December 4, 2015

Is email really a generation gap?

Last month, Gizmodo surveyed 3,670 people to determine how they communicate. The responses to this survey prompted Gizmodo to publish an article that simultaneously asks if, and states that, email is the new generation gap.

But is it?

The survey asked three questions: the respondent’s age, how they communicate at work (or school) and how they communicate with friends. In summary, the survey results indicated:

  • Respondents between the ages of 41 and 70 state they use email more often than they communicate in person with their co-workers.  In contrast, respondents between the ages of 21 and 40 stated that they use face-to-face meetings more than they use email to communicate at work.
  • Instant Messaging and Collaboration technology is not prevalent – 84% of respondents use email to communicate at work versus 8% who use Slack.
  • Respondents between the ages of 41 and 70 use email to communicate with friends (74%) almost as much as they use SMS (75%). However, for those between the ages of 21 and 40, SMS and Facebook were the more popular communication tools.

In conclusion (and not including face-to-face interaction), email dominates workplace communication and SMS and IM are the social tools of choice.

It’s important to note that Gizmodo clearly state that this was not a scientific study and the respondent pool was drawn from a captive audience – Gizmodo readers.

In the article’s comments, Gizmodo readers astutely noted that the survey responses don’t indicate that there is a specific technological divide between age groups – instead, the different ways people communicate with each other are dependent upon factors such as the industries they work in, the stage of life they are at and the tools that fit their needs.  For example, parents of a newborn baby usually don’t have the flexibility to meet with friends in person. Additionally, those who are working in retail, hospitality or construction are typically not as dependent on email to perform their daily duties.

The idea that “email is dead” is currently a “trendy” opinion for some technologists. In reality, the opposite is true. While email functionality and its underlying infrastructure and technologies have remained largely unchanged for the past two decades, email has evolved to be an individual’s primary identifier:

  • You cannot sign up to use messaging services or social networks without an email address.
  • Financial Institutions and Service Providers now email you your transaction histories, receipts, invoices and rely on email to communicate important information to you.
  • We are more transient in today’s competitive market, frequently changing phone and internet service providers, electricity companies, health clubs and finance providers – chasing lower interest rates and better deals. We relocate for work and we experiment with social networks and OTT apps – enabling and disabling our “online presence” on a whim.

Throughout all of this, our email address remains the consistent, reliable base from which we operate.

Email isn’t a commodity… and email isn’t dead, but it is changing. As email specialists, we are perfectly positioned to advise you on market changes and upcoming opportunities. Talk to us about how you can realize more value from email within your organisation.

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