Email has been with us for decades now — for such a long time that email could be considered as “mature” a communications tool as the conventional telephone.
And yet, even as some older tools decline in use as new communications techniques emerge, email continues to be as popular as ever.
The latest confirmation of this comes from a study of ~1,000 U.S. workers conducted in September 2019 by survey research firm Propeller Insights for app developer Spike. The topline result: of the respondents who use both email and messaging apps, nearly 80% prefer email, as compared to only around 20% who prefer the messaging apps.
Not surprisingly, older workers embrace e-mail more than younger ones do — both in terms of preference and usage. Even so, e-mail reigns supreme in terms of usage across all age groups, with messaging apps, the telephone, in-person conversations and video conferencing (in that order) lagging behind.
As for male versus female respondents; their usage and preferences are roughly similar, with perhaps a feather on the scale for males in favor of email communications.
Furthermore, what comes through loud and clear from the study is that people are tired of juggling multiple channels of communication, with nearly nine in ten respondents stating that switching between apps affects their productivity adversely in one or more ways.
The following reasons were cited as contributing to their reluctance to switch between various communication and collaboration tools:
Makes it harder to find information: ~21%
Creates too many mixed communications: ~21%
Slows down productivity: ~18%
Wastes time: ~17%
Is a major distraction: ~13%
Related to these downsides, more than two-thirds reported that they would welcome having an app that combines all emails and messaging.
Whether or not a combo app is something that becomes available, anyone expecting email to decline precipitously as a preferred method of communications in the coming years is likely to be disappointed.
What are your practices regarding email, messaging apps and other communications methods? Are they substantially different from the Propeller survey results? Please share your thoughts with other readers.
Drone deliveries just got real. We’ve been reading about them for a good while, along with the occasional news story about a prototype drone model making a product delivery to someone’s doorstep.
But drone deliveries have suddenly taken a major step into the commercial mainstream with the announcement that the first home deliveries of packages from Walgreens have started. They’re being handled by Wing, a subsidiary of Alphabet — the parent company of Google.
Wing itself received a special certification from the Federal Aviation Administration recently that allows it to make commercial air deliveries directly to homes in the United States. That’s a first.
In addition to the Walgreens account, Wing is also delivering OTC medication, gifts and other items on behalf of Sugar Magnolia, a Virginia-based retailer.
How do these deliveries work? Customers order products via a special app, and can opt in to receive their items via FedEx Express delivered by drone, which lowers the packages to a designated spot in a yard or driveway.
Wing, Walgreens and Sugar Magnolia aren’t the only people nosing around this method of delivery. Walmart has filed a patent application for a system for retrieving packages delivered by drone, and UPS is also getting into the mix. The FAA has given approval to UPS’s new Flight Forward subsidiary that will allow it to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operations. And right on cue, the first Flight Forward agreement for drone delivery services has just been announced, with CVS pharmacies.
So it’s pretty clear that drones have finally broken through to the point where they can be serioiusly tested for consumer use and acceptance. Next, it will be interesting to gauge consumer reaction. Will drone deliveries break out into the mainstream, or are they destined to remain more of a curiosity? Here’s one early read from online business owner Mark Reasbeck:
“[It’s] nice that everybody … has nothing else to do but to order stuff from Walgreens and just sit there and wait for the delivery. What happens if you’re not home? How much [cost] for that service? They have to pay for a ‘shopper’ and then all the pilots watching the drone. This is not needed on so many levels.”
What are your thoughts on this latest transport frontier? Is it a flash in the pan? … or poised for phenomenal success?
As one of the five senses, sight is usually mentioned first. And little wonder, if we consider what an integral part of our life’s experience is based on what we see.
Color is a huge part of that — and it goes beyond “sight” as well. We use color not only to pinpoint a place on the visible spectrum, but also to describe intangible factors such as emotions and character traits.
Recognizing the importance of color and its impact on how humans think and behave, marketers and branding specialists have long made use of the power of color in advertising and design. This continues today in the digital world of websites and other electronic media, where the choice of colors has measurable impact on website engagement and conversions.
It takes approximately 90 seconds for a viewer to make a quick product assessment — and two-thirds of this judgment is based on color.
Color is a key reason for selecting a particular product. For instance, two-thirds of shoppers won’t purchase a large appliance if it isn’t available in their preferred color.
The classic notion of “pink for girls” and “blue for boys” turns out to be generally true (despite the penchant for choosing yellow when a family doesn’t want to “channel” their newborn towards a particular gender identity). Bold colors or shades of blue, black and darker green are preferred by most men, whereas more women prefer soft colors or tints of purple, pink, rose and lighter green.
