Email insight: crowded inboxes of the future

Over half a year ago I wrote a post on crowded inboxes in preparation for the holiday season. Now that we’re running up to the summer I’d like to take a look at how our inboxes will be evolving in the future.

More email, more spread

As email is the glue to social media, notifications of all networks you’re using will keep pouring in. Those networks will also be expanding their email communications to drive more traffic, as they will have a lot more shareholders in the (near) future. LinkedIn recently had their NYSE debut and saw their stock price rise no less than 171 percent. This also means the pressure is on to perform well and consistently well, now and in the future. Social media performance is driven by visits and activity, which is no different than with many other websites and platforms. Through notifications and network update emails the likes of Facebook and Twitter make sure people don’t forget to check in as often as possible. Actually posting or tweeting something is not even necessary: just watching a few ads (and hopefully clicking too) is sufficient.

This also means that the amount and timing of receiving emails in one’s inbox will be more diverse: not just concentrated on certain times of day or day of the week. This will come on top of other groups of email (a recap from last year’s crowded inboxes overview):

- invoices and purchase confirmations
- welcome campaign messages from subscriptions
- tickets for events, movies, trips and more
- media like presentations, personal movies, pictures
- earlier noted social media notifications
- software update notifications
- (internal) event and agenda notifications from your own agenda, company or group
- spam (sorry, it’s still part of email sadly)
- ‘regular’ private email

There is some good news about the worst type of email however: in recent months spam volume has dropped sharply according to Cisco Ironport spam monitoring, and it looks like it’s staying that way too:

In a year’s time a drop of nearly 90% volume (328.6 billion to 34.1 billion). Much spam is already caught way before your inbox but it is reassuring to know that it is a continuous trend towards a lot less spam. This will be countered however by companies depending on lots of (legal) email volume to spread their message, like Groupon: my girlfriend received no less than 30 emails in just a few days from them.

Be aware that when you signup for offers or newsletters and you cannot set a frequency, the sender is allowed to send you as much email as they want: even if this might be 10 or 20 times a week. Dela Quist notes this in an interview earlier this year on Socialemailmarketing.eu by J-P De Clerck when discussing email frequency. Chances are you will be receiving email from email marketers on different days, times and frequency than you’re used to, because they are pushed to get more ROI out of email marketing and one of the first things that will pop up is to boost frequency and tune timing to maximize results.

Email anywhere

The spread mentioned in the first subtitle in this post also has to do with people getting more mobile with their email. It’s not necessary to sit at a clunky desktop anymore, or even have a notebook with WiFi these days: just a smartphone or tablet with internet connection and you have your email with you, anytime anywhere. For both office and personal use this means receiving email will become a perpetual thing instead of focussed on specific times and days. Having a bunch of emails coming in on a Saturday or Sunday instead of during the Mo-Fri week will be normal instead of unique. People will be out and about and emailing you about anything and everything.

Cost

Which brings me to one of the final points: cost. Either way you put it, communication costs money. Whether it is the platform or service you are using that costs money, or the messages by itself: someone has to make money off it. In the case of email however, the cost is so low on all types of connections that it is the preferred way of communicating in terms of volume and/or distance. Text messages still cost quite a lot compared to what providers like Vodafone and T-mobile are paying for it. In recent times people here in The Netherlands have been flocking to replacement platforms, like Blackberry Ping, Whatsapp!, regular social media platforms and more.

The providers have been researching this using a disputed technology called DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) to check upon what services people are using. It turned out that 85% of KPN clients are using Whatsapp! which eats into the profits made off text services. Vodafone is already known for blocking VoIP because this means they will make less money selling classic talk minutes to their subscribers.

What does all of this have to do with email? It is one of the things that eat up nearly half of our time on mobile devices, according to a Mashable article from a year ago. We are using it an awful lot and I hope providers will not be blocking the email services on smartphones, or charging per sent / received email: it would severely affect Net neutrality. If they’re going to charge for data usage it’s fine, but not what people are using: that is none of the providers’ business actually. For the moment (and hopefully in the future too) email will stay one of the cheapest and most convenient means of communication, both on mobile platforms and otherwise. As you sign up for more and more services, more email notifications will head to your inbox to keep you up to date: where else would they send it?

In the end I believe email frequency will rise and people shall have to learn to manage it or bring that frequency down, to prevent it losing its effectiveness and appeal. After all, logging in to read your email and seeing 179 new emails over the past 2 days is no fun, is it?

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