January 23, 2018

Is Email Dead? Is Slack Killing Email?

Over the years, I’ve had several people, companies, analysts and alike tell me that email is dead. Actually, if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard this phrase, I’d have a very large bag of pennies right now.

Yet the ironic part is, those same people continue to use email on a daily basis.

Why? Because email is still an integral part of our daily lives.

Yes, perhaps there is a desire to find an alternative, but no other single form of online communication has emerged yet to knock email off its perch. Email volumes are still growing, both in terms of the size of emails and the volume of emails. In fact, The Radicati Group forecasts that the cloud-based business email market will reach US$34.8 billion next year, which represents a 400% growth rate from 2015.

So, don’t believe the hype: email is not dead. I suspect that email will remain king indefinitely, because even if there is a better email alternative out there, it will take time to replace everything we do with email today.


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Here are four key reasons why email will remain important:

1. Your email is your identity

For the last decade, people have debated digital identity schemes, using Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), digital certificates etc.– your online persona or unique identifier as it were. The reality is that over the years, email has quietly evolved to be the key to our entire online presence – our email address has become our online identity. Everything we log in to requires a unique username, which has become our email as it’s the easiest thing to use.

Most online retailers and service providers, from your bank to the likes of Amazon, eBay and Facebook, use your email address. They rely on your email for sign up and if there are problems or they need a way to communicate with you outside of their app, again, they rely on your email address.

“To not have an email address is the digital equivalent of being homeless. Without it you can’t shop online, bank online or engage with social media,” says Dela Quist, author, speaker and recognised authority on digital and email marketing.


2. Your e-receipts are sent via email

If you order anything online, traditionally (and understandably) your proof-of-purchase receipt is emailed to you. But now, more and more, if you walk into a physical store and make an in-person purchase, retailers are also giving the option of emailing you the receipt because they know your inbox is your central repository of all things important.

On top of this, for your more expensive items, your email receipts serve as your guarantee. For example, my nice new coffee machine comes with a two year guarantee, but I need my proof of purchase (namely, my email receipt) to make any potential claim. So, I now have an email folder where I store all of my important receipts, which I can access from anywhere I get my email (e.g. my laptop, smartphone or tablet). Yes, I could print off the receipt and store it, but it’s not very environmentally friendly, and most (if not all) online customer service desks want you to email the receipt to them before they consider your claim. So keeping it in email makes perfect sense.


3. Your important data lives in email

Important, unstructured data lives in email – not neatly organised in a database and tied up with a pretty ribbon. Whether in the corporate world or in your personal world, your email probably has a host of valuable information sitting there for when you need it. Photos, links to websites, your favourite recipe from your aunt, telephone numbers and contact details of people you often need to contact (or even those that you want to contact infrequently) – it’s all in your email.

During our recent house renovation, my email system served as the one trusted place where I could keep all of our written correspondence and agreements (including plans, approvals and diagrams) with builders, architects, structural engineers, kitchen companies and more. All of these are renovation-related emails contain important documents that I need to keep and refer back to – and all of them are stored in my email.

In the workplace, it’s no different – most of us live and die by our email records – for proof of conversations, sales agreements, customer service records, performance reports, follow-ups, to-do lists and much, much more.


4. Your email is always there for you

Finally, one of the biggest advantages of email compared to most modern messaging apps is it’s asynchronicity. This means that you don’t need to be online at the same time as recipients to take part in a conversation. If you’re offline for weeks or months, the messages will still be there. If you don’t want to respond immediately – unlike real-time conversation apps – there’s no pressure to do so.


Can you live without email?

If I were to ask you how many email accounts you have and how long have you had them, you would probably say that you have more than one email account (e.g. a work one and at least one personal one) and that you’ve used those email accounts for several years.

So, do you think email is dead?

Can you live without email long-term?

Probably not.

Whilst email has evolved over time and there has been a rise in communications competitors (e.g. Facebook, Snapchat and Slack), email is not dead – nor will it be for a very long time.


Is Slack Killing Email?

Despite the catchy title of a “Slack is killing email” article, Slack’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield came out to say, “Email is not going away anytime soon… Email is the lowest common denominator. It’s the way you get communications from one person to another. There isn’t really an alternative. Sometimes people will have Facebook messenger turned on, but 99 percent of the time if you’re sending a message to a human you don’t know well you’re using email.”


Well said, Stewart.

Slack is not killing email. Email is not dead.

Long live email.


ps. Going to Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona and want to meet up to talk email? Get in touch here.



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