What if email isn’t dead?

Mark Twain is famous for saying “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  The same could be said for email marketing, and here is why…

It’s a refrain you might have heard a lot of recently (actually, going back at least to 2009): “Email is dead”.  After all, the evidence is all around us:

  • Today’s youth are texting instead of emailing.
  • People message each other on FaceBook
  • Students want to tweet their professors.
  • People “chat” through Skype and iMessage and other chat tools.

Obviously, email is in decline, right?

But wait.  Email marketing is flowing faster than ever.  How can this be?

Email marketing is flowing faster than ever.

Perhaps the “evidence” above is misplaced.  Could we be comparing apples to pineapples?  Texting is a form a chatting – a two-way conversation where several messages go back and forth, often in less than a minute.  FaceBook and Twitter messages are also “real time” messages, that can also be quite rapid-fire.  Similarly, Skype and iMessage are instantaneous.

While messages in some of these formats can be saved for the long term, they are all meant to be instantaneous.  They tend to share the following characteristics:

  • Instantaneous communication.
  • Optimal for short messages.
  • Not ideal where attachments are needed.
  • Not ideal for storing over the long term or for keeping track.

In short, these tools are ideal for conversations, not for correspondence.  Email, however, is ideal for correspondence, not conversations.  Yes, some conversations take place by email, but the lag between one person posting and the other person downloading makes it less than ideal.  However, email can easily be filed and tracked.  It is ideal for long messages and for attachments.

If email has replaced a lot of paper correspondence of days gone by, texting has replaced phone calls, not email.  The headlines should not read “Email is dead”.  They should read “phone calls are dead”.  This could herald in the prospect that we might someday use our phones for every purpose except as phones.

As Brett Moneta reports in Digital Pivot:

“Everything has its purpose and place. If you’re sending a timely social message, you’ll send it as a text. Need to be clear? You’ll probably call. Social messages that don’t need an immediate reply go as social media. And finally, when you need to send an official message, it goes as email. The younger generation isn’t doing heavy business yet. That’s why they prefer texting.”

Social media certainly is not replacing email.  If anything, more social media usage means more email usage.  I know when somebody has commented on one of my G+ posts or wants to message me on FaceBook or DMs me on Twitter because I receive an email telling me so.  If there is a login issue, I need an email address to send a reset-password URL to.

Email as a marketing tool

As marketers, one lingering question might still remain. If people are communicating more by texting and messaging, are they still reachable by email?  Does the younger generation care about correspondence at all?

Numbers don’t lie.  Email marketing continues to grow. A 2013 study by Custora reveals that email marketing is the fastest growing customer acquisition channel, quadrupling from 0.88% of customers acquired in 2009 to 6.84% in 2013.

Email marketing is becoming more sophisticated, more targeted.

As email marketing continues to grow, it also remains an effective way to deliver messages. According to a 2013 GetResponse study, the ROI on email marketing is $28 for each $1 spent.  In the growing mobile marketing segment, 41% of emails are open on mobile devices.  Simon Grabowski, CEO of GetResponse email marketing services, says:

“Email marketing is becoming more sophisticated, more targeted.  We see continued growth as more and more businesses are realizing that a website is not enough to be ‘online’, that they also need some means of communicating with customers.  Email is usually the best way to do that.”

There is some compelling evidence that people still want email, and especially that once they start their own households it will become increasingly important to them. Even in a “paperless” society, documentation is still required.  Nothing demonstrates this better than the delivery of utility statements.  As utilities try to eliminate paper statements and bills, they are giving consumers incentives to receive them by email.

In fact, any elimination of paper almost universally requires a replacement of some form of electronic documentation, and email is still the most assured and effective medium available.

So consumers can still be reached by email, even if other platforms are also being used. And email is still the best way to reach individuals personally.  You can broadcast your latest special on Twitter, but you can send a “Dear Justin” personalized message via email.

