Since the delivery of the first email back in 1971, electronic messaging has significantly revolutionized business communications. As an inexpensive and convenient channel, email enables companies and their executives to connect, collaborate on, and exchange information with fellow employees, outside contractors, current customers, and just about anyone. Email is ideal for sending simple messages and creating communication threads. Furthermore, email gives recipients the ability to answer at their convenience, instead of requiring immediate action like an SMS message or chat. But with the ubiquity of new modes of communication (including social media, instant messaging, and more avenues), many business owners and marketers are trying to understand the true impact of email on today’s shifting communications landscape.
SendGrid, a leading digital communications platform, is a firm believer that email isn’t going away anytime soon; and if anything, email will continue to adapt and change as users evolve.
SourceForge recently spoke with Scott Heimes, the Chief Marketing Officer at SendGrid, to discuss the findings of The Future of Digital Communication, a study by Egg Strategy and commissioned by SendGrid, which evaluates trends in data email use, preferences, and perceptions across generations. Heimes also shared some insight on SendGrid’s cloud-based email delivery platform and how it helps business and marketers enhance their digital communications strategy.
Q: Can you share with our audience a brief background of SendGrid in addition to the company’s vision and mission? Who are some of your current customers that use SendGrid?
A: SendGrid is a leading digital communication platform, enabling businesses to engage with their customers via email reliably, effectively and at scale. Our cloud-based platform allows for frictionless adoption and immediate value creation for businesses, providing their developers and marketers with the tools to seamlessly and effectively reach their customers using email. Since our inception we have processed more than one trillion emails.
SendGrid was founded in 2009 by developers who were frustrated with their own experiences in managing email delivery. They wanted to build a system ‘‘that just worked’’ for developers and allowed them to focus on strategic business activities. They developed a robust technology platform incorporating their domain expertise and created an application programming interface, or API, that allowed for easy integration by businesses. We built our business model around serving the developer, including self-service adoption and a frictionless user experience. We have extended this platform over time to serve the similar email delivery needs of marketers.
SendGrid offers customers three services: our Email API; Marketing Campaigns; and Expert Services. With our platform, businesses can achieve industry-leading email deliverability that translates into higher brand engagement with their customers.
Businesses of all sizes and across industries depend on SendGrid’s digital communication platform. SendGrid sends over 36 billion emails per month on behalf of 58,000 customers including internet and mobile-based customers like Airbnb, Pandora, Spotify, Uber and Foursquare as well as more traditional enterprises like Intuit and Hertz.
Q: Why do you think that some individuals believe that email will likely become obsolete over the course of the next few years?
A: Many in the industry claim that email is either dead, dying or will soon become obsolete. So-called “email killers,” such as Slack and Facebook Messenger claim to replace email and have all but declared the age of email irrelevant, especially for younger generations. However, our research with Egg Strategy found that email is essential, important and entrenched in the lives of people today. The report found:
- There is an overwhelming preference (74%) for email over all other communication forms when it comes to B2C interactions.
- Over the next few years, Gen Z (83%) expects to increase their email usage, the most of all generations.
- Email is a much more ubiquitous form of communication. 89% of people surveyed have used email at least once in the past month vs. 83% of all social media tools together including but not limited to Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest.
- Qualitative and quantitative research found that of 11 personality traits, users of Twitter (5), Instagram (3) and Snapchat (3) had very distinct personality traits while email (1) was much smaller in terms of personality traits. This implies that email can’t be defined by a single personality trait or lifestyle.
I will say definitively that email is not going anywhere. Email will continue to be the next “big thing” in 2018 because it is at the center of all successful marketing programs.
Engaging email communication builds loyalty and relationships on a much deeper level than any other channel–because email is extremely personal. That level of personal connection is at the heart of why email continues to be important.
