Email has been a daily part of our lives for about 25 years. That’s a quarter of a century of eagerly checking our inbox for updates from the people and organisations that matter to us. There’s just one problem. For many people inbox eagerness has turned into exhaustion. Keeping up with all those business emails can be a chore.

In many ways, email has become a victim of its own success. Rather than being a mere tool to send greetings to known recipients, email has proved so flexible that it’s now a mass marketing tool, a means of sending push notifications, and an integral cog in the e-commerce machine.

This familiarity can breed contempt. Consequently, with more recent forms of communication like instant messaging on the rise, experts are beginning to speculate whether the golden age of email is behind us.

The pros and cons of business email

Emails are ubiquitous for good reason. They’re easy to write, easy to send, easy to access, and perhaps most importantly of all they’re incredibly cheap. Whilst the price of a first class stamp has soared to 76 pence, emails come free with most business hosting packages.

Emails are also highly customisable thanks to HTML, which enables designers to customise their entire appearance. What’s more, it’s easy to embed images, videos, buttons, and calls-to-action. The days when emails were largely pure text communications are long gone.

However, as mentioned above, emails are now so prevalent that they’re often perceived as a pest. Staying on top of your inbox can be a challenge. In fact, it can take out significant chunks of your day to sift through the junk and various promotions. And taking just a few days off work can lead to your inbox being overrun.

The sheer volume of business emails has also somewhat devalued them as a communication tool. They can feel too common and impersonal. Consequently, marketers providing high-value products and services often prefer to send high-end communications via traditional mail. It’s much harder to ignore a glossy brochure accompanied by a personalised hand-signed letter.

The new communication tools

The main threat to business email, however, is the aforementioned new web-based communication and collaboration software packages. Platforms like Slack, Asana, and Trello, not to mention applications like WhatsApp, make it so much easier to stay in touch with co-workers. These packages keep instant messaging channels open 24/7 and make on-going conversations simpler by comparison.

Although it could be argued that these services actually help email by taking the pressure off inboxes, instant messaging has become the go-to form of communication within organisations during the pandemic. This is because they knit together disparate teams working remotely in different locations. What’s more, they’re easier to operation on mobile devices than business emails.

The rise of video conferencing programmes like Zoom has also challenged email. Indeed, many of the aforementioned business collaboration platforms include both video and voice calls. Why email a colleague when you can talk face to face within a few clicks? It’s much easier to drop someone a direct message via Facebook or Twitter too.

Good old email

Despite these new technologies, however, business email will be with us in the short and medium term at least. For starters, the aforementioned collaboration platforms all specialise in internal messaging. For external communications, where employers need to contact clients and suppliers, email still reigns supreme.

Furthermore, emails still provide reliable written records. If you’re distributing confirmations, asking people to sign up for newsletters, sending reminders, or issuing invoices then emails are still worth their weight in gold. A well-written email can also help to build relationships.

Business emails also remain an important marketing tool. They’re excellent for connecting with prospects, driving sales, and converting leads into customers. The importance of a good emailing list cannot be overstated when it comes to engaging with customers and inspiring loyalty. Click rates from emails far exceed the results seen with social media marketing campaigns too.

Pushing the envelope

So will email be with us in another 25 years? We wouldn’t bet against it. The number of emails sent worldwide is increasing by 4% every year. Experts believe this figure will reach a staggering 320 billion daily emails per day by the end of 2021. What’s more, email marketing will only increase in sophistication as segmentation improves and dynamic content becomes more innovative.

However, this doesn’t mean that business email won’t change. It will need to evolve like every other technology. For example, if there’s one thing that collaboration software has taught us, it’s that messages are becoming increasingly succinct. Business email may need to become quicker to use, and more mobile-friendly, to rival the new platforms and make shorter messaging easier.

Perhaps the most likely outcome, therefore, is that email will ultimately converge with the new platforms. After all, they all seek to achieve exactly the same end: to help people communicate effectively in an instant with minimum effort. This, in turn, helps businesses to save time and become more efficient.

One can only imagine what the future might hold. In the meantime, therefore, it’s prudent to ensure that your business has the both the bandwidth and the scalability to embrace new technical innovations when they arrive. That’s where we can help.