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Instant messaging (IM) is the communication method that American employees believe has innovated the most over the past 5 years, according to an Adobe study. But only by a small margin: somewhat surprisingly, traditional stalwart email is in the mix, along with video conferencing and/or video chat.

The survey was fielded among 1,001 US white-collar workers, all of whom own a smartphone. Slightly more than half (54%) are ages 35-64, an important note as the results were not weighted.

Instant messaging was tabbed the most innovative communication method of the past 5 years (among the 6 identified) by 18-24-year-olds and by respondents ages 35 and older. In an unexpected twist, the phone edged email as the most innovative among adults ages 25-34. Not sure what to do with that result…!

Email is considered the second-most innovative communication method, just ahead of video conferencing or video chat. In a separate question, respondents said that the biggest improvement to the email experience in the past few years has been stronger spam filters, though for youth improved mobile viewing has been the biggest improvement.

Brands are certainly innovating with email in a number of ways, but it’s true that email marketers have been tackling spam, too. In a recent report, Return Path noted that email providers are increasingly making life difficult for spammers, as just one-quarter of emails in 2017 came from the least reputable senders, down from 60% of messages in 2012.

Email Continues to be the Preferred Method for Brand Communications

Email may not be the most innovative, but it’s still the preferred way to hear from brands for half of respondents, far outdoing newer channels such as social media, mobile apps and chatbots.

In fact, it’s not only the traditional marketing channel for which consumers have an appetite. The second-most preferred method of contact by brands, of the 7 listed, was direct mail (by 20% share of respondents). While direct mail was preferred more by older than younger respondents, it still topped newer channels among the 25-34 demographic. (More on direct mail’s strengths here.)

Even so, newer digital channels seem to be the way of the future. Although email is still the preferred method of brand communication among 18-24-year-olds, mobile apps, texts and even phone calls are important to them, and chatbots are increasingly apt to be seen as a preferred method, too.

The full report can be viewed here.

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