Paying Homage to E-Mail in the Digital Revolution

When’s the last time you checked your e-mail? It doesn’t matter if you checked it at home, on a mobile device, or through LinkedIn, Plaxo, or even Facebook. The point is, you’re in good company if you’re among the more than 60 percent people who’d say “within the last hour.”

An estimated 20 percent of readers like you have their BlackBerry or iPhone right next to them while they read this. Is your digital device positioned in your periphery just so you can see the red light the second it comes on?

Consumer habits have changed over the past two decades. We’ve become digital addicts. We’ve coined a new phrase: the digital lifestyle.

Over the past 30 years we’ve been fortunate enough to live through one of the most dynamic and powerful revolutions to date: the digital revolution. In 1977, as we spent our evenings glued to the “tube” watching shows like “The Jeffersons” and “Wonder Woman,” 48,000 people were testing out a new way of life. They were using a personal computer.

A mere 25 years later, in 2002, the adoption and use of personal computers had hit mainstream. With more than 500 million personal computers in use, the adoption curve had begun. Six years after, in 2008, the number of personal computers in the world reached over one billion households. The one billion mark was the indication that the digital revolution had arrived.

Many times a revolution is initiated through the introduction of a new way to do something or a new product. A revolution isn’t justified until people can’t imagine life without that element or product. That’s when a revolution becomes a true success.

The great thing about revolutions is that they change people: culturally, socially, and even economically. And in this case, the digital revolution changed us all. It made us digital consumers.

Digital consumers aren’t just a people using a device. It’s people who have learned to manage devices in a way that make their lives life better.

Think back to how the digital revolution and digital consumer came to be. While the “device” that started the revolution was the personal computer, the activity that drove its adoption was e-mail. E-mail was one of the original power brokers driving the digital revolution.

Retailer JCPenney, computer maker Gateway, and financial services firm John Hancock were among digital revolution’s true innovators. Each leveraged e-mail in the 1990s. E-mail was simple and fast to use. Customers and early adopters liked it.

The medium introduced significant benefits to the consumer lifestyle, including:

  • Discreet communications. Imagine the ability to tell someone exactly how you feel about them, their product, or their service — without having to face them and while you sit in your underwear!
  • Direct communication and direct sales. In the early days of the Internet, e-mail enabled frustrated consumers to send messages about products or services. E-mail is credited with prompting Sprint to immediately change its audio-response system and develop alternative service options. That occurred after the phone service provider received a mass volume of e-mails from consumers complaining about an unacceptable four-plus hour hold time to obtain customer support.
  • Speed: With e-mail, people could resolve issues, faster and persistently, until a justified solution was determined. The Sprint example illustrates just how e-mail changed the brand/customer relationship in the early ’90s.

We’ve continued to evolve and change as consumers since the 1990s. We no longer expect to wait for things. We want what we want, when we want it, and we know there is digital device, or development that will enable us to get to it.

Digital direct marketing is king. Anything else is unacceptable.

This brings us to the power of e-mail. E-mail remains one of the most effective channels to drive positive digital consumer experiences. Your e-mails still remain king in the midst of this digital revolution.

As the world continues to evolve, your target relies more on e-mail, now more so on mobile devices than at the desktop. But e-mail is still king. Respect the power of this channel to help create loyal and profitable consumer conversations.

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