Is instant messaging going to replace email?


Is instant messaging going to replace email?

Since its appearance in 1972, email has established itself as the leading digital communication channel. A channel in text format (then images), a famous evolution from the good old telegraph. Email was then joined by the micro format of SMS (1984) and instant messaging, whose evolution from IRC (1988) to ICQ (1996) to MSN and then Messenger, Whatsapp, Skype and Slack is well known.

Some ambassadors of instant messaging are now declaring that email is on its last legs.  Messenger, Snapchat & co will soon be the exclusive channels of communication between individuals. Whether for private or professional use, and between brands and their customers. That's a bit of a leap...

Messaging is not a panacea.

Email and instant messaging can, out of (bad) habit, perform identical functions, whereas the second solution is more appropriate. That's the whole point of Slack (or Facebook Workplace and other professional messaging systems), which rightly asserts that it's absurd to converse by email. Messaging (more flexible and, until recently, less expensive than SMS) is the lightning interaction channel par excellence.

Want to ask your colleagues a question on a particular subject, or notify your manager that you'll be arriving late at the office? Post a message in a dedicated Slack #channel. Collaborating on a document? Use the comment function on a Google Doc, with its resolutely chat-like feel. Want to ask a question to a brand's customer service department that has a Facebook page? Contact a representative via Messenger (or live chat on the brand's site). Ideally, you'll get a quick answer. In this way, instant messaging relieves the pressure on mailboxes.

Different objectives.

In most cases, the "messaging" channel is suited to short interactions initiated by the caller (pull). But it doesn't lend itself well to "push(y)" communications which, even if opt-in, quickly take on the tone of spam. Users prefer to reserve the immediacy of messaging for conversational interactions.

As for email, it remains the most suitable channel for transmitting more elaborate information that doesn't necessarily elicit a response via the same channel. It's easy to imagine an email with a "call to action" leading to a form, a phone call or even a chat on Messenger. In this way, we move from a hyper-personal but non-intrusive format (email) to a channel more suited to the ping pong of rapid interaction (instant messaging). 

What's more, email enables information to be formatted in a much more refined way than instant messaging. We can imagine sending "breaking news" via Messenger (like tweets). But not the complete replacement of a newsletter, combining headlines, text, static and animated images in a pleasing configuration. Messenger widgets lack modularity and personality. They must constantly call upon web views for greater depth.

Ping, ping... stop.

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With this, if notifications are enabled (which is often the case), any communication that arrives on an instant messenger is accompanied by a "ping". It doesn't matter whether it's a private message or a commercial notification. Users can quickly block the repeated "pings" from the most enthusiastic senders, quickly closing this channel that you had hoped would offer you more interaction than email. The open rate may be higher for the first few broadcasts. However, frequency will lead to a rapid wave of unsubscribes. Just like in the early days of SMS marketing (with the added risk of being blacklisted by Facebook).

So reserve instant messaging for the uses for which it is resolutely best suited (conversation, micro-notification). All this while developing your editorial efforts via email, a channel over which you have 100% control.

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