Email: An Essential Channel Across Generations

October 26, 2017
Written by
Kelsey Bernius
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Email: An Essential Channel Across Generations

Email marketing best practices consistently evolve for many reasons and events—one of which is age and generational shifts among email users. As millennials and generation Z grow up (i.e., become a consumer of goods and services), email marketers will have to shift their strategy accordingly so that campaigns remain relevant and effective.

The Future of Digital Communication report is the result of surveying thousands of individuals across generations (Gen X, Millennials, and Generation Z) about their email use, behavior, and perception of email as a communication channel. The report can help you better understand your users, their preferences, and their attitudes toward email.

In this post, we’re discussing specific use cases of email that enables its success as a marketing channel, as well as how different generations view and use email. We hope these tips will help you as you refine your program, become more personalized, and—ultimately—more lucrative.

Email use cases

Email is an incredibly distinct channel of communication used for many personal and business purposes. Here are some specific use cases, as well as how our respondents said they use email:

Email is a digital ID required to sign up for many products and services. Ever try signing up for anything these days without an email? According to the report across all three generations, “There is an overwhelming preference for email when used in company-to-consumer interactions.”

Email is still an integral part of work. Data from the report finds that, “Email is the primary vehicle for work exchanges, particularly for sharing documents, scheduling meetings, and communication about work generally.”

Email is sortable, searchable, and manageable in ways messaging platforms and social media are not. And because of this “With email, I can forward, I can search easily, I can organize things….I need it. It’s a necessary evil.”
Generation Z primarily uses email for exchanging personal communications and receiving email from companies.
However, the report expects this will shift as these youngins enter the workforce and start to use email for work-related activities.

This data should convince you (if you still need it!) that email is a crucial tool for companies and brands to interact with their users. But what are some more in-depth differences between generations and how they use and view email?

Email behavior broken down by generations

The Future of Digital Communication report brings good news to all companies–especially B2C. According to the report, “Younger generations place relatively high value on B2C emails compared to older generations and compared to all other types of email communications.”

What does this mean for email marketers in the B2C industry? Your emails are crucial for reaching and engaging with your audience–and this trend can be expected to continue. Email should be the foundation of your email marketing efforts.

For B2C companies with a Generation Z target audience, keep in mind the following best practices to help optimize your email program:
  • Segment your list by age and generation and test increased sending frequency to younger generations who will be more likely to be more receptive to receiving promotions. But make sure you monitor your metrics carefully and if engagement starts to slip, tone down your sending frequency.
  • Use social media as a complementary, not primary strategy of your promotional efforts. Because younger generations prefer to receive their communications and promotions from companies in email, reach out to them where they want to be reached.
  • Think long-term with trends in mind. Respondents from this report said that Gen Z is “more confident than any other generation that their email communication will increase next year.” Keep this in mind that as you plan out your mid and long-term campaigns.

Some things never change

What’s NOT different across all generations is how we want to receive communications from companies and the fact that email usage remains stable and high. Across generations, there is a clear preference to receive communications from companies by email.

“Email is more time-consuming and less fun, but I feel like the purpose of email is not to be fun,” says a Generation Z male.

Well even though email isn’t the “most fun” form of communication out there, the report reinforces what we suspected: email is effective, it’s highly used, and is a preferred method of several forms of communication. Read the full report so you don’t miss other insight and trends that will help you grow and scale your email program.

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