To reach business customers, email is even more important that to reach consumers.  Businesses don’t chat; they send documentation.  Email remains their chief electronic means of communication, so for a business audience, email will likely be your most effective means of marketing.

In fact, a 2014 survey found that on average, companies attribute 23% of their total sales to email marketing.  That is up from 18% in 2013. That same survey found that email marketing gives the best bang for the buck, edging out SEO for best ROI, and well ahead of affiliate marketing, offline direct marketing and other channels.

Steve Chou agrees.  He teaches people how to make a living selling goods online, and he teaches them that email marketing is essential.  A few months ago, he revealed his own success with email marketing in an article entitled How I Made Over $300K These Past 2 Years With An Email Autoresponder.  He says:

“Email is definitely not dwindling.  It is an essential tool to any business that wants to succeed online in 2014, and for many years to come.”

Here are a few additional statistics about email marketing from Wolfgang Jaegel that you might want to consider:

Email markiting stats

So next time you hear that email is dead, you can say, “Email is dead.  Long love email!”



  1. Fantastic explanation, David. I was just having this argument early this morning- so I am sending this to all those who did not get it…

  2. Roy, I am glad it resonates with you. 🙂

  3. Email has the least growth and reach of anything i am doing online. On the bright side Aweber is going to give me a $25 amazon gift certificate for doing an interview telling them why I quit.

  4. Don Purdum says

    I don’t think email is dead at all David! Is it as impactful as in the past? That depends…

    If you’re talking to your target audience and tribe, then now way. It’s a powerful tool that offers information that helps them solve a problem – key is give them a reason to engage with you further and even buy. If you’re doing that, it will work all day long.

    If you’re just pumping out annoying pleas and sales requests, then yes, it’s over, lol…

  5. Hey David,

    Great write. And yes, I can’t disagree with this. For me, email isn’t dead. Well, if it is dead, we would be in trouble (we as sellers).

    For me, email isn’t really about building revenue but trust and relationships.

    So yeah! Long live email 🙂

    have a great weekend mate!

  6. hi David

    I am with you on this thought – e mail is alive also up and running like never before.

    Also i was looking at the feature image for almost 20 seconds, very nice creative idea for this image. i am going to pin it under creativity head!!!

  7. email is more useful as a business tool that most types of instant messaging.
    Email has largely replaced the written letter but will live on in the business world due to it flexibility, and ability to be used on most platforms, (ie not reliant on facebook, twitter, etc) which other services don’t offer.

  8. I don’t know how people can say that e-mail is dead. I receive at least 20 e-mails a day, whether it’s for marketing purposes, alerts to social media messages or just the normal business e-mails that I expect daily. As you have said, people have less time these days to talk on the phone, calls mean chit chat and few people have the time for small talk, that is why e-mail is faster and more efficient, plus you have time to think about what you want to write and are able to adjust an e-mail accordingly, but you can’t take back something you have said.

  9. Hi, David! This is such an intriguing topic to talk about.

    Email marketing is dead, and that’s the viral gossip in the online world today. But I couldn’t agree with this one, for I believe that email marketing is alive and is becoming more prominent than before.

    I must agree with the insights you’ve shared above. The evidences are all around us and it could not deny the fact that email marketing is flowing faster than ever and that it is becoming more sophisticated and more targeted.

    The email marketing stats presented by an infographic above will be a good proof to explain that email marketing isn’t dead.

    Thanks for the post! 🙂

    P.S. I’ve found this post shared on Kingged.com and leave the same comment there.

  10. email marketing is growing but only at the same rate as the online world. I believe the conversion rate will drop because people are getting sick of spam and pay less attention to their inbox. Having said that, there is still a place for it because it’s fairly cheap

  11. David this is really awesome explanation. For me email is not dead, if it is dead we will surely in trouble. And i completely agree with you.

  12. I saw a futurist speak on this topic recently, and his message was that all communication is leading to a world where we just ‘message’ – it won’t be email, SMS, etc but just a message. interesting, not sure if I agree though

  13. Inspiring article. For me, email is alive and will continue to live.