Furthermore, attitudinal studies show that main color groups convey certain characteristics:
Red embodies life, excitement and boldness. It’s used often in iconic consumer brands, but also to announce clearance sales.
Blue telegraphs productivity, tranquility and trust. Is it any wonder that blue colors are the hands-down favorite among commercial/industrial product brands?
Green evokes growth, nature and harmony. Its use has been growing in recent decades.
Yellow personifies joy, intellect and energy. It’s employed by brands to evoke cheerful, sunny feelings.
Purple suggests wealth and royalty. It’s no accident that “royal purple” has been with us since Renaissance times.
Black projects authority, power and elegance. Not surprisingly, it’s the most popular choice for marketing luxury products. But it can be highly effective in promoting technology products as well.
White and silver communicate perfection and pristine clarity. These colors are also popular with technology products, but are used very often in healthcare-related products and services.
These time-honored color characteristics are very much in play in the world of websites. Such aspects are a factor in nine out of ten visitors to a website — half of whom report that they won’t return to a website based on the site’s lack of aesthetics, not just its functionality.
As well, the colors of call-to-action buttons are significant, as studies show that red, orange and green CTA buttons are the best ones for conversions (but only if they stand out from the rest of the content on the screen).
More fundamentally, what this means for website designers is that despite the desire to be “different” or “distinct” from others in the marketplace, many attitudes about color are so fundamental, that to fly in the face of them could well be a risky endeavor.
If you’ve taken a look at September’s U.S. unemployment figure – 3.5% — you’re seeing the lowest level of unemployment in over 50 years. And for particular subgroups of the population, they’re enjoying their lowest employment percentages ever — at least since records have been kept.
It’s definitely something to cheer about. But at the same time, it’s become increasingly evident that wage growth isn’t happening in tandem with lower unemployment. And that includes industrial wages as well.
In fact, September results show the first dip in wages – albeit slight – in the past two years.
According to Liu and Leduc, as certain tasks move more toward automation, employees are losing bargaining power within their organizations. When people fear that they could lose their jobs to a robot or a machine, there’s a hesitation to ask for higher wages as that might hasten the eventuality.
The net result is a widening gap between productivity and pay.
The reason? Complexity, volume and margins are often barriers to the implementation of automation in many applications. Just because something can be automated doesn’t mean that there’s a compelling economic argument to do so – particularly if the production volumes aren’t in the league of “mass manufacturing.”
Jobs in engineering and R&D are even less likely to become automated. After all, probably the single most important attribute of employees in these positions is the ability to “think outside the box” – something artificial intelligence hasn’t come anywhere close to replicating (at least not yet).
What are your thoughts about automation and how it will affect employment and wage growth? Please share your perspectives with other readers.
Recently, some interesting research findings were released by Nielsen as part of its latest round of Total Audience Reporting. The analysis shows that even as the number of stations received by U.S. TV households has increased to an average of ~192 in 2018 — up nearly 50% from a decade earlier — the number of channels actually watched, on average, has dropped to fewer than 7% of them.
Furthermore, stations watched has declined in absolute terms, not merely in terms of percentage share. The average number of stations tuned into by households as of 2018 (~13) was fewer than the number of TV channels households were tuning in to a decade earlier, when the average number was just over 17.
These findings underscore the continuing fragmentation of the linear TV ecosystem even as the number of alternative viewing choices increases, thanks to non-linear TV options such as OTT (Internet-direct) and VOD (video-on-demand) subscription services.
And here’s another takeaway from the research: These data underscore how dispensable most linear TV channels — not excluding ones affiliated with legacy networks — have become for most TV households.
What are your habits regarding watching linear TV these days? Do your practices mirror the Nielsen findings? How have your habits changed over the past few years? Please share your experiences with other readers.
Decades ago, people had a choice of cloth fibers like cotton, wool and silk. Each of these natural cloths had positive attributes … as well as negative ones, too.
Cotton is comfortable to wear, but wrinkles when washed. Wool is great for the cold weather months, but needs to be dry-cleaned. Too, moths and other insects love to burrow their way through woolen clothing, making many an item made from wool ready for the trash far too soon.
Silk? It has all the detriments of cotton and wool without any of the positives — except that it looks rich and expensive if one wishes to put on airs or otherwise “make a statement.”
Beginning in the 1940s, polyesters and other synthetic fibers were introduced, giving rise to all sorts of new clothing items that touted a variety of positive attributes: They washed up fine, didn’t need ironing, and kept their shape over time.
