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Email is so not dying.

In a world where we have multiple identities, many communication channels and a plethora of passwords, the email address is becoming one constant in this shifting sea. Marketers are beginning to reap the benefits of First-Person Marketing, which sees the email address as a way to identify the consumer beyond a simple communication channel.

Our 2017 Consumer Digital Usage and Behavior Report found that consumers of all ages are using even more channels to communicate, and that email is even more important to them than ever.

We surveyed 1,245 mobile device users balanced between men and women, as well as among three age groups: 14-to-18; 19-to-34; and 56-to-67. 44 percent of respondents lived in urban areas, while 56 percent were suburbanites. Mobile continues to be a vital part of everyday life for all these cohorts, while email is the preferred way for consumers to hear from brands.

2017 consumer-report-comms

More than seven in 10 consumers – 72.5 percent – chose email as their preferred communication channel for businesses. This is almost the same as in 2016. Add in the 11 percent who want a combination of email and SMS (the next-largest group), and you’ve got nearly 84 percent of consumers who want email.

This year’s study also revealed a nearly 17 percent drop in direct-mail interest and an 18 percent jump in favor of an email-SMS combination. What could that do for your marketing program?

These findings uncover a huge opportunity for marketers. They can reach every age group with rich, informative and interactive emails, the medium that has the highest conversion rate.

Messaging all ways

The conventional wisdom is that Boomers email, Millennials text, and young folks text and use message apps. That is far from true. We found that texting is in a major state of flux. Yes, chat apps are to some extent taking over from texting among teens. At the same time, Boomers are texting more than ever.

Consumer report 2017-friends

78 percent of teens and younger Millennials told us that they have email addresses mainly because “It’s a fact of everyday life.” It’s notable that the percentage of teens using chat apps is up 55.5 percent from 2016. And among Boomers, texting grew by 12 percent to displace email as the second-most-popular way to contact friends.

Because there are so many communication channels and usage is constantly shifting, it’s important to develop communication plans that are multichannel. At the same time, remember that each channel offers unique benefits and demands different approaches. There’s no such thing as a single “social media” plan. Look to accomplish different things with each platform that you use.

In every channel, make sure that your marketing copy includes punchy phrases that can be shared via social and text.

Work and play

Checking social sites for personal reasons while at work is common among the two younger groups. This is an opportunity for marketers to reach customers throughout the day with interesting info and valuable offers.

2017-consumer study-social sites

Email as entertainment

Here’s more good news about email: The youngest consumers see email as a source of entertainment. About half of respondents (49.7 percent) indicated that they checked email when bored. But nearly 70 percent of the 14-to-18-year-olds do so, while only 26.3 percent of the oldest respondents, age 56 to 67, do so.

This finding does cast doubt on attempts to optimize sending times, which assumes that consumers are predisposed to open email at the same time every day. Some marketers do well with send-time optimization, while others find no value. Testing is required to determine if this tactic can work for you.

Consumers have also become savvier about how to handle commercial emails. The clear majority of consumers now unsubscribe if they no longer want to receive emails: 73 percent compared to 65 percent in our 2016 Consumer Study. This is great news for deliverability and helps marketers keep their lists clean.


Keep the unsubscribe link visible and functional; don’t camouflage it in tiny type in an obscure corner of your email or call it something else. A best practice is to offer alternatives to completely unsubscribing, such as opting down to a lower frequency or selecting topics of interest.

Connecting with brands

Consumers are still interested in hearing from you—they just want it their way. In this year’s survey, nearly 34 percent of all respondents reported having signed up to receive emails or text messages from companies seeking their business, up from 28 percent from 2016.


The lure of discounts was by far the most important reason to sign up for email or texts from companies, at close to 85 percent among all age groups. Only the youngest consumers did it for love: 49 percent of 14- to 18-year-olds put their second reason as, “Because I love the brand.”

The people in our survey also offered some parting advice: Don’t send so many emails. A full 34.9 percent of all age groups chose this as the top message they had for brands wooing them. This was a much stronger response than that to another option, “Emails should be more personalized or relevant.” It shows that, while marketers should strive for First-Person Marketing, there’s an easy fix they can implement immediately.


Hidden identities

Consumers now have on average three or more personal email addresses plus close to two business addresses. That’s up from Adestra’s 2016 consumer report, where we found 39 percent of consumers had two addresses, and 20 percent had three.

Some bad news: nearly half have a separate email address used exclusively for emails they rarely intend to open.


We’ve talked about the importance of First-Person Marketing and the email address as universal ID. But what happens when your customers give you their least valuable address—even one that they don’t intend to open? That can hurt your ability to communicate effectively.

To counteract this, redefine your goals for collecting emails. The metric for acquisition should be X number of addresses acquired and Y amount determined to be active.

On signup, offer something valuable enough that customers will want to make sure they get your emails. You also should check to see whether newly acquired addresses show consistent activity over a short period of time, a marker of a primary email address.

How not to acquire an address

When we asked consumers in 2016 what they did when asked to provide an email address before accessing a website, 43 percent of respondents reported giving a real email address. This year, that number dropped to 39 percent. Overall, 44.4 percent of respondents simply leave the site.

2017 Consumer Report

Mobile, multichannel and always on

Even older demographics have become mobile-first. Review all your message templates to see how well they render on mobile and upgrade where necessary. Keep in mind that while attitudes and behavior change, one thing remains consistent year after year: people love their phones and use them for everything. From social media to personal email, to browsing, to texting, the mobile device is becoming the center of the universe. So, marketers should make it the center of theirs, as well. Of course, that doesn’t mean abandoning desktop altogether, but making sure messages are optimized for all devices is key.

To download our 2017 Consumer Digital Usage & Behavior Report, click here.