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eMarketer: Never underestimate the power of e-mail


January 15, 2001

  • In exchange for free e-mail service, consumers are willing to accept a little commercialism with their messages
  • E-mail is by far the most popular Internet application, used by 96% of all active Internet users
  • There will be a tidal wave of e-mail in the coming years--much of it at the expense of the telephone and first-class mail

 

By Jonathan Jackson

E-mail challenged AT&T and the US Postal Service, and the giants have been humbled. What's next for e-mail, and what can marketers do about it? asks Jonathan Jackson, senior analyst at eMarketer

You can stick a fork in AT&T because it's just about done. For those who haven't been following the company's litany of woes, it's sad to see this American icon--once the favourite stock of "widows and orphans"--devolve into little better than a dot-bombed company. Just before the holiday season, AT&T released still more bad news and blamed its problems, at least in part, on e-mail. In particular, AT&T's CFO singled out "more migration of [long distance] minutes to other technologies like wireless and e-mail."

Let's consider the implications. In the not-too-distant past, AT&T essentially owned the voice communications market. With deregulation and the attendant competition, its market share shrank. But by and large people were still reaching out to touch other people using a telephone. Then, along came the Internet, and the ways people could communicate with each other exploded.

At the time, everyone thought e-mail was going to take the place of first-class mail and the only loser would be the post office. E-mail is already used much more frequently than traditional mail:

As things turned out, e-mail has proved to be a threat to more than just surface mail. How many fewer express packages, for example, are sent as a result of e-mail? How long will it be before e-greetings gain market dominance, thereby affecting both regular mail and greeting card companies?

On the bright side (at least for the advertising business), this has also opened up a panoply of opportunities for marketers. Needless to say, it wasn't really possible to advertise on a long-distance call or birthday card. But now, in exchange for free e-mail service, consumers seem more than willing to accept a little commercialism with their messages. In other words, for every e-mail that is sent instead of making a long-distance call or sending a card, another marketing impression is available.

The sky's the limit if present trends continue. E-mail is by far the most popular Internet application already, used by 96% of all active Internet users. By year-end 2003, there will be 140.3m e-mail users, representing 61.5% of the total US population of adults and teens (aged 14+):

In other words, there's going to be a tidal wave of e-mail in the coming years--much of it being sent at the expense of the telephone and first-class mail. It's up to marketers to position themselves now to surf that wave effectively.

Source: Republished by the EIU ebusiness forum with the permission of eMarketer.


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