Love In The Inbox: Americans Are Tied To Email, Study Finds

Don’t believe reports that tell you email is a dying medium. 

On the contrary -- most Americans check their emails several times a day, and 78% expect to use it as much or more than they now do in five years, according to Inbox Report 2018, a study by Fluent, a performance marketing company.

That’s especially true of Millennials, who are less likely than their elders to object to email marketing messages: Some even want more promotional emails.

“Our biggest takeaway that Americans are addicted to email,” says Kelly Patterson, head of marketing at Fluent. “There’s so much talk about social media -- people should not be discounting email as a channel to reach consumers. The future is bright.”

But don’t get too sanguine. Of 2,667 U.S. consumers surveyed, almost a fifth check their email less than once a day. And the findings show that people don’t always find promotional messages to be relevant.



In most respects, the results are similar to those in Fluent’s 2016 study. But there is additional input in retail.

“The one thing we zeroed in on is driving engagement or purchases with email,” Patterson says. She notes that "26% went to a website and 26% purchased so the fact that over half responded that they took some kind of action after receiving an email is powerful."  

The study shows that 19% check emails as they arrive, thanks to real-time notifications. That figure rises to 26% among Millennials, but falls to 16% for people aged 35 and older.

In addition, 24% check their email several times a day. The bad news here is that 19% check less than once a day.

This use among Millennials is partly attributable to the fact that they were born in the digital age. 

“My phone is the first thing I look up at in the morning, and the last thing at night,” Patterson says. “It’s the most personal of devices, and you’re always connected to email.  The smartphone has put the internet into consumers’ pocket.”  

Patterson also attributes the email boom to the invention of Gmail, with its unlimited storage and its search function. 

“Gmail has changed the game and differentiated itself from other providers in the market,” she says.

Contrary to the myth that most people have more than one address, 63% have only one, only 23% have two, and 8% have four or more. This is similar to last year’s finding, although the question was worded in a slightly different way.

But it’s good for marketers — there is less to worry about if people don’t have a separate address for promotional emails, the study says. 

And device use continues to shift toward mobile. Of those surveyed, 75% check their personal emails most on smartphones, while among Millennials it is 81%. Overall, 29% check on laptops or desktops. And it drops to 26% or Millennials.

Of these, half have purchased on a smartphone through a mobile website, with 57% of Millennials doing so. In addition, 27% have purchased in a retail store, and 24% via a mobile app. But 30% of the Millennials have done this. 

How do people check their emails? For 63% of the Millennials, it’s on a smartphone, versus 50% of the 35-year-olds. Men are more likely to use smartphones for email than women.

People are responsive to marketing emails, with 26% saying they have visited a brand’s store of website after receiving one. This is equal across all age groups, but women are more likely than men to exhibit this behavior. In addition, 26% of the respondents have purchased after receiving an email.  

Here’s something to chew on: a mere 5% find marketing emails always useful, and 10% say they are frequently useful. The numbers are at least a few percentage points higher for Millennials.

In contrast, 29% of the respondents rarely find emails useful, and the percentage rises to among 31% in the 35-plus range.

In addition, 50% say they receive way too  many marketing emails. However, only 37% of the Millennials feel this way. And 22% feel they get a few too many emails — across the board.

Only 12% say it’s the right amount. But 19% of the Millennials agree. And 22% of the younger folk say they get too few marketing emails, compared to 15% of the total sample 

As for what they want to receive, here’s the top five for all age categories:

  1. Deals/promotions
  2. Shipment updates
  3. Account alerts
  4. News alerts
  5. Customer services

Here’s the kinds of lists to which they have opted in: 

  • Retail/consumer products — 27%
  • Daily deals — 27%
  • Subscription services (Netflix, Dollar Save Club, etc.) — 19 
  • Health and wellness — 18%
  • Media & entertainment — 16%
  •  Travel—15%
  • Banking/financial services—14%
  • Processional organizations—10%
  • Political and nonprofit groups—8%
  • Other—14%

Finally, there is some input on workplace usage. Of the Millennials, 63% access their work email remotely on a smartphone, compared with 50% of the 35-plus set. And men are more likely to do this.

Overall, 27% check work emails on a laptop and 17% on a desktop at home. But 32% say they do not access my work email outside of work.

Patterson notes that some professions — like factory workers — do not need workplace email. 

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