I don’t check my personal email every day. I probably don’t even check it every other day. The lack of attention I give to my email accounts, outside of work, helped me to realize that email is dying a slow and painful death. As email has begun its decline into obscurity, the question has become; what’s going to replace it?
In a professional setting, email still has a pretty strong foothold, but other applications and tools have definitely started to spring up. Top among these new tools is Slack, and while it hasn’t completely replaced email, it is definitely making strides to make email obsolete. In the personal email arena, the decay in email usage is much more profound. Most of my generation has a personal email account, but we rely more on text messaging to communicate. However, I was surprised to hear that many of the kids I volunteer with (14-18 year olds) don’t bother with email at all and most don’t even have a personal email account. Instead, the kids prefer to communicate via text message, but also through social media direct messaging tools.
Why is Slack slowly replacing email in the professional world? Taking a quick look at the problems with email and the efficiencies with Slack, it’s clear to see why so many are flocking to the three year old software. According to Radicati Group, the average office worker sends or receives approximately 122 emails every day. That’s about one email every four minutes. At some point email users become numb to email which can effect workplace efficiency and effectiveness. Slack works much like social media or even text message. Companies can set up channels on Slack for all of their departments; one channel can be created for the marketing department, one for procurement, one for finance, etc. If a conversation pertains to a certain worker, they can be tagged in the message just like on Facebook. Slack allows for transparency in the workplace. If a worker isn’t copied on certain email conversations, they are often left out of the loop on discussions and may not understand why certain decisions were made, which can lead to resentment and confusion. With Slack, conversations are open to all members of the particular channel. This allows for quick and efficient communication and keeps everyone in the loop. What makes Slack unique and a huge time saver over email is the ability to create a bot and add it to specific channels. Slack bots can be programmed to respond to simple questions like company financials, meeting updates, and lunch menus, saving time and money in the process.
While Slack seems like the perfect tool to replace email, there are some issues that are preventing it from taking its rightful place as the king of office communications. For all of the effort Slack has put into making its platform the platform of choice among businesses worldwide, the interaction on Slack resembles text messaging or social media conversations. For this reason many companies have dubbed it too unprofessional in its user interface to be implemented at their offices. In addition, because Slack has a very text message feel, workers often find themselves using the platform to send gifs and videos, and to conduct unprofessional conversations. Lastly, Slack is marketed to millennial workers, so it’s hard to get workers from older generations to fully adopt the platform. Even when full adoption takes place, it can be hard for non-millennial workers to understand the use and benefits that Slack provides.
Personal email is shifting at a much faster rate than professional email usage. According to a study by App Annie, people aged 13-24 are spending 3.5x more time in messaging apps than those over 45 years old. Not only is this age group more likely to spend time in messaging apps, but they are less likely than other age groups to spend time on mobile web browsers or email. As these younger users become adults, it will become increasingly important to shift marketing strategies from email to messaging apps. Facebook has noticed this trend and has been working and continues to work to integrate B2C and ecommerce tools into its Messenger and WhatsApp products.
Is email dead? The answer to this questions is clearly no. While email isn’t dead, its usage is definitely changing. It will be interesting to see if and how email reinvents itself in the coming years to capture the younger generation and compete with Slack and other professional email alternatives.