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The email revolution: why email is still king

It seems to be the story of our lives that just as you learn how to use one form of technology, it changes. In the last ten years, I’ve texted, used Instant Messenger, Skype, FaceTime, Slack® and countless other forms of electronic communication. But the one consistent tool that I’ve always relied on has been email. Many herald these new tools as marking the end of email or at least relegating it to “legacy” technology. 

But that’s simply not the case. Most of us have at least dabbled with applications such as of WhatsApp or Slack—we might even use these tools extensively—but usage of email continues to rise. 

Radicati estimates that by 2019, email users will exceed 2.9 billion worldwide, which is up 10 per cent from 2015.

  • It’s also storage: With almost limitless capacity, email serves as an excellent tool for keeping track of communications distributed, deals made, and conversation thread developments. Can’t remember an important detail? Use the “search bar”. It also helps with regulatory compliance due to the way it manages, stores and archives email messages. 
  • It’s a risk management tool: Many businesses are required to keep former employees’ inboxes active for as long as seven years after they leave. Equally, archiving emails can save the costs, administration and potential brand of high staff turnover. 
  • It’s digital marketing 101: SEO, banner ads and social media advertising haven’t displaced the fact that email remains a primary distribution channel for marketing or promotions with prospects, customers and vendors. 
  • It’s a planning tool: You can search email, use it as a workflow tracker and prioritize/filter inbound communications to create your own processes. Harvard Business Review tells us that only eight percent of the messages that make it to the inbox are ‘junk’, thanks to the sophistication of these filters. 
  • It’s open to all: No one company owns email, and anyone can open an email account. They’re easy to use and can be accessed on all devices. They’re also compatible with all sorts of files. By having open standards, such as STMP, it means you’re not locked in to one provider.   

But why is email still successful?  

Email is thriving because it continually adapts to what we need. The 40-year-old email ecosystem remains an integral part of how we communicate. And it’s not just individual and corporate use that’s important to its on-going success. It also forms an important part of new tools that are being developed. When you look at big enterprise software that has built-in communications tools, many also have an Outlook plugin – Salesforce, for example. 

Equally, fundamental functions such as sign-up and password resets all rely on having an email address! Many of the new tools on the market can significantly reduce the volume of emails that many people receive. But when the communications traffic is high – for example, in larger enterprises – high numbers of notifications simply replace high numbers of email. There is still a problem of high volume, either way. 

So, if anyone tells you email is not dying, they won’t be the first or the last to make such a claim. It simply isn’t true—it remains very much alive.

Jonathan Levine, CTO at Intermedia

Jonathan Levine, CTO at Intermedia, has over 25 years of corporate IT leadership experience. He holds five patents on his innovations in online marketing and database technology.