Email Morale: Consumers Are Checking Their Inboxes Less, Adobe Reports

People are lightening up. They’re less likely to check their work emails on vacation or before they arrive at the office in the morning. And they’re checking their personal emails slightly less too, according to Email Usage – Working Age Knowledge Workers (US Trended Results), a study released on Wednesday by Adobe.

That doesn’t mean they’re ignoring emails. They spend 209 minutes per weekday checking work emails — over three hours.

But let’s get real. While the above total is an increase of 11 minutes over last year, it’s still down from 256 minutes in 2016. And people now spend  143 minutes per day on personal emails, down from 162 minutes in 2018 and 209 minutes in 2016.

Among all age groups, 71% feel their email checking is “just right.” But millennials clearly want to reclaim at least part of their lives.

In general, 80% of work emails get opened, and 57% of personal messages. 



Only one-fourth of millennials check work emails multiple times a day while on vacation, and one third will check personal emails several times. Yet almost half of boomers will never check emails on vacation, up from 34% last year. 

What does all this mean for marketers? For one thing, it shows that “email is not going away,” says Bridgette Darling, senior product marketing Manager, Adobe. 

But companies need to do a better job. Only 26% of brand offers are opened on the personal side, with 23% opened at work.

"Marketers have to be mindful that expectations are higher than ever," Darling says. "People are frustrated when email is not personalized." 

This is borne out by the survey findings. Consumers are annoyed by badly done brand emails. For example, 25% are aggravated when the “marketer’s data about me is wrong” at work.

In addition, 24% dislike brand emails that are too wordy or poorly written, and 21% when are not pleased when they’re “urging me to buy a product I’ve already purchased.”

At work, 38% are most annoyed when being emailed too often. And in personal email, this bothers 43%. 

The most frustrating work emails include these mistakes: 

  • Recommendations don’t match interests — 33%
  • Misspelling name — 19% 
  • Expired offer — 19% 
  • Offer not appropriate to season/location — 25%
  • Promoting things I’ve already purchased — 15%

And for personal emails: 

  • Recommendations don’t match interests — 31% 
  • Misspelling name — 19% 
  • Expired offers — 19% 
  • Offer not appropriate to season/location — 15% 
  • Promoting things I’ve purchased — 15% 

Overall, 46% of millennials think personalization is important in their personal emails, versus 43% of Gen Xers and 30% of boomers.

Darling, who is in the millennial cohort, appreciates when emails are "in the context of an action I’ve taken — follow-up emails, 'thanks for being a customer,' 'here’s another offer.' They capture my attention."

But her inbox is exploding with badly done commercial messages. For instance, she sometimes gets non-personalized emails from “brands I’ve never or minimally interacted with,” she says.

Like all of us, Darling also gets emails with her name misspelled. How can you misspell 'Darling?' "They’re just guessing," she laughs. Then there the emails that are badly designed for mobile and those that offer something she’s already bought. 

And remember Inbox Zero? "We’re seeing fewer people aiming at it," Darling says.

They study also shows that millennials check their emails in various situations more than boomers or Gen Xers. 

For instance, 23% will look at work emails when walking, versus only 7% of boomers. And 22% will review them during a meal with others, whereas only 12% of baby boomers would be so rude.

Worse, from the public safety point of view, is that 11% of millennials check emails while driving, versus 4% of Gen Xers and boomers.

Millennials and Gen Xers are both more prone than boomers to multitask — 39% will check work emails while watching TV/movies, versus 26% of boomers. 

Finally, as if you need to know this, 28% of millennials will look at work emails in the bathroom, compared to 12% of boomers.

Personal emails are more likely to be scanned — 62% of millennials will check them while watching TV. And the same percentage will check their social media. But only 28% will check their personal emails while commuting to work — the same percentage as for work emails. Millennials are much more likely than boomers to check both channels during meetings. 

Darling concludes: “Marketers have to be mindful of consumer preferences. If they’re engaging with you, use their behaviors across devices to send more personalized emails.”

Adobe surveyed 1002 white-collar consumers in the U.S. for this study.   


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