Marketing Content Strategy

Are 2016 Messaging Apps Finally the Death Knell for Email?


It’s Monday at 6:29 a.m. As the clock on her iPhone turns to 6:30 a.m., her alarm sounds. Groaning, she rolls over and grabs it.

Her phone in hand, she considers hitting “Tap to snooze.” Instead, she swipes to turn off the alarm. It’s time to get up. Besides, the harsh light that radiates off her phone’s home screen is enough to ensure there’s no going back to bed.

With the alarm disabled and screen glowing, all her apps have settled into their positions, red notifications waiting. Still lying in bed, one eye open and the other squinting at the screen, she figures: Why not? Might as well see what she’s missed overnight.

Some people claim to be steadfastly against this routine—we all know people who swear they don’t check their messages first thing in the morning. But a study by GfK MRI suggests otherwise, with 67 percent of US Smartphone users checking text first thing in the morning, 63 percent checking email, and 48 percent checking Facebook. All this before their first cup of coffee.

Checking Messages Is Part of Almost Everyone's Morning Routine - See more at: is lured by unread notifications from every waking moment. Whether a healthy or unhealthy habit, checking messages plays a central role in our daily lives. And marketers have been capitalizing on this tool for leads and ROI since before emails were brought into our hands and pockets. Over the years, email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective communication tools for businesses: It stood firm in the face of early messaging alternatives like AIM and MSN, benefited from a mobile shift, and has survived numerous death warrants issued by social media’s rise.

But, messaging apps are more sophisticated than ever, incorporating many of the best elements of email like targeted messaging, interactive content delivery, and direct response. If you take a look at eMarketer’s breakdown of which apps users check first each morning, Facebook falls third behind text and email, which are only separated by a 4 point difference. What if the third-runner-up could combine text and email (as well as its own service, no less) to ultimately be the revolutionary that deals email’s final blow? Will messenger apps replace this marketing workhorse once and for all?

Messaging Apps Aren’t Slacking

Slack, an office messaging app launched in August 2013, describes its product as providing professionals with a place to “connect all [their] tools…and avoid all that constant switching between apps. [Employees] set up integration so that [they] get all notifications directly within Slack.”

Sound familiar? Is that the drum of the app-that-does-everything trend beating?

You bet. Labeled as the “Email Killer” by Time in 2015 and predicted by The New York Times to be the office messaging app to “sink email,” the company was most recently valued at $3.8 billion with customers like eBay, The Wall Street Journal, AirBnB, and others employing its services. And Slack isn’t the only company with a mission to eradicate internal work email: Companies like Yammer, Asana, HipChat, and others are all in pursuit of a central app for all things office-related.

However, the key phrase in all of this is “internal work email.” Sure, maybe we’re ready to stop being double-emailed by our co-worker and instead exchange a less formal, more efficient instant message, but Slack doesn’t eliminate the need for email in external communication.

This is where it could get interesting: Could social media messaging apps fill this role? The line between work and play has blurred over the past decade as technology is constantly present and accessible, “start-up culture” has lured Millenials into agile office environments, and the freelance community continues to grow. Imagine if freelancers were invited into enterprise messaging app groups to facilitate communication and bring them closer to the team? These factors contribute to why the agility of messaging apps presents the most recent, and seemingly most grave, threat to email.

Further, this “external communication” enabled by social media messaging apps could bring brands directly to their customers, also eliminating email in this capacity. But, are consumers sincerely ready to abandon email in their personal lives altogether? To disconnect from email marketing campaigns from brands they love? In 2013, MarketingSherpa found that 72 percent of people prefer to receive promotional content through email as compared to the 17 percent who prefer social media. Since 2013, however, social media messaging apps like Facebook Messenger for Business and WeChat have taken off and provided a much more dynamic, personal, and direct avenue for brands to connect with their customers. This trend is likely to continue.

But Email Is Fighting Back

205 billion. That’s the amount of emails sent and received per day in 2015. Predicted by The Radicati Group to grow at an average annual rate of 3 percent (small, but positive) over the next four years, email isn’t going to die anytime soon.

Especially when paired with companies that are innovating in the email marketing space. In 2015, the Content Standard interviewed Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink, a contextual email marketing company, wherein he emphasized that email marketing has the potential to prevail in the face of changing messaging spaces—if it rises to the challenge: “Campaigns that were once locked in with stale, outdated content can be brought to life with real-time dynamic content.”

Sharma predicts not an end to email marketing in this way, but rather an integration and inclusion of email as part of “cross-channel messaging being delivered in seamless concert.” Newsletters, geo-targeting, and interactive media all have the potential to be used to enhance users’ experience with a medium they’re already extremely comfortable using.

Facebook Messaging App

My App—or It’s a Wrap

Until the app-that-does-everything trend is completely achieved, email will not die. And the everything-app simply won’t happen. There, I said it. Why? Because the power struggle between tech giants will simply not relent in order to allow it.

Sure, we all live harmoniously (for the most part) amid the competitive landscape Google and Apple, for example, inhabit. But this is due to the fact that their products have the ability to communicate with one another. My flip phone can call your smartphone. My iPhone can call your Droid. Hell, my Droid can even call your landline. The point is: These devices serve as a broader category of technology development and innovation that do not exclude old iterations or new competing ones.

The same can be said for email: My Yahoo account can email your Gmail account, which can email your CEO’s custom company account. There’s no discrimination or barrier to connect.

But social media messaging apps are different. My Facebook App can’t message your WeChat App, which can’t message your Kik. No matter how playful, innovative, or brand friendly messaging apps get, the competition between them and the barrier to communicate across them will keep email alive, well, and most reliable for businesses.

Does the Death Knell Toll?

Making her coffee at 6:40 a.m., she thinks to herself: Maybe it’s time I kick this habit. I won’t check new messages first thing in the morning.

It’s a lofty goal as technology engrains itself deeper into our lives. Messaging apps facilitate efficient living and on-demand communication channels, but how far are we willing to go to satiate this desire? Will social media messaging apps push our limits even further and eventually be what we check first thing in the morning? Will there be a time when email gets checked—not just after these apps—but not at all?

Social media messaging apps are undoubtedly a wake-up call for marketers as they become a major medium by which to reach many consumers. A natural adaptation of email, they give users what they have come to expect as technology has evolved: multimedia experiences, social engagement, and targeted messaging. Email providers should absolutely be motivated by messaging apps to step up their game and adapt to consumer needs. Nonetheless, until one app serves to dominate the space, email will remain an old, steadfast (and arguably unbeatable) competitor in the messaging world.

So, the death knell for email? That’s the one alarm you can hit “Tap to snooze” on.

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