It’s time to rethink email marketing.

In 2015, an iPhone user wrote to Apple Support explaining that his email inbox was showing 4.3 million unread messages.

Now, as it happened, he didn’t really have 100 years’ worth of emails to catch up on. This was a software glitch.

But if he had 4,300 to delete — rather than 4.3 million — no one would have been surprised. Email inbox bloat is a fact of life for virtually all connected people.

It’s why the Q&A website Quora regularly hosts queries from readers about how to bulk-delete thousands of messages at a time.

Sinch’s own Mobile Customer Engagement 2020 survey reveals the true extent of the problem. We found nearly one in ten consumers has over 1,000 unread emails.

Ubiquitous email

How did it come to this? There’s no mystery. Email has been around for decades, and most internet users have access to an email account. Messages are virtually free to send.

The near-zero cost — and the near-universal addressable audience — has helped email become a primary customer engagement channel for most western brands and businesses. Yet in emerging markets, which are becoming increasingly important to global brands, things are very different and email isn’t king.

In the west, email has also become a magnet to scammers and spammers. As a result, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day.

It’s hardly surprising that he or she uses a multiplicity of methods to filter, block, and ignore them. For example, Sinch’s research found that one in three consumers maintain a special email address for spam to filter out unwanted messages.

This is terrible news for brand managers. Could your carefully crafted, AB-tested message, be buried in one of these inboxes? Most likely.

The cost and near universal coverage has seen email become one of the primary customer engagement channels among western businesses.

Of course, many companies recognize the waning power of email. They have turned instead to mobile apps. After all, what could be better than installing your brand presence on millions of phones?

Apps are not the answer

The problem is that branded app download rates are falling. And those apps that are installed are rarely ‘sticky’. Studies show that 77% of users never use an app again 72 hours after installing it.

It’s a dilemma. Consumers have never been better connected. And they do value interactions with brands that are timely, useful, and relevant. Yet they deflect emails and ignore apps.

There seems to be a disconnect. A 2019 Harris Poll study asked U.S. marketers if they were confident they were delivering “excellent customer experiences.”

Nearly half said yes. Fewer than 25% of consumers agree.

Is there any hope?

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