It seems unbelievable but email is 48 years old now. The last decade saw a slew of “email is dead” predictions but the opposite is happening—despite the proliferation of online messaging apps, social media, and text messages, the number of email users continues to increase.
The worldwide figures for email users grew to 3.9 billion in 2019. An annual growth rate forecast of 3% is expected to increase user numbers to 4.3 billion in 2023. For customers, email is the preferred method of reaching out to brands for customer support concerns. Businesses use emails to engage new customers and nurture leads, particularly in the marketing sphere.
The number of email accounts grows at a much faster rate than email users. One email user may have multiple email accounts; the current average stands at 1.75 email accounts per user. Consumer or personal email is a standard of digital life—used for communication, shopping, logging on to social media and subscription service sites like Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, and gaming sites like Twitch, etc.
This article examines email users’ preference in terms of the following main categories:
The number of email accounts is higher than the number of email users: there are 5.59 billion active email accounts or nearly 1.5 times higher than the number of users. Users with multiple accounts generally categorize theirs into business or customer email addresses, while others would have different accounts for different purposes—shopping, subscriptions, family communications, etc.
Email is the key to all user accounts: social, messaging, shopping, banking and payments, and streaming subscriptions. People have multiple email accounts—sometimes with no clear delineation between work and personal use—with the average number of email user accounts at 1.75 per person.
2019 saw the worldwide figures for email users rise to 3.9 billion monthly active users. The figure represents over half of the world’s 7.7 billion population. This means as much as 1 of every 2 people in the world have and use email.
Email is the most common internet activity for UK adults, according to the latest Office of National Statistics study. It was used by 86% of the adult population with no changes when compared to the same study in the previous year. This includes all age groups from 16 years old to those over 75. Statista pegs the number of internet users who sent and received emails at 89%.
Nearly 76% of US adults are email users. The total figures will be higher if other age groups are factored in. A study from eMarketer estimates the number at 251 million email users with a projected annual increase of 6 million email users.
Email is universal and is the most common internet-based activity for adults of working age. There are some variations in usage and habits between age groups and gender but the difference is negligible.
Gen-X (aged 35-50) has the highest percentage of email users at 92% according to SendGrid. Millennials and Gen-Z follow closely with 89% and 85% respectively. Meanwhile, an Adobe-commissioned study found Millennials as the age group with the highest percentage of email users.
Note that there is a difference in age range used in the studies. There is an overlap for Millenials and Gen-Xers with Adobe grouping Gen-X as those born between the years 1965-1976 while SendGrid used the years 1968-1983.
There is very little difference among US email users with all age groups—Gen-Z, Millenial, and Gen-X having above 90% usage rates. The exception is the Boomer group but their usage rate is still high at 85.5%.
The stats below show the engagement rate comparison between female and male recipients in the industries involved in the aforementioned study.
Out of the seventeen industries surveyed, female email users received emails at a slightly higher rate compared to male email users. Surprising still are the industries thought of as traditionally “male”—Government and Agriculture & Mining—which showed a female skew at 16 and 14 points higher, respectively.
Male-dominated industries that showed more male recipients are Computers & Electronics, Energy & Utilities, and Financial Services, but the “extra” only goes up to 6 points higher. The rest of the industries have more female recipients with the exception of Telecommunications that are split equally between the two sexes.
Email service providers are numerous but the following are the most popular based on their user numbers.
Gmail is the most popular with 1.5 billion active global users to date. This is followed by Outlook with 400 million; roughly a quarter of Gmail’s numbers. Yahoo! Mail closes the third spot with nearly 230 million active users.
iCloud has an estimated 850 million users; although not strictly an email service, it works both as cloud storage for documents, photos, and music for Apple devices and as email. Apple Mail is used as an email client to send and receive email messages.
These services are freemail, requiring only signing up to use, but paid subscriptions are also an option. Freemail and subscription options differ in storage space, domain personalization, security features, and third-party app integrations. Subscription rates can go for as low as $1 a month per user to $300 for larger storage space.
There are over 20 free email providers in English offering both paid and free email services. This does not include providers from other countries with local-language only services. Some notable email providers include Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo! Mail; new players in the email service provider sphere include ProtonMail, Tutanota, and Zoho Mail, each with their own unique selling point.
Gmail is the most popular email provider with 1.5 billion active user accounts worldwide. Outlook has reported their number of users at 400 million in 2018 and is popular as a business email. Yahoo! Mail has seen a contraction in its user growth with 228 million active subscribers.
