in 360 Advertising Week 29 March 2019.