E-Mail Killed the Post Office Star

E-mail is among the reasons the U.S. Postal Service may consider canceling Saturday delivery, but studies by United Messaging and Pitney Bowes found an electronic messaging market in the United States that is running out of room for growth, and a postal system considered more secure than email.

In the two years since Pitney Bowes last conducted its Household Mail Preference study in March 1999, it found the percentage of households with email access increased from 34 percent to 53 percent. When it comes to receiving financial documents and information, however, 93 percent of the respondents said they prefer traditional mail. The preference for regular mail also dominates categories such as product announcements and promotional mailings.

The Pitney Bowes study was conducted by telephone with 1,009 U.S. households, and its findings are based on the 53 percent of those households with email access.

In the eyes of consumers, the biggest advantage postal mail has over email lies in security. Seventy-six percent of the respondents consider postal mail more secure than email, down from 80 percent in 1999. Only 11 percent considered email more secure; the rest found both channels to be equal. Consumers also consider postal mail less time demanding. More than 60 percent said getting and opening their regular mail is faster than retrieving their email.

When asked which type of communication they are likely to discard unopened, the responding households reported that 66 percent of the unsolicited emails are never read, compared with 26 percent for regular mail.

“There’s a messaging revolution going on in the United States,” said Tim Bates, vice president of marketing, Pitney Bowes Mailing System. “Message volumes keep climbing, and when compared to email, regular mail is winning the vote of American households. Mail is universal, it does not require special training or hardware, it is secure and personal, and it is the easiest and most effective marketing tool that business can use when communicating with customers.”

Speaking of business communication, Gartner Group estimates the average American worker spends four hours each day reading, writing and forwarding emails, and that corporate email now carries up to 75 percent of a company’s communications.

According to a report by United Messaging, 75 percent of workers used email at the end of 2000, and the United States, which accounts for only 5 percent of the world’s workers, accounts for 50 percent of the world’s corporate messaging seats. In fact, the United Messaging report suggests there may not be much room left for growth in the U.S. corporate email market. Currently, 169 million corporate mailboxes are used by 130 million workers.

The year 2000 marked the first time there were more emailboxes outside the United States than within it — a 51 percent/49 percent split (451.5 million vs. 439.6 million). Further evidence of a slowing market in the United States appears in the 34 percent growth the corporate email market experienced in 2000, down from 63 percent in 1999.

The existing messaging platforms are also showing signs of consolidation and evolution. Lotus’ cc:Mail, which had the largest installed base in 1997, is headed for extinction. Hewlett-Packard will not issue upgrades to OpenMail after version 7.0. According to United Messaging, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and iPlanet are now the three leading platforms.

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