In September, I shot a survey out to friends and strangers to gather information about how my peers use e-mail. The results were interesting, and even had some surprises.

Age ranges of the survey respondents.
Age ranges of the survey respondents.

Here’s the age breakdown of the respondents.  As you can see, 54% were in the 18-25 range. You may think since “Millennials” comprised the bulk of the respondents that you could predict them, but you may be surprised. Let’s go through some of the main takeaways.

84% of respondents are still checking their e-mail at least daily.

No surprise here! Many people still check their e-mail multiple times a day, even the generational groups that purportedly don’t use e-mail. If we add those who said they peek at their inbox “a few times a week,” nearly everyone in the survey is included. E-mail is still widely used, and people are checking it.

People use throwaway e-mail addresses.

Think visitors who sign up for an account on your website are giving you a monitored e-mail address? Think again. When asked why they had more than one e-mail address, the top three responses were for work/school, personal use, and one…to send spam to. A throwaway.

“To register multiple accounts on the same website; to send emails that aren’t from my email address; to register accounts that aren’t connected to my email address; gmail likes to link to a second account as a security measure”

Further, if businesses are sharing the e-mail addresses they collect, customers get pretty darn clever to avoid be bought and sold.

“I have my own domain with which I use different addresses for each site or service e.g. for reddit I use reddit@mydomain.tld and for a bank I use bankname@mydomain.tld. That way, If I start getting spam, I can see who leaked/sold my address, and decommission that address to stop the spam.”

It isn’t that the elusive 18-25 and 26-34 age range doesn’t use e-mail, it’s that they don’t use the one they gave you. 

87% of people don’t give out their primary e-mail address because they don’t trust or need you.

The 13% that does give out their primary e-mail address includes the 2% of respondents who only have one e-mail address. Largely, the 18-25 group only gave out their primary address if you are providing them with something they need, such as electricity, rent, or insurance. Rarely did anyone answer that, yes, they give out their primary address regardless of whether or not they trusted you, needed your product, or were subscribed to your service. Often, respondents of all ages wanted to both trust your business and need whatever you were selling.

The TL;DR.

People have more than one e-mail address, and they probably aren’t giving you the one you want most: the one they use most. So while, yes, someone might boast a large collection of e-mails in their subscriber list, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

This absolutely supports my previous entry about building relationships with your customers, avoiding cold sales, and providing them with relevant offers. I’d recommend using a different platform to build your relationships, and using e-mail as a more personal form of contact after you’ve established a level of trust with the customer.

But that’s another entry for another day.

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