Zipcast Episode 26: How Your Customers Really Feel About Your Emails

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Do you ever wonder if your customers read your emails or even receive them? We did too, so we commissioned a survey to find out and we learned a lot about consumer email habits and sentiment. Today we speak with Natalie Schwab, director of content marketing at Zipwhip. Natalie’s team recently published an e-book called, Why Your Customers Don’t Read Your Emails Anymore, based on that research. We’ll discuss the findings, but more importantly, we’ll discuss what they mean for businesses trying to reach their customers.

Featuring

Natalie Schwab
Natalie Schwab
Director of Content Marketing at Zipwhip
Scott-Heimes-1
Scott Heimes
Chief Marketing Officer at Zipwhip

Scott Heimes:

Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott HEIMES, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip and thanks for tuning in.

Scott Heimes:

Do you ever wonder if your customers read your emails or even receive them? We did too so we commissioned a survey to find out and we learned a lot about consumer email habits and sentiment. Today we speak with Natalie Schwab, director of content marketing at Zipwhip. Natalie’s team recently published an e-book called, Why Your Customers Don’t Read Your Emails Anymore, based on that research. We’ll discuss the findings, but more importantly, we’ll discuss what they mean for businesses trying to reach their customers. Stay tuned.

Scott Heimes:

Welcome to the Zipcast, Natalie.

Natalie Schwab:

Thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Scott Heimes:

Natalie, tell us about what you do at Zipwhip.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, so I’m the director of content marketing at Zipwhip. I work with some pretty awesome content creators who are helping educate people about texting for business. We produce blog posts, e-books, webinars. We do regular research to kind of get a pulse on the industry. And, yeah, we’re just out here trying to educate people on texting.

Scott Heimes:

We invited you on the Zipcast today to help us interpret the results of a recent e-book that your team published and it was based on a bunch of research that you did in the market around the efficacy of email. Tell us about that.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah. This new e-book, it’s called, Why Your Customers Don’t Read Your Emails Anymore and that’s exactly what it’s addressing. Kind of how email has changed over time and what businesses need to understand about email to reach their customers more effectively.

Scott Heimes:

Give us a sense of the kind of scope of the research that you did and the sort of underpinning of the e-book.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, so we ended up surveying around 500 people all across the country, spanning all different generations and we asked them all kinds of questions about how they’re engaging with email today. Our industry, the business texting industry talks a lot about how if you want to reach your customers quickly and effectively, email is not the way to do it. But we didn’t have any data to back that up and we really love research here at Zipwhip so we thought that this survey would be a good way to collect some data and we got some really interesting findings.

Scott Heimes:

Well, let’s start looking at some of the data. Here’s one that struck me. 39% of consumers have more than 100 unread emails in their personal inbox with 20% saying they had over a 1,000. That’s kind of astounding.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah. I think this stat just shows how inundated consumers are with email right now. And honestly, to me, 100 unread emails does not sound like a lot. I was just looking at my personal Gmail account and I have more than 8,000 unread emails. I think this stat in particular, it really starts to highlight kind of the differences between text and email. If I had 100 unread texts, I think that I would be very stressed out by that, but it’s totally normal in email today.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah, it is. It’s just one of those communication channels that has become increasingly polluted with noise.

Natalie Schwab:

Yep, absolutely. Scott, I wanted to ask you one of the questions that we asked our respondents in the survey. If you had to describe your personal email inbox in one word, what do you think it would be?

Scott Heimes:

I’m going to go two words and say ridiculously polluted.

Natalie Schwab:

Okay. Yep. That’s pretty similar to what we heard. I think the most common words that we got were cluttered, overwhelming, hectic. I know a couple people said nightmare. It’s just kind of showing the sentiment toward email right now is leaning pretty negative. People are just feeling pretty overwhelmed with it. It’s just, it’s become too much for them.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. Well, let’s take a look at another stat. This one also jumped out at me. 77% of consumers have two or more personal email accounts, with 16% saying they have four or more. Consumers also really designate separate email accounts for non-personal communications it looks like. 62% have an email address they use solely for accounts with businesses or to sign up for promotions.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, I think that’s really common. I personally have done that. I have my Gmail, which is my personal and I have my Yahoo account, which is where I sign up for business emails. I think people just have a lot of different inboxes and a business never really knows if they have the right email or not. They don’t know where their email is ending up. I think this is another one that really highlights the differences between text and email, because we all only have one text inbox, unless you have more than one mobile number. Whereas an email could go to an inbox that never gets checked. Your business text is right there. Right there in their inbox with consumers’ texts from friends and family. You know that they’re going to see it and that’s a really big difference.

Scott Heimes:

Here’s a doozy. 56% of consumers estimate that they receive anywhere from 25 to 100 emails a day, yet hardly any of them read it. Nearly half report reading between zero and five emails per day. They’re getting all this email, but they’re not being opened.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah. I think when you’re receiving upwards of 100 emails a day, it’s impossible to read them all and you’re never really able to catch up. That one is not super surprising to me. I think it just, again, it shows that consumers receive way too much email and way more than they’re ever going to be able to read.

Scott Heimes:

If you’re a business and you’re relying on email as your primary customer engagement channel, all of these stats seem like pretty bad news. What do you think explains this phenomenon with email?

Natalie Schwab:

I think sentiment toward email has changed over time. When AOL introduced the first email inbox, people were so excited about it. You got that, you’ve got mail alert, and it was a really exciting thing. You wanted to check it right away, but that’s just not the case anymore. Our inboxes have become so oversaturated that we, like I mentioned before, we can’t keep up with them. I think consumers have email fatigue now. And so we actually asked about excitement toward email in our survey and we found that over half of consumers are less excited to receive email than they used to be, which really isn’t all that surprising.

