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Hal Licino

The State of Email on Its 50th Anniversary in 2015

Jun 13 2011, 07:45 PM by

In 1965, The White House was occupied by LBJ and Lady Bird, a gallon of gasoline was around a quarter(!) and TV viewers were watching brand new shows such as Bewitched, The Munsters and Jeopardy. Users of SDC's Q32 and MIT's CTSS were also exchanging email.

Wait up… email? In 1965? Say whaaat?
1965 Email = 2015 Email
Way back in the age of NASA Gemini missions and The Beatles’ Help! email was not only being used by a large group of academics but it was essentially the same paradigm as today. The interfaces and extent of connectivity might have changed somewhat and some extra bells and whistles (such as multimedia attachments) added, but the essence of typing a message on a keyboard at Point A and having it available nearly instantaneously to a reader at Point B is the same as the time when a new 1965 Plymouth Barracuda still had that aquarium fastback rear window.

Given that email will be celebrating its first half century mark in just four years, what will email look like on its golden anniversary? With the proliferation of mobile web enabled devices and the fragmentation of audiences the first guess might be that it will be wildly different and almost unrecognizable. However, that guess is most likely wrong. Email in 2015 will still be identifiable as email and although four additional years of technological progress will certainly introduce some new minor features and characteristics, the overall market will still be extraordinarily similar to today’s. So let’s fire up the flux capacitor and take a peek at the state of email marketing in the year 2015:
Most People Still Use PCs in 2015
Mobile devices were supposed to supplant personal computers… but they didn’t. Nothing has yet been designed that can supersede the traditional “sit up straight at your desk and tap on a keyboard” archetype. After all, the QWERTY keyboard has survived essentially untouched since 1873 and no matter how advanced the tablet, those flat screen keyboards don’t provide the proper tactile feedback for fast touchtyping. On smart phones, entering text with your thumbs is great for Tweets but just try to write a 200 page white paper that way and you’ll end up with dislocated digits. Voice recognition is still just as clunky as it has been for two decades, therefore in 2015 most people still have conventional personal computers where they perform the majority of their tasks.
2015 Soccer Moms Still Don’t Swish & Pinch
Although by 2015 smart phones have become nearly ubiquitous, primarily due to their instant payment facilitations, tablet market penetration has remained fairly stagnant. The vast majority of Americans still can’t justify lugging around a relatively fragile device the size of a high school yearbook everywhere they go, especially since there is still no “killer app” that justifies it. Soccer moms are still driving the kids around to the games, to the supermarket and to school without the necessity for swishing and pinching a screen. And that stubborn percentage of nearly a third of the entire American population that resisted any form of web connectivity in 2011 is still just as strong now in 2015.
2015 Social Networking Suffers from Familiarity Breeding Contempt
With the integration of Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks into a more open and less hermetic AOL-style model, participation has actually dropped. Not so much due to the liberalization, but because social networking simply takes up too much time for its diminishing returns. As interpersonal relationships moved to the online arena they weakened rather than strengthened. Familiarity breeds contempt and after spending endless hours reading about the bunion exploits of grandmas in other states, people started to realize why they moved away in the first place: to have a life!

In 2015 email marketing remains the Mark Twain of online platforms where the reports of its death are always exaggerated. Indeed, it’s more effective and powerful than ever before. There is still no remotely comparable promotional medium that provides the reach, impact, relevance and engagement of an email campaign, even in the age of the iPad 5 and Windows 9.

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