The rest have not made a dent on Gmail and the other popular providers’ market share. The new players will not have a lack of subscribers since they offer specific services that the leading email providers do not carry or only offered in limited options.
Emails are classified as Business and Consumer. Business emails continue to rise with the number of sent and received business emails seeing a 3% growth in the last 4 years.
Although the number of sent and received business emails outnumber consumer emails, the latter has a higher growth rate—double that of business emails. The growth is due to the prominent use of email in everyday online activities such as shopping, messaging, and video streaming.
The average office worker receives 126 emails a day. With a ratio of 3 emails received for every email sent. Inboxes get so much activity that employees report using 16% of their weekly work hours on email-related tasks. With an annual email volume of 44,000, only 55% of employees say they are able to achieve inbox-zero.
There were a total of 294 billion emails sent and received in 2019. The numbers are only expected to increase with growth projected at 1.044% annually. Breaking down the numbers, it comes down to about 559,000 emails sent and received every second. It’s curious to ponder how many of these emails are opened, sent straight to trash, or are read through with the offers taken up every second.
Open rate is a phrase in the email marketing space that measures the number of subscribers who clicked an email to open it. Hubspot suggests a good open-rate for marketing emails to be between 30%-40%. Curiously, the industries with the lowest open-rate are Marketing and Advertising which recipients believe to be too sales-y. Some industries that enjoy a high open-rate include Arts & Entertainment, Human Resources, Construction, and Legal & Government.
Mobile open rates outnumber desktop open rates by more than half. Email is increasingly mobile with nearly 42% of all emails opened on a smartphone or a tablet.
There is also a preference for mobile when it comes to opens based on environment with mobile slowly eating into webmail’s market share.
There are 1.5 billion active Gmail user accounts. For webmail email opens, Gmail holds the lion’s share with 26.2% compared to Yahoo! Mail’s 6.6% and Outlook.com’s 2.4%.
Gmail also makes an appearance in email client comparisons.
The leading email clients are Gmail and Apple Mail, their usage rates neck and neck with Apple Mail leading at 29% over Gmail’s 27% market share. It’s a different story for desktop clients. Other sources report Outlook is the surprise dark horse for desktop email clients with 9.2%, while it’s closest competitor, Apple Mail, is at 7.8%.
Source: LitmusDesigned by
Email clients are distinguished from email providers as applications that are downloaded and installed to devices or computers to view, receive, and send emails. Email providers, on the other hand, are the service that provides the domain of your emails (the words that come after the @ symbol) and stores your messages. Email clients can be configured to receive emails from other providers, Apple Mail and Outlook both can be set up to receive Gmail and Yahoo! Mail, for example.
There were a total of 294 billion emails sent and received daily in 2019. The numbers are only expected to increase with growth projected at 1.044% annually. Breaking down the numbers, it comes to about 559,000 emails sent and received every second.
Internet Live Stats states that approximately 68% of emails sent are spam. The rate seems high but it actually is going down. The highest reported spam rate is 94% back in 2009. The 68% spam rate only accounts for the mail that gets past spam and security filters.
From where do all these annoying spam emails originate? Statista reports that China is the top source of unsolicited emails. 20.43% of global spam mail originates from China’s ISPs. The US follows with 13.37%.
Source: SpamHaus Project
Any and all information is available on the internet if you know how and where to get it—spammers know their way and get around. Their tactics range from wild guesses, using a scraper to “harvest” strings of text with the “@” symbol, and buying email lists (sometimes legally, though often through unlawful means).
Concerns about spam and email security are high on the list of adults who fear government surveillance on their personal email communications. Despite these fears, only 2% are using email encryption like the service that ProtonMail offers. Instead, most resort to low-level protective actions to keep out unwanted mail such as ignoring emails with unknown senders.
Avoiding opening emails from unknown email addresses0%
Disclosing less personal information online5%
Avoiding certain internet sites10%
Using antivirus software15%
Changing your password regularly20%
Avoiding certain web applications25%
Cutting down on biographically accurate information you divulge online30%
Self-censoring what you say online35%
Changing who you communicate with40%
Doing fewer financial transacrions online45%
Making fewer online purchases50%
Closing Facebook and other social media accounts, etc.55%
Using the internet less often60%
None of these65%
Source: StatistaDesigned by
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