Never mind the fact that the clothing didn’t breathe, and made more than a few people stink to the heavens after wearing a synthetic cloth shirt for barely an hour on a hot summer day.
Along these same lines, today we have synthetic media. It’s essentially how people and machines are collaborating to create media that is algorithmically created (or modified).
In its earliest incarnations, synthetic media was a blend of “real” and “faux” components. Think of a newscast with your favorite, very real anchor person … but the background, screens and graphics are computer-generated.
But things have gone much further than that in recent times. Text, photography and videos are being created by software with such precision and seeming authenticity that it’s nearly impossible to determine what content is “real” versus what has been “synthesized.”
On the plus side, content can be automatically translated and delivered in multiple languages to different audiences spanning the world, bringing more news and information to more people simultaneously. But what if the avatar (host) could be customized to be more “familiar” to different audiences — and therefore more engaging and believable to them?
There’s a flipside to all of this innovation. So-called “deepfakes” (a recent term that took no time at all to be added to the major dictionary databases) harness digital technology to superimpose faces onto video clips in ways that are so realistic, they appear to be totally authentic.
Considering the advances in the technology, one can only imagine the plethora of “news” items that will be unleashed into cyberspace and on social media platforms in the coming months and years. Most likely, they’ll have the effect of making more than a few people suspicious of all news and information — regardless of the source.
Which brings us back to synthetic fabrics. They’re with us and always will be; there’s no turning back from them. But people have learned how to use them for what makes sense, and eschew the rest. We need to figure out how to do the same with synthetic media.
Canadian interactive media and search engine specialist extraordinaireGord Hotchkiss is one of my favorite columnists who write regularly on marketing topics. Invariably he does a fine job “connecting the dots” between seemingly disparate points — often drawing thought-provoking conclusions from them.
In short, a Hotchkiss column is one that is always worth reading. In his latest piece he starts out with a bold pronouncement:
“When the internet ushered in an explosion of information in the mid-to late-1990s there were many — I among them — who believed humans would get smarter.
What we didn’t realize then is that the opposite would eventually prove to be true.”
His point is that information technology has begun to change the time-honored ways humans are hard-wired to think, which is both fast and slow. In essence, two loops are required for mental processing: the “fast” loop pertains to our instinctive response to situations, whereas the “slow” loop is a more thoughtful processing of discerning reality.
In Hotchkiss’ view, people need both loops – especially now, considering the complexity of the world.
A more complex world requires more time to absorb and come to terms with that complexity. But when the focus is only on thinking “fast,” the results aren’t pretty. As he observes:
“If we could only think fast, we’d all believe in capital punishment, extreme retribution, and eye-for-eye retaliation. We would be disgusted and pissed off almost all the time. We would live in a Hobbesian State of Nature [where] the ‘natural condition of mankind’ is what would exist if there were no government, no civilization, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature.
The state of nature is a ‘war of all against all’ in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other in an incessant pursuit for power. Life in the state of nature is ‘nasty, brutish and short.’”
Do any of us wish to live in a world like that? One would think not.
But here’s where Hotchkiss feels like things have gone off the rails in recent times. The Internet and social media have delivered to us the speed of connection and reaction that is faster than ever before in our lives and in our culture:
“The Internet lures us into thinking with half a brain … and the half we’re using is the least thoughtful, most savage half … We are now living in a pinball culture, where the speed of play determines that we have to react by instinct. There is no time left for thoughtfulness.”
In such an environment, can we be all that surprised at the sorry result? Hotchkiss, for one, isn’t, noting:
“With its dense interconnectedness, the Internet has created a culture of immediate reaction. We react without all the facts. We are disgusted and pissed off all the time. This is the era of ‘cancel and ‘callout’ culture. The court of public opinion is now less like an actual court and more like a school of sharks in a feeding frenzy.”
Not that every interaction is like that, of course. If you think of social media posts, there are many — perhaps more — that are wonderfully charming, even cloyingly affectionate.
Most people are quick to point out that there’s this good side to social media, too – and in that sense, social media merely reflects the best and worst of human nature.
But regardless of whether it’s negative or positive, pretty much all interactive media lives in the realm of “thinking fast.” All of it is digested too quickly. Too often it’s empty calories – the nutritional equivalent of salt-and-vinegar potato chips or cotton candy.
Hotchkiss’ point is that interactive communications and media have effectively hijacked what’s necessary for humans to properly pause and reflect in the “slow thinking” lane, and he leaves us with this warning:
“It took humans over five thousand years to become civilized. Ironically, one of our greatest achievements is dissembling that civilization faster than we think. Literally.”