2014 Trends: Social email

It’s arguable that, despite some lovely graphical flourishes, bog standard emailing hasn’t actually moved on a great deal for a while now. After all, where is there for it to go?

Write some text into a ‘compose’ box, give it a snappy subject, enter a handful of addresses, press send and there you go, you’ve sent your mail. What else is there to it? Whilst email marketing platforms continue to add new functionality and push email in new directions, our actual day-to-day use of email hasn’t changed or evolved in many years.

Well, 2014 could be the year that finally sees email essentially ‘upgrade’ to a new version, with a raft of email providers and partners looking at new options that take email to new places.

The tip of the iceberg has arguably already arrived, with various providers apparently already admitting that their offerings needed ‘something new’. Google’s tabbed and priority inboxes were designed to fit in with increasing volumes of email, allowing us to better organise and prioritise how we communicate and who we communicate with. Microsoft’s re-branding of Hotmail to Outlook was, again, largely cosmetic, but a recent marketing campaign focuses heavily on the fact that it is ‘more private than Google’, as the company seek to trade on technological expertise and user concerns.

Whilst welcome, even these additions don’t feel like they are moving email on particularly far, so what’s next for email in 2014?

Social email arrives

The short answer appears to be an attempt by many providers and networks to make email more social, more connected to the other ways we communicate and more functional. Email has long been the servant of CRM systems, now the question almost seems to be; ‘why shouldn’t it be the other way around, why shouldn’t email be able to handle more data?’

The early drive for this appears to have come not from an email provider but from a social network, as LinkedIn’s acquisition of Rapportive, an email technology company, led to the launch of LinkedIn Intro.

LinkedIn Intro essentially takes the ‘Connect with me on LinkedIn’ button you’ll be familiar with from many people’s email footers one stage further, giving you access to the profile information of email senders in line with their email content. Though marred by some early issues LinkedIn were forced to address, Intro essentially seems to have been well received, works across several email platforms and is coming to an increasing number of mobile devices (Windows and Android) very soon.

Similar to Intro, it is expected that 2014 will probably also see the fruits of the union between Yahoo and Xobni, which the former acquired in a deal worth an apparent $48 million. Like Intro, Xobni (Inbox spelt backwards) aims to give you more information about who it is that is sending your email, with integration to various social networks and the ability to build a more advanced ‘contact card’. It’s likely that Yahoo will use the Xobni technology to improve their email offering, giving users more information.

Which all means that Apple, Google and Microsoft might have a trend they need to catch up on at some point in 2014 and beyond. Think they’ll be left behind? We wouldn’t bet on it.