For years I have been hearing my friends in the mobile field tell me that e-mail is dying and SMS is coming to life. Many speakers have stood in front of large rooms and spoken about how younger generations see e-mail as the channel “for old people” and that texting is much faster and more efficient.
By the looks of it, in my home last year, texting has taken over the need for instant messaging and phone calls for the day-to-day communications by my 12 year old. However, e-mail is still what she uses for “professional” items like homework, announcements, and things she needs to keep track of.
But in October of last year, things started to change. Texting went the way of the “old people” for my daughter, and video chat became the new mode of communication. And not just the standard one-to-one chat, but also the one-to-many chat, enabled by products like OoVoo. The funny part about this though, was that if anything important was said in the video chats, it was e-mail that was used to confirm study groups, dates, and other information.
On Wednesday evening, I was lucky enough to see Steve Ballmer do the pre-show keynote at CES. One of the things he showed was an enhancement to the Xbox 360 Kinect. It is a program where a person like you or I can build our own avatar, and the screen of the PC will connect and mimic our real-life facial expressions and body movements. But Kinect takes it to a new level, because it will take the avatars and allow them to perform a community chat.
Imagine sitting alone in your home office and turning on your avatar along with five other colleagues (all alone at their homes too). On the screen all six of you are in one room having a virtual conversation with facial expressions, hand gestures, and all. Sounds crazy right? (It makes Jane Jetson’s fake face for video calls seem so old.) It’s real, and it will be live in 2011. And, it will compel those of us in e-mail marketing to now consider video integration in our strategies.
As e-mail marketers, we have been able to define what role e-mail plays in conjunction with many other channels: telecommunications, online banners, social, and mobile. But now, it’s time to define the role of e-mail as it relates to video. It’s real, it’s on the way, and it is going to change the way the younger generation communicates.
My thoughts are that e-mail is going to be best used with video when it can be the “reminder” that integrates with other channels to organize thoughts and next steps. What if “e-mail” becomes the personal assistant of video communications and ensures that meetings are set, reminders sent out, and people are updated on topical conversations. E-mail and video integration could be exactly what the e-mail industry needs to continue to build an even stronger foothold in our consumers’ day-to-day lives moving forward.