Teens and Email: Getting in the Inbox

4 minute read

Team Adestra

Everyone “knows” that teens are all about the chat, right?

At Adestra, we believe in relentless testing – and that goes for ideas, too. So, we did a consumer survey that looked at people at both edges of the age span: teens aged 14 to 18 and millennials aged 19 to 34 at one end, and first-generation email users aged 56 to 67 at the other. We uncovered some fascinating new insights.

One of the most surprising was that teens do use email. Moreover, it’s their favorite way to get communications from brands.

In our survey of 1,250 consumers, we wanted to get a more nuanced look at not only how much but also why people use different communications channels.

We found that yes, it’s true that while teens are by far the most likely to use their mobiles to chat with friends, they are also almost as likely to use them for personal email. That’s right: 90 percent of teenagers check email on mobile devices.

A part of life

Consumers across all three age groups agreed that email is part of everyday life. Among all age groups, email was by far the preferred medium for communication from brands, with 72.2 percent overall choosing it and 67.6 percent of teens preferring it. In fact, while 85 percent of all consumers in the survey said getting discounts was among the most important reasons to sign up for email from a brand, teens over-indexed on “If I love the brand.”

Another contrarian finding is that, despite their avid texting, teens do not want texts from brands: 52 percent said they didn’t sign up for texts from companies, compared to 40 percent of millennials.

But there are differences in the way the youngest of us deal with mobile email.

For one thing, teens have less patience for bad formatting and other email glitches. They’re more likely to just trash odd-looking messages. Worse, 25 to 29 percent of younger mobile users will opt out of your emails altogether if they don’t look right on their phones.

They’re also most likely to engage in “inbox triaging,” the practice of scanning subject lines in order to decide what to read later and what to delete on the spot. But they aren’t going to bother to star messages they want to read later, nor to move them to a different folder. They simply leave messages in the queue.

There are two issues for marketers in teenagers’ approach to email triage. First is that too often, an email that seemed interesting when it was received can drift too far down the queue and never be opened. The second issue is that it makes it harder for marketers to understand engagement. You can’t be sure whether the recipient trashed your email without looking at it as opposed to finding it interesting, but not quite interesting enough to open at that moment.

Test the approach

Teens, as well as millennials, tend to check email randomly throughout the day, especially when they’re bored. While this could be good, if your highly targeted and attractive email hits at one of those moments of free time, it also means that you can’t predict the optimal time to send.

To address these behaviors, testing becomes even more important. To account for triaged emails that fall too far down the queue, test resending the same email later in the day to recipients who didn’t open or click.

Of course you should do this with care, because like everyone else, the majority of the youngest consumers think they get too much promotional email.

If you can’t predict when your recipients will open your message, don’t guess. Instead, test sending at different times of the day. Don’t forget to hold out a portion of your customers to which you will not resend, so you can compare results and see whether resending created a lift in response.

Teens – they’re just like us!

Really, should we be surprised that teens are such heavy users of email? After all, email is still the backbone of everything that happens online. And it’s especially important for brands and m-commerce. That email address is integral to getting receipts, tracking packages and getting customer support. To get things done, email still makes sense – for teenaged consumers and for marketers.

To see more insights about the way teens, millennials and older folks use email, read The 2016 Adestra Consumer Adoption & Usage Study.

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