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Email has been around for a while now, and it’s done us all proud. The ubiquitous method of communication is so pervasive as a communication method that not having one is even more unusual than not having a telly (brave souls).
It’s difficult to talk about a new communication channel without comparing it to email, and for email to remain relevant it needs to evolve to give consumers what they now expect from digital communication channels.
1. Become geographically and time aware
The trouble with email is that it is dumb to all the technology that is available to it. As email marketers you are used to understanding when, how, on what and where people are checking their emails – but the clients themselves aren’t using this information to produce a richer email consumption experience.
Check out this shot of Sergy Brin on the NYC underground with his snazzy Google glasses (me want); the primary driver of this tech is augmented reality, directions, tips, reviews, Facebook & Foursquare check-ins of your friends.
Even so, people are going to want to be able to check their email and this tech nirvana would be brought to an abrupt end when all your emails whizz past your eyes while you are trying to look hip.
BUT imagine a world where your email client knows where you are (on the tube) and where you are going (downtown so you’ll be on the tube for 20 minutes), so it navigates to emails which it knows will take you 20 minutes to digest – maybe the latest from the Financial Times?
Geographically aware email is not that far away. Apple’s Passbook (Android options do exist) has been missed by so many bricks and mortar retailers that it’s frankly scary.
Passbook allows you to tag your prospect or client so that they receive notifications when they are near your store, so you get more footfall to your store from people who have already engaged with you online – something HMV would have crawled over broken CDs for.
2. Replace notifications
It is bizarre what you can do to trigger a tweet. There are some great examples on iftt.com, but the trouble with Twitter is that you easily miss tweets – especially if you follow more than a few hundred people.
To the contrary, email never goes away until you address it, bar a few smart innovations from outlook.com, so as we have more and more devices we need to keep track or we will start to see more emails from our actual belongings.
Notifications on your smart phone are pretty intrusive – the fact that the iPhone is advertised as having a ‘do not disturb’ button gives an indication of the backlash against constant interruptions.
So expect to see emails from devices and applications a lot more – an email from your boiler asking if you want to turn the heating up as it’s getting a bit chilly outside, for instance – naturally you’ll reply in human language if you want to.
3. No more annoying emails
You can’t get away with sending unsolicited emails anymore. Back in the bad old days of email, marketing spam filters weren’t very sophisticated and as long as you weren’t pushing Viagra marketers could email a lot of people quite easily.
However, after the efforts of the larger ISPs, spam filters are now very smart, meaning that you really shouldn’t receive any email that you don’t want. This decline has predominately already happened but will continue to get tighter as people become less satisfied with unwarranted marketing messages.
The emails that annoy me are the “thanks” emails or “ok”, these little digital fist bumps don’t belong on email – these belong on an Instant Messaging platform.
Soon enough there will be a common protocol for IM so it won’t matter what client or service you are using, you will simply be able to chat with people who you want to.
Do you remember when people paid attention to the priorities you set your emails to – no me neither. They didn’t work because someone else set the priority so it may have been important to them but not to you – hence why no one uses it.
In the future your email clients will decide what is important to you, much like Facebook decides what to show in your feed (though with less interjections from advertisers). As all of us know the inbox has become a place to process tasks and messages – a little help getting things in priority order would surely be a hit.
I know, that was four … What do you think the future holds for email?