Email was once at the forefront of convenience. Used as a way to quickly send messages and share files from anywhere in the world, it was — and, for many, still is — a primary tool to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues. However, over the past several years, the proliferation of chat apps, SMS, and social messaging platforms has largely displaced this more traditional form of online messaging. In 2016, instant messaging and texting  (e.g. SMS and chat apps) were the first things 35% of US consumers checked in the morning, according to Deloitte, up from 29% in 2014. Meanwhile, 22% of US consumers checked their email first, down from 29% in 2014. And as these communication channels enhance their capabilities and add more functionality, the threat to email's sustainability will increase. 

bii first thing checked every morningBI Intelligence

But is email the next legacy technology to fall prey to obsolescence? The short answer is no. However, it's worth looking more closely at shifting user behavior when it comes to online communication — whether it's at home, on-the-go, or in the workplace. 

Hand-Held Communication

The saturation of premium smartphones in many mature markets, and the existence of mobile-first economies such as China, means that mobile devices are everywhere. This gives users immediate and consistent access to other people and businesses with the touch of a button through means like social media, chat apps, and email.

Among these three modes of communication, chat apps are making the biggest waves, largely because they over-index in terms of total number of users and engagement rates. For context, chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger rival email hosts like Google in terms of users, with each reporting over 1 billion people using their services at least once each month. Moreover, combined, the top four chat apps boast more than 3 billion monthly active users globally, surpassing the top four social networks. 

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