“The world counts x billion email users, with that number expected to increase to y billion by the year z”.
*yawn* Every now and then I stumble upon statements like this, attempting to prove that email is – after more than 43 years – still thriving. In fact, however, those numbers mean close to nothing. At least if they are not put into an adequate perspective. My suggestion: If you need email numbers, don’t look at statistics made up out of thin air, look at Eurostat and the like instead…
Don’t do this:
First, what’s my point of criticism? Well, take for example the “internet in numbers” reports. Among other things, they look back at the absolute number of email users worldwide. So far, so good. However, doesn’t it make more sense to view them in the light of the internet users worldwide as a benchmark? Relative numbers would be more meaningful, because if internet users grew more rapidly, email might not look that good at a second glance:
The validity and comparability of the reported numbers is another story. I mean, where did the Radicati Group come up with their email users forecast? What’s the methodology? Sure, with a growing number of citations (= authority), it becomes tempting to recite the paper one more time in your own blog. The lack of other reliable data providers encourages that, too (= scarcity). But more references don’t necessarily make a statistic itself any better…
But look at this:
That’s why I was glad to find some official and harmonized open data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. It’s not gapless (where’s 2011?!), it’s not global (Europe!), but it’s better than some obscure estimations and mash-ups.
Here’s for example the percentage of people in the EU who use email (data),
… by country and over time:
… and by country in 2013 (latest):
As you can see, regionwise, there have always been significant differences concerning the use of email. This matters to advertisers, who went international with their email program: In the “yellowish countries”, it might be difficult (or impossible) to reach all of your customers via email compared to the dark green ones. A multichannel automation platform, which supports text, telefax, print, display and so on, is probably worth its weight in gold when retaining “email refuseniks” customers.
Finally, let’s get back again to our initial question: Is email saturated or even decreasing? Or is it growing? Here is the trend for some countries:
As a matter of fact, yes: the number of email users is increasing. And there is even still much potential for many countries – who would have thought that…
However, opportunities are limited for Iceland and the Netherlands, where already nine out of ten people (!) email regularly. Wow! Perhaps this explains, why there seems to be a rather strong Dutch email marketing community (e.g. @jvanrijn, @Emailblog, …)? Are they responsible for the boost from 2004 to 2005?
Anyways, in case you are interested, here are some more numbers on mobile usage and social networking, and here’s an interactive Facebook world map that also shows you which country is which. Regarding email marketing experts, meet the top 250 on Twitter (gleanings).