Email is not a fad; it is not dying. It has proven to have the longevity and the return that drives growth. If you aren’t incorporating email into every channel, then you are missing out on the opportunity to better understand your customers and connect with them at every turn. Marketers who embrace email at the core of their marketing programs will be the ones to succeed in 2017.
Q: In your opinion, will the new generation – the rising millennials and members of “Generation Z” – still use email? What can marketers do to adapt to the changing communication preferences of the younger generations?
A: According to our research on email adoption called the Future of Digital Communication, we found that the vast majority of people – 88% and 85%, respectively – believe that their email usage will stay the same or increase in the next year and 5 years.
Email usage is expected to continue to increase the most among Gen Z while email usage among Millennials and Gen X appears to have reached saturation. Furthermore, Gen Z, more than Millennials or Gen X, believe that B2B and B2C email usage will continue to surge.
Email communications of all types exhibit strong staying power! The vast majority of respondents believes their email usage (regardless of type) is going to stay the same or increase in the near future.
As a marketer, you have the opportunity to address someone in their inbox, where they keep conversations with friends and family, receipts, and other important communications. Your messages inside their inboxes are already more valued than tweets, status updates, and blog posts. Assuming your subscribers have provided you with their email addresses, they’ve already told you that they want to hear from you! It’s now up to you to make the best impression and take that customer/marketer relationship to the next level.
The key to the next stage of email growth as we kick off 2018 is taking the information you have based on an email address and cross-reference it with the other user behaviors you have such as:
- What they are doing on your website
- How they are engaging with your app
- What they are buying inside your stores
Then combine that information with what actions you want them to take to inform your mobile, social media and in-store strategies. But remember, all of your other channels should be pointing back to email.
Q: How does cloud-based email delivery service work? What are its advantages over other email delivery services? And what are some of the other services that SendGrid offers?
A: We deliver our services through a self-service cloud-based subscription model, where businesses primarily sign up for our services through our website. We offer transparent and affordable pricing, generally on a per month basis by volume of email and typically paid by credit card. In addition, we have robust documentation for onboarding and ongoing usage. This self-service delivery model has enabled us to rapidly attract customers while operating our business efficiently.
Businesses are adopting cloud services to reduce complexity and focus on core functions, i.e., technological innovation has enabled businesses to improve efficiency, but it has also lowered barriers to entry. Businesses of all sizes must adapt quickly to changing market needs in order to grow and compete. As a result, businesses are turning to cloud services to manage complex and costly parts of their IT infrastructure and operations. Cloud services can seamlessly provide many of the critical, but non-core, components for a business, allowing it to maximize the value of internal resources by focusing on its core differentiating competencies.
Frictionless, self-service models are driving high adoption of cloud Services. The ease of cloud service delivery is driving a move from multi-million-dollar capital purchases of on-premises IT infrastructure to recurring lower-cost subscriptions for cloud services. This change has increased the influence of line of business owners, developers and marketers in technology purchasing decisions compared to a traditional CIO-led purchasing process. With cloud services, developers and marketers exert greater control over how they allocate their resources.
We believe the principal factors on which we compete include: completeness of offering; credibility with developers and marketers; global reach; ease of adoption; features and functionality; platform scalability, reliability, security and performance; brand awareness and reputation; integration with third-party applications and data sources; customer support; and the total cost of deployment and ownership.
We offer our customers three services: our Email API; Marketing Campaigns; and Expert Services. Our Email API service allows developers to use our API in their preferred development framework to leverage our platform to add email functionality to their applications within minutes. This service enables businesses to send thousands or billions of emails, all with the same high level of service and reliability and incorporates proprietary technology and domain expertise to significantly improve deliverability rates. Our Marketing Campaigns service allows marketers to upload and manage customer contact lists, create and test email templates, and then execute and analyze multi-faceted email campaigns that engage customers and drive growth. Our Expert Services help businesses further optimize their email delivery. With our platform, businesses can achieve industry-leading email deliverability that translates into higher brand engagement with their customers.
