Email is, besides all its flaws, still the cornerstone of the Internet. If you look at new successful services that are gaining traction, many of them are companies that use email in a smart, new way. The past couple of years, we’ve seen this from daily deals startups, like Groupon, GiltCity and Living Social. These companies take advantage of email’s ubiquity and deliver deals in your inbox. While you can view daily deals on an app (like ScoutMob or Tenka) or a browser, email is still the easiest, most inclusive and most memorable way to get discounts and save money. You get it once a day – it’s quick, digestible and habitual.
Even Twitter and Facebook — communication channels in their own right – are heavy users of emails. Think about the email notifications you get when you have new followers, messages or events.
1. It’s where we spend most of our lives
The inbox is where people spend most of their Internet life. 107 trillion emails were sent on the Internet in 2010, the average number of email messages a day was 294 billion. It is one of the most effective places to prompt users to do something. While we may have profiles on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and now Google+, it’s still people’s default communication platform for private and work use. In short, it’s where your eyeballs are most of the day. Especially now that mobile email is filling every small micro-boredom moment in the taxi, waiting by the bar and in the bathroom :)
2. It’s still our core identity online.
An individual message commands more time and individual attention than most social media platforms. Whtespace capitalizes on this fact by providing a way for people to share ideas and inspiration with more thoughtful curation. Although Facebook and Linkedin are getting very close, email is still our default form of identity on the web – particularly for real friends and professional circles. Personal email addresses are like our phone numbers only the people we care about actually know it. Furthermore, most websites anchor their interaction with you through email – it’s the way they keep you informed on changes, help if you’ve forgotten your password, etc. Because of its ubiquity, it helps consolidate and streamline communications into one channel.
3. All emails are born equal and play with human curiosity.
Our brains are amazing when it comes to filtering out information that is not relevant. Most eye-tracking heat maps of users looking at a normal web page will tell a clear story about users’ ability to ignore not just ads, but whole areas where ads normally appear. So far, emails are equal (besides auto filters and smart inboxes). While the subject line, sender and first line will give you some clue as to the content of an email, you won’t know if the email from your client is a message giving positive feedback on your last presentation or an angry diatribe until you actually open the email. It’s a big game of emotional email lottery. You never know what will appear. This can trigger curiosity and a higher sense of alert.
So while other forms of communication will take more of your attention, email will be around for a while.
(blog post co-written with Melissa Andrada)