The future is unpredictable.
For instance, my Nike sneakers don't appear to be lacing themselves up (shame), but my iPhone is beyond anything Marty Mcfly could imagine.
So naturally when we asked Chris Tuttle to predict the future of email, we were hoping for at best a rough guess. Instead, he gave us insightful analysis of the present, and a solid prediction of the future. There's no wild fantasies of email projected onto silly transparent screens in this post (I'm looking at you, minority report) - just great advice we'd all do well to follow.
It's Time to be Smart About Email.
Email is evolving. Over the last few years we've seen a handful of new mobile email apps emerge, not to mention changes in functionality such as Gmail’s Promotions tab. At the same time, more and more players are becoming wiser the benefits of email marketing, from political and nonprofit campaigns to businesses alike.
Yet some communications pundits might have you believe that email is dead. Of course, this isn't true. In 2013 there were over 4.1 billion email accounts, with 26% growth expected by 2018.
However, others suggest the valued millennial audience isn't using email. It's true Pew Internet reported that only 6% of 12-17 year olds were using email daily in 2011, and ComScore recorded email usage by 18-24 year olds dropping by a third in the same year. But while stratospheric growth may have slowed in some areas, it certainly hasn't stopped. Millenials still have email accounts of course, and mobile email usage of 18-24 year olds increased 32% from 2011-2012.
The takeaway from these mixed reports on the state of email shouldn't be to abandon it, but instead to use it more wisely.
Mobile is Driving New Experiences and New Growth
As you're probably aware, the biggest trend in email is mobile usage - in 2014, 66% of emails were opened on mobile device. Similar figures have been seen on website visitor usage, and the continual growth of smart phone, tablet and the newly emerging wearable tech industry will likely strengthen the trend.
In order to capture the attention, time and dollars of constituents of all ages, nonprofits will need to rethink the type of communications we share, the length and quality, and the mobile accessibility of content promoted within.
Organizations sending emails that direct users to donation forms, petitions, and articles that aren't responsive shouldn't be surprised to see a decline in completed actions.
You Know Email Needs to be Responsive. But What About the Content?
One result of our ever-growing access to content is the need to keep it simple.
Email communications have always had 3 qualities that determined open rates: the recipient’s relationship to the sender ID, the subject line, and the time and day of week sent. But new qualities will be needed to stay relevant in years to come.
I believe that email content has 3 important rules that are important now, but vital in the future:
- We must create engaging content that is short and to the point, and make sure we never bury the lead - or ask
- We must use visuals that allow supporters to digest stories quicker, while engaging with them emotionally. Show, not just tell.
- We must understand our supporters’ needs, and create relevant content targeted to specific audiences.
The jury is still out on whether email will survive the larger trend towards increased use of social, text and mobile app messaging. But have no doubt that today, email is alive and well.