From the Email Insiders Summit: The 18-24 Perspective – Is Email Archaic?

 Bonnie Malone 

One of the most interesting sessions at the Email Insiders Summit was a glimpse into the perspective of the 18-24-year-old demographic. To kick off the conference sessions, MediaPost invited three students from Ball State University to participate in a panel discussion about their communication practices, and how email fits (or doesn’t) into those habits. For the audience comprised entirely of email marketers, their answers weren’t exactly welcome news:

  • Social networks (primarily Facebook) have a monopoly on the 18-24-year-old attention span. These young people use Facebook as their primary communication method, not email. One panelist noted the efficiency of the channel to communicate instantly to all of their friends and contacts – – everything from causes supported to birthdays to events they are attending. For most, whenever they were online, they were logged into Facebook.
  • The mobile phone is essential. All three of the panelists agreed that they spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones – – one even confessed to checking it before he gets out of bed in the morning! Another said she uses over 2,000 minutes a month! But, this may not mean there is a new marketing channel to be had. The panelists noted that they view text messages as highly personal and advertisements are not welcome.
  • Traditional email marketing messages may be “junk” to this demographic. The panel stressed the importance of relevance in their determination of whether to open the message or delete it. All three panelists consistently opened emails that included content – regardless of whether a coupon offer was included. They would often click “junk” or “delete” at first site of the sender and subject line solely based on their impression of the value delivered previously.

The message was pretty clear: the next generation thinks today’s email marketing practices seem archaic.

As you can imagine, the session became quite dynamic, and went well over the time allotted due to the numerous questions and discussion that followed the initial panel interview. Interestingly, as the discussion progressed, even the panel agreed email wouldn’t disappear in the forseeable future. While they lived on Facebook socially, they did use email for their professional and more important personal communications – and anticipated using email more heavily in the future. For them, it was the relevance and customized content, of specific interest to the individual subscriber that really made an impact.

But, honestly, that’s not very different from the expectations of any other demographic. While their overall communication methods may differ from older generations, the value of their time and need for relevant content is the same. The discussion reiterated nicely the fact that in order to infiltrate this all-important demographic (or any other, for that matter!), consistent relevance is the only way to break through – – and we have to be smart and proactive with our strategy to continue to leverage the channel effectively.

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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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