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Of all the tech challenges that marketing and research professionals wrestle with, none is as ubiquitous as email. On the one hand, it's this very ubiquity that makes email so irresistible: social networks may come and go, but almost everybody reads email - which is why it's still the primary channel for reaching your customers with everything from special offers to survey invitations.

But when it comes to receiving and replying to email, marketers are in the same boat as every other professional - a boat that often feels like it's sinking. If your feelings about email are less than positive, you're not alone: in a recent survey of people who use email at work, we found that email seems to be associated to more negative terms than positive terms. For instance, negative words like "boring", "annoying" and "hostile" were used much more than positive words such as "friendly", "manageable" and "interesting".

New data and infographics on email overload

How often do people check work email?

If email is more apt to inspire dread than joy, it may be due to the footprint email has on our workday. 40% of respondents indicated that they constantly check their email, opening it every time they are notified during business hours. Another 28% check their email about two to four times a day. These results align with a previous study where it was discovered that workers spend nearly one-fourth of their workday reading and responding to emails.

New data and infographics on email overload 2

What explains all this email checking? For the majority of respondents, it's about avoiding the dreaded fate of missing an urgent email - followed by a desire to stay current, or simply force of habit:

New data and infographics on email overload 3

You merely have to google email overload to realize that many people are looking for a better way to handle their email. Interestingly, however, there are few strategies that are used by more than a handful of respondents:

New data and infographics on email overload 4

If business users want to experience email in more positive terms, they would do well to embrace some of the strategies that respondents report using only rarely, if at all.
Here are the strategies that are "never or rarely" used to manage email:
  • Giving their assistant or support staff direct access to their inbox (74% say they rarely or never do this)
  • Delegating some or all of their email responses to colleagues (66%)
  • Using auto-responders other than out-of-office messages (71%)
  • Turning off their mobile device of computer during a certain time of day (57%)
  • Using email rules/filters that automatically sort, label, file, or delete incoming messages (46%)
Marketing professionals who experience email pain that goes beyond open rates would do well to contemplate numbers like these, and to ask whether there are strategies that could make their email management more efficient and effective. The emergent category of email automation - which includes everything from Gmail's recently-introduced tabs, to dedicated solutions like Sanebox and Other Inbox - offers one easy starting point. If you're looking for ways that technology can make your work easier, these tools - not to mention your current email client's rules and filters - are a great place to start.

The recent figures come from a survey conducted by Vision Critical on its Springboard America panel. The survey, conducted March 2013, is based off a sample of 590 Americans ages 18 and older.

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