Millennials Love Email -- Only Differently, On Their Terms

Email is written off almost daily by marketing executives for whom it is all too easy to see the rise of messaging apps and social media as the next big thing in reaching out to customers and prospects and converting them both. Free from the clutter of the inbox, messaging is clearly the way forward.

There's just one problem with this. And it's a big one. People who say that younger consumers are moving away from email miss the vital point that they are not moving away from the channel altogether. They also miss the point that because Millennials are far more likely to communicate with one another over messaging services than email, the channel is becoming the preserve of older adults and will whither on the vine. It has all been said before many times.

If email marketers take it on the chin and admit that volumes are becoming unmanageable, that is a start to understanding what is happening here. To delve a little further, all you have to do is ask a simple question. When was the last time you did anything online that didn't require an ID, usually an email address? Even those who sign in to services via Facebook will have needed to set up the account with their email as ID. So owning an email address is obligatory, and it shows no sign of going away for the foreseeable future.

The key here is that just because people have an email address it doesn't mean that the inbox is regularly checked in the hope that a bunch of brands have something interesting to say or offer. If the various studies that came out during the year showed us anything, it was that there is an increasing habit -- particularly among Millennials -- to either quit an address that has been inundated with promotional messages or to set up a new address that is given to brands, possibly both. The younger a consumer is, the more likely they are to have an address for newsletters and offers that is checked less frequently than a prime inbox, most probably reserved for work. 

So email hasn't gone anywhere. It's just being used differently. We're probably all finding this ourselves, even us middle-aged marketers, when we open an inbox and mass delete twenty or thirty emails or more at a time before. Millennials do this in a separate account. There's no need for dismay. The research that has come out this year actually suggests that email is still the favourite channel for them to be communicated with. 

The stats you need to bear in mind here are two big separate research studies from Adobe and Adestra both recently found that email is the preferred communications channel with brands for 58% and 75% of Millennials, respectively. If anyone tries to point to the growth of messaging services as meaning that Millennials have dropped email, then ask them a simple question. Are Millennials hoping to get branded offers on Snapchat or Messenger, the channel they are using instead of email to hook up with pals? Is that really where you think they want to be seeing brands?

Or maybe, just maybe, could it be our old favourite channel that Millennials are pushing to one side but still use as their preferred means of contact with brands? Isn't this action of setting up new accounts a sign that they accept these messages but want to filter them in to another inbox to view at their leisure? If so, that would account for why email is still their top channel for brand communication.

Just because Millennials are spending more time on messaging services with pals, it doesn't follow that this is where they prefer to hear from brands. It certainly doesn't follow that email can once again be written off, but I'm sure that won't stop the gurus from writing its eulogy and proclaiming some messaging or social service as its natural successor. Those in the know, however, would far rather have success in email, which drove one in five Black Friday sales, than social, which barely drove one per cent.

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