Q: How are different generations viewing communication tools? Which tools are preferred by Generation X, millennials, and Generation Z?
The Future of Digital Communication:
- Email is so essential, important and entrenched in the lives of people today that it is nearly impossible to imagine life without it
- Over the next few years, Gen Z expects to increase their email usage the most of all generations
- There is an overwhelming preference for email over all other communication forms when it comes to B2C interactions
- Email is the channel where business is done from interactions inside a company to interactions between businesses and consumers to interactions between businesses
- All personality types use email meaning it’s a nearly universal channel; that isn’t the case with other communications and social media tools
- Email is a staple form of communication today regardless of age of life stage:
- 85% of Gen Z consumers use email at least monthly
- 83% of Gen Z believe their email usage will stay the same or increase in the next 5 years
- 89% of Millennial consumers use email at least monthly
- 88% of Millennials believe their email usage will stay the same or increase in the next 5 years
- 92% of Gen X consumers use email at least monthly
- 85% of Gen X believe their email usage will stay the same or increase in the next 5 years
Future of communication behaviors:
- 88% and 85% believe that their email usage will stay the same or increase in the next year and 5 years, respectively
- Email usage is expected to continue to increase the most among Gen Z while email usage among Millennials and Gen X appears to have reached saturation
- Gen Z is more confident than any other generation that their email communication will increase next year; increase is anticipated to be greater when looking ahead 5 years
- Gen Z, more than Millennials or Gen X, believe that B2B and B2C email usage will continue to surge
Q: How will innovations in technology – both artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) – affect business communications? And how can businesses seamlessly adapt to these changes?
A: As the twenty-first century progresses, it’s becoming increasingly clear that artificial intelligence (or AI) will be much more likely to enhance our jobs than replace them. According to new research from Accenture, AI is predicted to boost productivity by up to 40 percent by the year 2035, and double annual economic growth. Among those particularly well-positioned to benefit from this shift appear to be marketers, many of whom are already reaping the benefits of AI, especially when it comes to their ecommerce efforts.
AI is reshaping the marketing landscape and marketers now have access to machine learning tools that can predict how likely someone is to click on an email, which helps businesses decide who the best prospects are on their email lists. There are models that help marketers segment their recipient lists and keep deliverability rates up. Machine learning helps them optimize who to send to—and helps them increase sales.
One way AI will likely benefit marketers is by allowing for more niche products. When a business has to develop a separate email or marketing campaign for each individual product it can be very time-consuming (and oftentimes not profitable). But when content can be automatically selected in real-time to target each individual or segment, there is the potential for a wider product offering and a more diverse customer base. AI makes it easier for companies to add more products and provides more potential outlets for manufacturers of small, niche products. AI will enable larger companies to support a wider, more diverse array of products while enabling smaller companies to quickly innovate with new and disruptive products.
Q: What are some of the upcoming projects and solutions that SendGrid is working on?
A: We have significantly increased the number of emails processed by our platform over the last several years. We anticipate that we will continue to significantly expand our operations and headcount in the near term.
We have also established strategic relationships with a number of other companies, including public cloud infrastructure providers and ecommerce platforms, software vendors that offer complementary products and with which we co-sell our services and digital marketing agencies that resell our services to their clients. In order to grow our business, we anticipate that we will continue to establish and maintain these strategic relationships.
For example, SendGrid announced in 2017 a robust and expansive relationship with Amazon Web Services. We recently extended our relationship and are now available on Amazon Marketplace, where our product has increased visibility with tens of thousands of additional customers.
SendGrid is a Denver, Colorado-based company that specializes in cloud-based email delivery for transactional and marketing email. Founded in 2009, SendGrid strives to help companies deliver customer communication that drives engagement and growth. To date, SendGrid has processed over 36 billion emails for leading internet, mobile-based, and traditional companies, including Pinterest, Airbnb, Uber, Walmart, Taco Bell, and Costco.