Americans are suffering from “email fatigue.” At least that’s the take away from a new study from marketing service provider Implix, which found that Americans are one of the least likely groups to open emails worldwide.

Due to its newness, social media is fast gaining ground with marketers as a way to reach out and build relationships with consumers. But a turn away from email messages could also make social media the go to for marketers trying to reach customers and grow revenue.

According to Implix’ new report, which analyzed 1,652,000,000 emails sent between July and December of last year, the average open rate in North America was 10.76%. In Europe, the rate was over 13%.

That means more than 40 out of every 100 recipients who opened an email message sent from Europe clicked on a link within it. But in North America, less than one out of every three recipients opened marketing emails and clicked on a link.

In Asia, one of every four subscribers who clicked on an email link did it twice. In North America, the rate is half that — only one out of eight clicked on a link twice. North America also had the highest bounce rate (2.17%) and the second highest complaint rate (0.12%) among all the continents.

According to Simon Grabowski, CEO of Implix:

“I believe that this is starting to become a large issue, especially in the U.S.
It has to do with the amount of emails that we’re getting every day.”

Some of this has led to estimates that social media will replace email in a few years. Analyst firm Gartner recently issued several predictions for the coming years, including this one:

“By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as
the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of
business users.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is planning to release an email product supposedly titled “Project Titan” that has some people very excited about its prospects to topple Gmail.

For now, social media is not as directly relevant to individuals as marketing emails specifically subscribed to by consumers. However, curating the social stream is a task many individuals and companies are setting their sights on. (Just today, The Wall Street Journal reported on a “Twitter-Killer” that Google may launch soon.)

But email’s not dead yet. Grabowski says that personalized subject lines currently help increase open rates. Implix found 26% higher open rates for such emails. And that’s the kind of thing that will continue to get consumers to open marketing messages via email:

“We’re seeing a lot of movement to subscriber engagement tactics. 2010 is going to be all about engagement.”

Both email and social media present opportunities to engagement with customers. Whichever platform manages that best in the next few years will see growth, or more likely, the trend to combine both efforts will continue.