Do You Love Your Email? A Study From Adestra

Consumers like email, and they prefer to get marketing messages through the channel. But don’t take that fondness for granted.

Most people dislike being asked for their email address before they can enter a Web site, and most won’t share marketing messages, according to Adestra’s 2017 Consumer Digital Usage and Behavior Study. And there are several other findings that should concern email marketers.

Adestra conducted 1,245 interviews of people in three age groups: 14-18 (teens); 18-34 (Millennials) and 56-67 (Baby Boomers).

Why do a survey, when a similar one was done last year?

“We use email address to identify you across the digital landscape, and it’s become more important than your Social Security number,” said Ryan Phelan,VP of marketing insights for Adestra, in an interview. “It’s critical to how you live, and it paints a picture of who you are.”

Phelan added that “marketers need to understand the respect they have to give the email address and mobile number, and what the consumer expects them to do with them.”   

Here, in short form, are this year’s major findings:

  • Most people have 3.2 email accounts, including separate ones for “junk mail,” or email they plan to not open.
  • Gmail is the most popular service for all age groups, particularly teens.
  • Consumers are increasingly likely to use the unsubcribe button as opposed to deleting messages or designating them as spam.
  • Teens are less concerned about privacy that their Boomer parents or grandparents.
  • Boomers are more prone than teens to reading the fine print when installing free apps.
  • As with last year’s survey, this one shows that teens like email.
  • As if you need to know this, over a fifth of the respondents read emails in the bathroom.

And the fact that some of this year’s stats mirror last years, particularly those concerning teens? “That shows they’re consistent, not a one-shot thing in the wind,” Phelan said 

Now let’s examine the findings in more detail.

Smartphone Use

Almost everyone has a smartphone and half have tablets. But people view them in different ways. “Baby Boomers see it as a phone they carry around with them,” Adestra writes. “Teens see the phone as their gateway to the wider world.”

This may explain the split in how people use their smartphones. Boomers use them most for phone calls. Teens use them most to engage with social media. Boomers are most likely to use them for texting, by not by much — on a percentage basis, all three groups are in the mid 20s.

And email? Only 13.8% of the Boomers use their smartphones most for personal emails, vs. only 2.9% of the teens. But don’t be put off by these low numbers. Overall, 93.6% use their phones to call people, and 90.2% to send and receive texts. Finally, 85% use them to browse the Internet and 83.8% use them to send personal emails.

How do people want to get communications from business? Email is the overwhelming choice of all age groups — 78.8% for Boomers, 77.8% for Millennnials and 60.7% for teens. Second is email and SMS, followed by App (push messages and direct mail (favored most by Baby Boomers).


One out of four values privacy over convenience. Teens are less concerned about it, and Boomers more so. However, consumers are willing to share certainly personal information. Here’s what they re comfortable giving you, on a scale of 1 to 7:

  • Gender — 5.6
  • Age — 5.0
  • Email address — 4.9
  • Name — 4.7
  • Birthday — 4.4
  • Phone number — 3.4
  • Income — 3.2
  • Physical address — 3.0

The study found that people have 3.2 email addresses compared to last year, when 39% had two addresses and 20% had three.

In addition, 46.7% have addresses “used exclusively for email you rarely intend to open.” That presumably includes marketing emails.

Teens are most likely to have these addresses, followed by Boomers. The takeaway? That “most marketers with younger audiences will need secondary email addresses to be a reality to contend with,” Adestra writes. 

The study also found that certain things concern or annoy consumers.. One is sites that demand an email address before they let you enter. “This year, more than 60% of site visitors will either leave or lie about their email with either an out-of-date or phony address,” Adestra continues.

That means it’s a bad business practice. “The popover aims for quantity of email addresses, not quality,” Adestra observes. “It tells customers "your email address isn't that valuable."

And a growing number will hit the unsubscribe button when they don’t like your emails — 73% compared with 65% in 2016. But that’s not bad news — it means that “ your customers care enough to say "’No, thanks,’” instead of deleting it or clicking the spam button, Adestra writes.

Are consumers worried about hacking? Not overly so. "Our question found 45% of consumers agree they stand a good chance of having their data stolen by hacker," Adestra says. "That's a sizable section of the population. But what is more surprising is that more than half of respondents either had no opinion or weren't too worried about the prospect." 

Finally, with all that said, consumers are less likely to share marketing content with their friends through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. And overall, there was an 12% decline — to 14%.

Daily Email Habits

Most people check their emails first thing in the morning. Teens do it before anything, Boomers tend to wait until they’ve had coffee but before breakfast. Almost everyone has checked in by the time they get to work.

  • Here are the leading occasions as the day goes on:
  • Randomly throughout the day — 82.9%
  • When I am bored — 49.7%
  • At my desk — 37.%
  • In bed — 35.4%
  • When I am at lunch — 29%
  • When I am in the bathroom — 22%

Gmail is the most popular email service, claiming an 84% of the teens (“because they see Google-branded products as the cool thing,” Adestra writes). In contest, only 43% of the Boomers are using Gmail this year, but that’s higher than the 28% reported in 2016, and Gmail is the top choice of this group.

In general, Outlook is a very distant second, and Yahoo an even more remote third. Verizon, which is now in the news for dropping 4.5 million email accounts, doesn’t even make the list. And its subsidiary, AOL pulls in the low single-digits among all age groups.

Meanwhile, Adestra that email is popular with teens, just as it was last year. There's been no change. "Study after study found similar results, all blowing up the conventional wisdom that teens don't use email," the company writes. "Our study gave that tired narrative a quick death. This year, we're happy to report that the statistics for teens are comparable. 

Text Messages

Adestra also asked consumers abou text messaging. Half will sign up for a company’s messages to receive coupons, and a lesser perentage for notification of events. Boomers—a fifth of them—will sign on to reeive information about a company. How many many messages do they want to receive? Of those polled, 82.4% prefer one to two texts per week. 

We’ll close with one thought. This is the way a study should be done. And we know — we have delved through thousands of them. The methodology is clear — and upfront — and it’s well-written and organized. Even better, there are no sales pitches. We urge you to delve into it more deeply. 

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