Love it or hate it, it’s hard to escape the fact that email is still the lifeblood of our day-to-day digital interactions. When we’re not surfing the net or swiping right, we’re spending an average of 5.4 hours checking those 2.7 million emails sent per second. Email has become an integral part of our digital existence and, as Slack’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield has said, “Email is not going away anytime soon… There isn’t really an alternative… 99 percent of the time if you’re sending a message to a human you don’t know well you’re using email.”
So, what would you do if your email service shut down and you lost your online identity and your entire email history (aka important receipts for bill payments, your job search history, photos of your children’s milestone days, those last digital words from your parents before they passed and more)? Would you even remember every site and service you’ve signed up to with your email address, so that you could start the laborious process of advising each organisation of your new details?
Sadly, email services shut down more than they should. This is such a shame when you consider how powerful white label email can be to protect and grow your brand. After all, email is still the only digital channel that gives you direct access to your customer’s inbox. So, to keep your brand close to your customers, it’s important to keep your brand in their inbox.
Here is our quick overview of some of these email service closures, as well as some lessons that telcos and hosting providers would be wise to learn if they want to not only keep their loyal customers, but grow their brand revenue and customer engagement.
Email Service Closures
In 2010, PocketMail, the “first ever mass-market mobile email” closed its doors without explanation or prior warning. The company “stopped providing contracted services, took its own website down, disabled customer service phone lines and basically evaded questions and enquiries from remaining customers with subscriptions yet to expire who were no longer receiving services they paid for”. Source
In 2013, open source, webmail provider Lavabit abruptly suspended their email service without prior notice. If the company name sounds familiar, it’s because Lavabit gained notoriety when the U.S. government tried to spy on the emails of Edward Snowden. Lavabit’s encryption of customer emails meant that the federal government couldn’t intercept Snowden’s emails even if they wanted to. So, rather than turn over its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) private keys, Lavabit suspended its service and only started operating again in January 2017, using the new Dark Internet Mail Environment (DIME), which is an end-to-end email encryption platform designed to be more surveillance-resistant. Source
Soon after, Silent Circle followed suit, shutting down their encrypted email service to prevent similar NSA spying. Source
Just last month, Newton, makers of “fast, beautiful, reliable” email which was “loved by critics, press and 40K subscribers”, announced that they were shutting down on 25 September. “It was a tough business decision. We explored various business models but couldn’t successfully figure out profitability and growth over the long term.”
And Newton is not alone.
In 2007, Mashable published a list of 75 email services that were not Gmail. Do you know how many of those email services have since closed down? 59 percent. That means that only two out of every five providers on the list are still operational. Which means that you’ve potentially had your online identity destroyed not just once, but multiple times, if you were unlucky enough to keep betting on the wrong provider.
Even the big guns are not immune.
In 2013, Yahoo China (run by local e-commerce titan Alibaba) closed its email service in China. Customers only had four months to switch to a new email service (such as Tencent’s QQ Mail, Netease’s 163 Mail or Alibaba’s Aliyun email service), knowing that no auto-forwarding facility would save their data and important incoming messages.
In 2017, Verizon (US) announced that they were shutting down their email servers. They were allowing their millions of customers to move their email accounts and addresses over to AOL’s servers, but only if they opted in by the deadline. Bad luck to anyone who’d taken an email-free holiday for 180 days: those accounts were closed forever.
Also last year, Vodafone NZ gave up on their 200,000 – 250,000 active email users. They apparently thought it easier to auto-forward emails elsewhere, rather than to admit they’d chosen the wrong email provider and fix the root of the problem.
“Spark [New Zealand] also experienced years of problems with its Xtra email service after outsourcing it to United States’ internet giant Yahoo in 2007. It also considered simply stopping providing email, but instead decided to take a different tack, this year migrating its 800,000 email users to a new service…” Source
And the list goes on.
Lessons for Telcos and Email Hosting Providers
These email service closures go completely against the sentiment of big names such as BT, Telstra and SoftBank, who understand the following important lessons for telcos and email hosting providers:
1. Understand the 3x value of email
At Verizon and Vodafone, some finance ‘gurus’ probably sat in a room with spreadsheets to justify their decision to ditch email in favour of a greater focus on mobile and entertainment services. Sadly, what those so-called experts probably didn’t check, was the relationship between email customers and overall brand revenue.
We know for a fact (thanks to a large APAC telco who shared their formal research results with us) that customers who use your email service can spend (on average) three times as much per customer across all services than customers who do not use your email. Once that APAC telco articulated this 3x benefit, they started to more proactively promote their email service so much that they now sign 10,000 new email customers a month.
You just can’t ignore results like that. Nor can you ignore the fact that loyal customers are up to fourteen times more likely to buy from than potential new customers. Or the fact that we have more stories (of atmail customers) who report similar 3x figures.
2. Stay close to your customers
If your customers are actively using your email service as their online identity, they are going to be actively annoyed if you cancel it. There will be backlash. Not just from your thousands-if-not-millions of customers, but from your customer service and marketing departments, who would never willingly risk customer outrage and churn. Practice what you preach and “think customer” before making a rash decision that could lose both your loyal customers and their stickiness and 3x spend across your brand.
3. Give your email service to experts
We get it: email is not core business for telcos and hosting providers, so running an email platform in-house can be a hassle. But, that doesn’t mean that your email service should be closed down. It just means that you might need to outsource it to email experts with years of proven expertise, to ensure your email system is modern, user-friendly, secure, stable, scalable and spam-free. And if you choose the wrong provider, don’t drop the ball completely. Instead, acknowledge that you need to switch vendors and find an experienced email services provider who can help turn your experience around asap.
So, before you close your email service…
- Do (all of) your figures;
- Talk to your customers (while you still can); and
- Talk to email experts who can help you use email to increase your all-important customer engagement and brand revenue.
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