Technology is rapidly changing the way people communicate and do business. Email has been losing space to other communication tools such as social media and instant message apps, and will only keep its position as the leading business communication channel if it evolves.

The Inbox of the future will be collaborative, “all-in-one” and more flexible and customizable. Here’s how.

Is Email stuck in the past? 📼

We have already mentioned that the average American worker spends 6.3 hours a day checking their emails. It isn’t news to anyone that email has been the most used communication tool for business in the last decades. In 2017, an average of 269 billion emails are being exchanged daily, against 145 billion in 2012, according to research firm The Radicati Group. Just while you were reading this paragraph, 30 million emails were sent 🙃.

The things is, there has been very limited evolution on the way emails are managed and exchanged. Interfaces changed dramatically and software became faster, but the traditional way of organizing emails in a single and chronological list and deleting, archiving, starring, forwarding or replying to them, these things haven’t changed.

Gmail in 2004

Gmail in 2017

But the World has changed. Today, people receive hundreds of emails daily and fight against endless spams, newsletters and FYIs to not let their important and actionable emails sink in their Inboxes. Today, people are flooded with more information. They do multi-tasking, juggling with different topics and projects at the same time. Today, people work collaboratively and share more. Information flows faster, especially because of the emergence of new communication technologies such as smart phones, instant message apps, video conference apps, social media, and many others.

Email is not dead. Email is changing. 😵 

It’s true that the emergence of those new communication technologies has been hurting the power of email as a communication channel, to an extent that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that “Email is dead” in 2010. Nevertheless, seven years later, the final deal, hiring, sale, fundraising and many other business activities are still sealed by email.

If you are looking to be more productive in your Inbox, a quick online research will lead you to thousands of articles with “email hacks”. They are all the same: “turn off notifications”, “unsubscribe from newsletter you don’t read”, “set up emails rules”, “schedule specific times to check email” and Bla Bla Bla. But this is not the main point. The main point is that Email needs to evolve.

And we are getting there. There are several tools in the market to help people improve the traditional email interface and features out there. These tools are gradually taking over inboxes and setting a new standard of way to manage email.

The Inbox of the Future. 🤖

The inbox of the (not so distant) future will catch up with the advancements in business technologies along the last years.

1. Email will be collaborative: Business tools are allowing people to collaborate. Live chat apps have conquered millions of users that prefer to communicate in a group on real time instead of sending time-consuming emails. Each day more and more files are shared on the cloud with several users, throw a simple sharable link, allowing people to work together on the same document from different computers. What makes me think: why until today, emails are not allowed to be shared? I can’t believe in 2017 we are still sending email “Fwd:Re:Re:Fwd:Re”, full of “Cc’s” and “Bccs’s”. Really.

2. Email will be “all-in-one”
The lag between business becoming more collaborative and email not following this trend brought consequences. A remarkable one is that, although every single deal, project, customer support, and many other information flows always start and end in emails, the email providers lost market for external tools. Tools such as Groove HQ and Zendesk brought customer support out of inboxes, bringing collaboration as a big pivot. Pipedrive and Salesforce did the same for CRM. Trello did the same for task management. A collaborative inbox will be a big step towards bringing these businesses back to inbox. There is no reason to keep adding extra steps.

3. Email will be more than email
An email will be more than just an email. Each email will be a prospect. Or a task. Or a customer support ticket. Or a purchase order. Or an event. And customized notes will come on top of each email type (e.g. What is the date of this event? What is the size of this potential deal? What is the size of this client? Who is the responsible for this order?).

4. Email will be customizable
Email traffic keeps getting higher and higher. Yes, folders and labels help to organize them. Methodologies such “Inbox zero” emerged to solve it as well, although incredibly hard to achieve. Spam folders are also very useful doing a first “filtering” of emails. But why Email still needs to be sorted in chronological order, if some are more important than others? Why can we see only 1 folder at a time? Why multiple email threads cannot be easily merged into 1 file, if they are all about the same subject? The lack of basic customization still hinders productivity of the billion email users around the World.

Technology is rapidly changing the way people communicate and do business. Although email has been losing space to other communication tools, it is still the most powerful one, and will only be able to keep its position if it evolves with the rest of the business World.