Scott Heimes:

If you’re a business and you’re trying to engage your customers and communicate with them, you’ve got a number of channels available. You have email, you have the phone and then increasingly texting. I was struck, but on one of the stats that over half, 51% of consumers, said they trust text the most, while 35% said email and only 14% said the phone. There’s trust issues with email and phone it looks like.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, I think it’s happened to everyone. Someone sends you an email and it gets buried in your inbox and that kind of makes you lose trust with the medium. I think that’s why people prefer text messaging. You know you’re going to see it right away. You know your inbox is never going to be stacked with text messages. I think that’s where trust comes into play there.

Scott Heimes:

What’s this all mean if you’re a business trying to connect with your customers? Do you recommend ditching email entirely?

Natalie Schwab:

No. Yeah, we’re definitely not saying that businesses should ditch email. We know that we believe in a multichannel approach. We know that email is a really important piece of that. There are certain use cases where email makes more sense than texting like if you’re sending a really large file or something like that. But what we’re really recommending is that businesses just kind of re-examine all of their different communication types and think about what you have going out as an email right now that may be more effective as a text message. Is it something that’s really high priority that your customer is going to need to see right away? It might be better served going to their email inbox or going to their text inbox then going to their email inbox where they might not see it. That’s really what we’re recommending, not ditching email, but just kind of thinking more about how you can use all of the different communication mediums together more effectively.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. Email is a really powerful use case when you’re doing formal business correspondence around contracts, commitments for a subscription, for example, to software, other types of password reset elements and others can be effective in terms of email. But when it’s a highly personal engagement message and the benefit of real time and immediacy is there, texts can just be such a better channel for that.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, absolutely. And those quick little things. If I’m getting an appointment reminder from my doctor, I was so much rather just get that on my phone, where I’m going to see it. If that goes to my email inbox, I could completely miss it and forget about my appointment. Yeah, definitely there are some great use cases for texting.

Scott Heimes:

Natalie, maybe email has its place for sure but what about phone calls? That’s another key communication medium used by businesses to engage with customers. We had any learnings about whether phone calls are effective?

Natalie Schwab:

We do. Yeah. We did a survey last August, specifically around phone calls and got some really interesting information that was pretty similar to what we’re seeing here in the email survey. 96% of consumers in that survey said that they find phone calls to be disruptive. I think that that was really eye opening and it just kind of shows, we are really shifting away from phone calls as a communication medium. Again, there’s always a time and a place for a phone call. If you’re a business that just needs a really quick piece of information, a phone call might be the best way to go. But what we’re seeing is that consumers are really overwhelmed with the amount of robocalls that they get. They don’t really trust phone calls anymore because of telemarketers and robocalls and all of the things that have kind of polluted that medium. Yeah, it’s just, it’s also become a much less effective way to reach customers.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. I know when I receive a call on my mobile phone, if the contact, if I don’t know who that person is it’s calling or have some context behind it, I don’t answer it because you just think it’s a robocall.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah. And that was another thing that we found, the large majority of people are ignoring most of the calls that come in, especially if they’re from a business or from an unknown number. That just makes it really hard to reach your customers. And if people are interested in checking out that research, that e-book is called, Why Your Customers Don’t Answer the Phone Anymore, and that one’s also available in our resource center.

Natalie Schwab:

Scott, I had a question for you, email is notorious for spam and we really don’t see a lot of that in our text inboxes. Can you explain why that is?

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. I think the industry has done a good job of setting up texting in a way that helps providers like ourselves really control spam. There’s also the reality that email is based on this open SMTP protocol and whereas texting is delivered over connections with the mobile carriers themselves. And companies like Zipwhip for example, we manage largely the toll-free network and provide services across all 10 digit and VOIP numbers, we’re able to manage the traffic over our network very closely. We apply super sophisticated technology and human process approach to really monitor this type of text content that’s coming across our network and actively block clear spam and other fraudulent activity and that helps maintain the purity of the texting network and the texting experience for customers, which is really key.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, definitely. That’s what’s going to keep text from turning into email so I think that’s super important. One of the other things we found out in this email survey is that people do not check their junk inboxes and it’s pretty easy for a business to accidentally be flagged as junk. That’s just another reason why email is not that effective because your messages could accidentally be going to people’s junk mail where they’re never going to see it.

Scott Heimes:

Yeah. And the challenge of managing your reputation in the email ecosystem is serious. It’s challenging. It’s easy to, as you say, get flagged as a potentially bad sender or Gmail and other email inbox providers are now algorithmically looking at content and deciding whether it’s junk or not. And so there’s just so many obstacles for effectively using the email channel as a communication tool. One of the challenges that was highlighted in the research. All right so Natalie, remind our listeners about where they can find this research driven e-book.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah. It’s on zipwhip.com. Just go to zipwhip.com/email-ebook. You can also find it in our resource center, in the featured section. Check it out. There’s a lot more email insights than what we’ve gone over today and they’re pretty fascinating.

Scott Heimes:

Well, this has been a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for joining us on the Zipcast, Natalie.

Natalie Schwab:

Yeah, thanks so much for having me, Scott.

Scott Heimes:

Thanks for joining us. Ever wonder how email compares to text when it comes to customer communication? We did too so we commissioned a survey. You can check out the fascinating results at zipwhip.com/email-ebook. Make sure you subscribe to the Zipcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen so you can get the latest episodes. Feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just send a text to (347) 772-3529. Until next time.

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