Email is Old, But Far from Dead

There are two types of people in the world. The ones that are trying to kill email and the ones that are trying to save email. With social networks, came screaming headlines that email will be soon dead. Well, nothing happened. The fact is, email is growing.

email_business.jpgWe don’t know if Atos, the company whose chief executive officer Thierry Breton famously said that he will ban email  and replace it with social media tools and calls within 18 months, has been able to live up to the challenge. But there’s enough evidence that email has been way too good for productivity to die.

Dave Girouard, the founder and CEO of Upstart wrote some great stuff in defense of e-mail recently.

I’m bemused by the CEOs who declare their companies are giving up email. Why? So they can go back to those oh-so-productive in-person meetings and phone calls? We tried that. It was called the ’80s., he writes.

In fact the case against e-mail isn’t all that strong. “It is not even a case,” says Niraj Ranjan Rout, Founder of Grexit- an e-mail collaboration tool. Rout is one of the people belonging to the camp which is saving email.

So what is this case against e-mail?

E-mail overload is one. People get tonnes of e-mail and aren’t usually able to finish all of it. The second is that it gets confusing after a while. In enterprises with large teams, emails go all over the place and lot of it gets buried so deep that it never sees the light of the day again. Sounds like a pretty tight case doesn’t it?

It isn’t, says Rout, according to whom overload is not an email problem.

“If you move to newer collaboration tools like Chatter, its going to happen there as well,” he said. Its then up to us to deal with the lack of signalling in e-mail to deal with the burial problem. For that, there are tools like Grexit and Paceable.

While Grexit helps users collaborate on email by letting them easily share email labels and folders and manage tasks, Paceable can be used to view real time activity of your team members and collaborate better.

No offense to task management systems like or Asana, they work fine for a lot of people including us. But what happens when you have to talk to someone on the outside? We aren’t left with many choices by to fall back on good old email.

Where is the growth?

Lets look at some data. The total number of worldwide e-mail accounts will grow at an average rate of 6% per year for the next four years to touch 4.3 billion accounts by end of 2016, according to a study by the Radicati Group (pdf). While free consumer email accounts make up for 75 % of all mailboxes, corporate e-mail is expected to rise faster than consumer accounts.

The study also points out that most of the email comes from corporate world. In 2012, 89 billion business emails were sent and received every day and this is expected to grow at 13 % annually for the next 4 years to reach 143 billion by end of 2016. Mobile email is also expected to go up.

More and More emails

Heard of Sendgrid? The e-mail delivery and management service startup which was founded in 2009 sends over 2.6 billion e-mails every month on behalf of its clients like Foursquare, Path and Spotify. Sendgrid’s customers are mostly apps and services that have to talk to customers regularly. These automated e-mails are called transactional e-mails and its on the rise.

Twitter for instance, sends out millions of emails to its users, reminding them to visit the site or suggesting new people to follow on Twitter. Sendgrid increased its customer base by 3x in 2011 and raised $21 million from Bessemer Venture Partners and others.
Amazon has also launched a competing product called the simple email service for similar applications. All that money isn’t being spent on something thats going to die.

What is really ending? Maybe personal e-mails are coming to an end, like letter writing. Yes Social Networks are killing it. “I don’t remember the last time I wrote a personal e-mail,” says Rout.

For marketers, email is an absolute must. Email conversion rate outperforms other web business to business traffic sources. A study by Optify says that email conversion rates are 81 % higher than the average and 42 % higher than referrals, the next highest which has a conversion rate of 2.04 %.

At NextBigWhat, we use a few task management tools. But email is still a big part of how we talk to the outside world. Its more like the plumbing which connects all the tools we use. Our email newsletter is doing better than ever. Our newsletter subscriber base has grown by more than 4X in the last few months and over 60 % of the people actually open it read it almost everyday!

How do you deal with too much email?

Girouard has some suggestions. Use a modern email service. Turn off social network notifications. Unsubscribe from mailing lists you don’t really need. Try using nifty little Unrollme to end your email subscription overload. Use filters.

Sign Up for nextbigwhat newsletter

Delivered everyday 8 AM. Most comprehensive coverage of the tech ecosystem.

Download, the short news app for busy professionals