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If you’re a business operating today, then chances are your company uses email as its primary form of communication.
Despite the growth in popularity of new style messaging platforms, email remains a trusted tool for business and personal use the world over.
In 2020, a staggering 306 billion emails were sent and received every day and the number of email users globally hit four billion – a figure that’s predicted to grow to 4.6 billion by 2025.
But is change on the way? And could the business communications of the future look very different to what we see today? Especially with big players, including WhatsApp and Facebook, now trying to get in on the action.
Here we take a closer look at why the days of business emailing may be numbered and what the current alternatives are.
New working patterns
Long before the pandemic forced companies to embrace remote working (whether they were ready for it or not!), the appetite for hybrid working among employees was already growing.
In March 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a report that found 5.1% of UK workers were already working from home in 2019. This compared to 4.3% in 2015.
Of course, when the UK entered lockdown in 2020, home working instantly became the norm. And while, at the time, many believed this to be a temporary arrangement, nearly two years on it’s still a reality for UK companies, with 71% of businesses believing home working has increased productivity.
As a consequence, many companies have invested into IT tools, such as video conferencing and collaboration apps, to support a move to hybrid working on a more permanent basis.
A tech savvy workforce
Modern workplaces are now filled with Generation Zs (also known as the instant generation).
Unlike millennials before them, Gen Zs grew up in a connected world where the internet has always been around.
Exposed to technology from birth, Gen Zs are highly IT literate and, where millennials grew up conversing via landline and writing letters to penpals, Gen Zs are accustomed to communicating through social media and smartphone chat apps.
In fact, when polled, just 20% of Gen Zs said they would use email for business purposes.
Advances in technology
The first email was sent way back in 1971 and after the arrival of the internet, it wasn’t long until emailing became a mainstream communication tool, not least within businesses.
Since then, tech innovations have come on leaps and bounds.
Together with a wider choice of email providers, widespread communication tools used around the world today include video calling, instant and direct messaging, group chats, telephone conferencing, internet calling, collaboration apps, share points and cloud drives.
The advancements of such technologies has enabled businesses to communicate more collaboratively and productively than ever before, with many applications supporting real time exchange and the ability to work on a single shared file or document.
This is in contract to email, which can be subject to delivery delays, lengthy message trails, getting mistakenly labelled as junk, or failing to reach a recipient if the mailbox is full or an attachment is too large.
While nothing can currently replace everything that email does, there are now more email alternatives on the market than ever before, many of which are purpose-developed to improve communication between remote teams and boost workplace productivity.
Here are just some of the most common you’ll find in business today:
Used by some of today’s most tech savvy companies, including Natwest, Sky, airbnb and Uber, Slack promises to “transform the way that you work with one place for everyone and everything you need to get done”.
At the heart of its proposition are what it refers to as “channels”. In Slack, channels are linked to common goals or projects and provide a singular space where everyone involved can communicate, ensuring that no one gets left out of the loop.
It’s designed to offer an alternative to email, that fosters collaboration and transparency between project stakeholders.
nTask pitches itself as “project management software that enables your teams to collaborate, plan, analyse and manage everyday tasks” and it has some pretty high-profile tech giants among its users, including apple, at&t, Google, HP, Sony and PayPal.
Similar to Slack, nTask offers a centralised platform where all project collaborators can communicate in real time, and progress can be tracked.
It also features budget and deadline tools to help you keep an eye on costs and production timelines, ensuring that every piece of work is delivered on time and on budget.
Microsoft Teams is predominantly a communication channel. Used by over 250 million people globally, it offers packages based on work, personal or school use and enables you to chat (via DM), call (either with video turned on or off) and collaborate (via screen sharing).
Its geared towards both one-on-one and group communications, with the ability to video conference with up to 10,000 people. It also offers some of the same functionality and features you’ll be used to from popular messaging apps, such as emojis and GIFs, giving it a more personal and familiar feel than some other work-based communication tools.
Yammer promises to “connect you with people across your organisation to make better decisions faster”. Another Microsoft tool, Yammer operates similarly to Slack and nTask, to inspire community collaboration, problem solving, and idea sharing among its users.
Some of its key features include the ability to create and join groups, safely communicate with business stakeholders and customers, and also exchange videos, documents, and images in real time.
It’s available on Android and iOS and also has a cool feature which enables you to ask a question in situations where you don’t know who you need to ask.
Google Hangouts is a simple messaging and video calling platform, in much the same vein as WhatsApp. It can be downloaded to Android and iOS smartphones and is also supported by Google Chrome on desktop.
Much like WhatsApp, Google Hangouts offers the option to communicate in chat streams, either one-on-one or by creating groups. As well as exchanging images, GIFs and video content via messaging, the app also allows you to make voice calls or video calls to contacts, and will sync all conversations across all devices you sign into.
The software is primarily marketed at friends and families looking for a secure and encrypted way to contact one another, but it also offers business colleagues a real time alternative to WhatsApp and email, to stay in touch whilst working remotely.
If you’re looking for an email alternative that isn’t too great a departure from email, then mail.com is an excellent choice.
Billing itself as “the best free email alternative” mail.com offers you the chance to register up to 10 free email accounts from a choice of over 200 domains.
With options including musician.org, accountant.com, engineer.com and consultant.net, it’s a great proposition for sole traders, and small businesses of less than 10 employees, looking for a domain name that communicates their product or service.
You’ll be able to manage each of your accounts with a single mail.com login and enjoy up to 65GB of free email storage.
With an intuitive dashboard that navigates similarly to Slack, Groove is a customer communication tool aimed specifically at small businesses looking to improve audience engagement and collaborate more effectively.
Available with a free 15-day trial, Groove holds itself up as “the simplest help desk on the market” providing everything you need to service customers across the different platforms your business uses, without any complexity.
By concentrating on essential features and enabling integration with facebook, shopify, mail-chimp, and twitter (among many others), Groove provides a centralised management tool your entire team can access to respond to customer communications in a timely and organised way.
The above represent just a fraction of the email alternatives that are available to businesses today. For more advice about improving collaboration in your organisation, increasing your cyber security, or real-time IT support, contact Dragon IS on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 363 0055.