In this guest piece, Adobe’s APAC marketing director, Paula Parkes (pictured below), does some crystal-balling on the future of email, and what it means for marketers.
Despite exaggerated speculations that email is dead, email is very much alive and well. With the rise and fall in popularity of many other marketing channels, email still plays a critical role and is about to transform dramatically.
Alternatives to email are certainly expanding, particularly with the rise of Slack and similar messaging platforms to communicate internally. Meanwhile, younger Australians have gravitated toward the likes of Snapchat, Facebook and other social platforms to stay in touch.
However, these new channels won’t be the death of email. Rather, the good old inbox remains a hugely popular and useful communication tool. Today, 91 per cent of internet users check email at least once a day on their smartphones and 77 per cent of consumers prefer email for marketing communications. It appears today’s email apps are not just work tools – they are a constant companion.
Even the team at Slack considers email indispensable. The company recently unveiled features integrating its messaging platform with inboxes, explicitly acknowledging that Slack was never designed to replace email – only enhance it.
Email is not going anywhere, but to stay in touch with the changing needs of Australians, it will need to transform. Here are four predictions about inboxes of the future:
- Spam will become a nuisance of the past
It is no surprise that consumers are sick of sifting through endless emails, concerned they’ll miss a crucial message if they don’t. So, it is time to get rid of email FOMO (fear of missing out). Over time, inboxes will evolve to incorporate ‘machine learning’ or programs that learn from user behaviour. This unique form of curation will ensure the promotional emails consumers receive are actually relevant. Equipped with important data on human interests, machines will eventually be able to predict optimal email content and context.
For example, Sally from Sydney has just moved to Melbourne. Using geolocation data, her inbox will identify and alter her daily deal subscriptions to correspond with her new address and account for the weather in her new city. Her inbox will even notify her favourite clothing store to send discounts on apparel. And, she’ll receive these emails precisely when it is most convenient to reply.
- Immersive messages
Emails will shift away from boring copy toward dynamic, website-like content, customised to a target’s interests. The messages of the future will allow consumers to sift through a retailer’s look book, browse a gallery of electronics and stream a concert in real time – all without leaving their inboxes.
Immersive inboxes will also maximise space – both digital and mental. Rather than inundating inboxes with 20 daily emails, a brand will have one refreshable email slot that simply swaps out old emails for the newest, latest deals.
- The inbox as a personal assistant
Convenience technology is expanding. It is already commonplace for people to link their lights, TV and alarm system to their phone. Amazon’s Dash Button is a perfect example of convenience technology, enabling consumers to verbally question ‘smart’ fridges about inventory and initiate Amazon detergent shipments instantaneously from their dishwasher.
This focus on convenience will inevitably become central to email. Future inboxes will use data to assist with everyday tasks, serving as connected portals for important information about the products we value most, and making technology’s convenience factor much more universal. Not only will consumers get the messages they want, when they want them, but they will only get them from sources of interest.
Next-gen inboxes could also potentially tap into other apps to automatically draft responses and manage calendars. We are already seeing this with the proliferation of chatbots. Imagine being able to eliminate the painstaking and often frustrating back and forth of logistics. Emails could have the capacity to consult a person’s digital calendar, schedule a meeting according to the person’s availability and make a reservation at the user’s favourite restaurant. All the person would have to do is approve the preconceived message – saving precious time and mental space.
- Fewer, better messages
It is no secret that marketers believe the more emails they send, the more likely they’ll see a return.
Machine learning will empower brands to improve their approach. By figuring out if and when a user clicks, as well as what kind of content they actually interact with, brands will be able understand their consumers better than ever and adjust their outreach.
The reality is this overload of emails can critically impact consumer attention spans – 39 per cent of Millennials want to see fewer repetitive emails from brands. Evidently, the approach of blasting inboxes does not work, and the benefits of getting it right by genuinely understanding customers and delivering value at the right time are tremendous.
To learn more about how to approach marketing to the people you know, secure your ticket to Adobe’s annual Symposium on Wednesday 24 May here.