Next Generation Email: What To Expect
We’ve all heard the inflammatory phrase “email is dead” and I’m sure you don’t need me to refute this absurd claim, but I still see posts surmising that social media, group collaboration software and other alternatives will lead to a significant decrease in the volume of emails sent over the next couple of years. On the contrary, email is more important than ever.
The fact is that the capabilities of email have changed over the past couple of years, and the greatest change over the next couple of years will be the way we organise, receive and utilise this channel of communication.
But what will the email landscape look like in 5 or 10 years? Such a prediction is of course difficult to make, but let’s be bold and try it with the following assumptions:
• Emails will be organised automatically
Gmail’s tab-based system and their new app “Inbox” is just the beginning of a recent revolution in how (mainly private) emails are displayed. For years we were stuck with a list view of all our emails, the “full view”, and sometimes a preview box where we could see the top part of the email. Now emails get auto-organized into folders by a learning algorithm, so we no longer have to create manual rules. This way of “auto-organizing” will be common practice in a few years for every widely used email app with evolved functionality. By then, it will be even easier for us to follow email conversations and teach the system how to filter emails, most likely via hand gestures.
• All content will be analysed and rated
Important information will be extracted from emails for us so we don’t have to read through a full email to understand and act on it. “Inbox” is already doing this by showing information such as purchase, delivery and flight information directly in the email list. In a few years, our email app will know what is actually “important” to us by constantly analysing our behaviour. This knowledge will also have an impact on when we receive new email notifications and when the system decides that it will not disturb us (a mobile device will also know if we are in a meeting, watching TV or doing the laundry and adapt its notification policy accordingly).
• Most of the time, emails will be read for us
By 2025, typical methods to access our email will be in our car or in our bedroom using our “home computer system”. Not everyone will own a self-driving car by then and have both hands free, but those who do will prefer to get their emails vocalised by their favourite computer voice, which in 10 years will actually sound lovely. At home you will not always carry your mobile device even if it is light as a feather, but you will interact with your computer via voice. This interaction will work extremely well because of the content extraction previously mentioned, so only the important information will be read to us, and whatever system we will be using will come up with recommendations towards the next best action. This could include purchasing a long favoured item mentioned in a promotional email, booking a table at the Italian restaurant to meet Kate who just wrote that she will return from her business trip, and so on.
Marketers will still have to focus on relevance and timing
A lot is going to change for email recipients, but what will this actually mean for marketers? Change is coming, but as ever in marketing the core principles of relevance, timing and placement will remain integral to the success of every activity. What will become less important is the design itself, because emails will be dismantled by a user’s system and only information important to the actual recipient will be displayed/read aloud. The subject line itself might stay as it is and might even get more important than it is now.