Emailing and Generation Z

Emailing and generation Z: can we still use email to communicate with young people?

Emailing and generation Z: can we still use email to communicate with young people?

Facebook, Instragram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch: are social media the only relevant communication channels to reach young people? ? While the email channel remains a strong pillar of digital marketing strategies for cultural and sports institutions, it may be interesting to ask whether it is relevant to reach the younger generations.

Opinions differ. During a recent conversation with a festival, and while we were discussing the question of emailing strategy, one of our interlocutors had a clear opinion: " You know, we don't do email, we mainly target a young audience, so we prefer to be on the social media ".

However, at the same time, the cultural structures that we support on a daily basis and that implement multi-channel digital strategies, both via email and social media, manage to reach a young audience that seems to be interested - with opening rates and reactivity to support it - in the emailings and newsletters that they send.

But then, what to believe in 2022? Can cultural organisations still use email to reach generation Z, the young people born between the mid-90s and 2010? Or should they bet everything on social media, at the risk of having to bend to the constraints of algorithms?

Having recently read Badsender's article on this subject we wanted to adapt this question to the cultural and sports sector. So we asked some questions to the students of the Master in Management of Cultural Institutions at Sciences Po Lille.

And their feedback is not so categorical. It may surprise you to learn that these Gen Zers read their emails, but don't waste their time with long, unedited emails!

Nota bene The following verbatims are based on a discussion with 25 students. These students are all in their final year of study and have an apprenticeship contract with a cultural organisation. In this sense, their vision represents the vision of young people who are already in working life and who are particularly keen on cultural activities: they are obviously not representative of their generation as a whole.

Do you subscribe to newsletters from cultural organisations?

This is where we were most surprised. Most students subscribe to and read communications from cultural institutions. Among my sample of 25 young people, only two students admit to being absolutely impervious to email as a communication channel. Among their arguments, two ideas stand out.

The first is the "overflow" and the anxiety of the overloaded mailbox. " We get too many emails, it's oppressive "and "I can't stand all these notifications and unread emails ". The second argument is the lack of need: " I don't need to subscribe to newsletters. When I want to find out, I do it myself, by going to the website or the social media ". The social media websites are thus cited by these two people as an alternative channel with the impression " to be able to follow whoever you want, rather than receiving emails in all directions ".

Among subscribers, a prioritisation of needs

Apart from a few holdouts, email seems to be accepted and used by the majority of the student group. But there is no question of receiving too much of it without prior sorting.

Interesting information: when asked how many boxes they have, many students spontaneously answer "Oulah! far too many ". As work-study students, they all have at least their student mailbox, their personal mailbox and their professional mailbox. All these tools divide their attention span. Even more interesting: the practice of "junk mail" is widespread among 50% of them.

By their own admission, the junk mailbox  is the mailbox " that they give when they have no choice but to leave an email to access a service " - application, website - but do not want to be spammed. When asked if it is this email address that is communicated to cultural structures, they answer rather no: "No, if it's a cultural structure that I like and that I want to follow, I give them my real address. The junk address is more for shopping delivery applications, meal delivery or online gaming services ". When asked what goes into their "real mailbox", they say " what's really important, like paperwork or bills for example ".

Subscribe to signify a strong attachment or deepen a passion

Among the reasons for subscribing to a newsletter several students cite the issue of attachment. For example, one of the students said that she had subscribed to the media library in her home town, even though she no longer lived there, "because she is interested in following what they offer ". Or another indicates that she follows " all the newsletters sent out by a particular cultural venue, because she was on a training course there before and wants to keep up to date with the venue ".

Another reason for subscribing to a newsletter : the desire to discover a particular theme. Thus, several students assiduously follow the newsletters of platforms such as UniversCiné or Mubi so as not to miss out on new films that are released and to discover new aesthetics.

Subscribe to receive information about an event

Keeping up to date with events at a venue is another good reason A student mentions his interest in a newsletter, provided that the cultural institution editorializes it to highlight certain information rather than others. One student described his interest in the 104 newsletter by saying: "their programme is dense, but you can pre-select interests to receive only what interests you".

The question of the qualification of preferences and centres of interest was thus favoured by most of the group, but with one warning from a student who stated that "I don't want to select any interest, I prefer to continue to receive everything and not to lock myself into one or two themes".

A consensus for short, editorialized, targeted emails

A majority of students mention their preference for short, readable newsletters in which there is already the idea of a pre-selection of  events. On the other hand, newsletters that "mean everything" are pointed out, such as that of a major French modern art museum "which sends out too many and makes newsletters that are too long, with the entire programme each time". A student who appreciates classical music points to the weekly newsletter format of the Philharmonie, which she likes to receive because "their site is dense and there are a lot of events, whereas the newsletter allows you to have a focus on current events".

With regard to personalisation and targeting, one student was surprised that she did not receive more content related to her specific status (young person/student): "Why don't venues do more specific newsletters for young people? If I received more newsletters highlighting a specific event or an offer with an accessible youth rate, I would be interested more often!"

Mixed views on service emails

Concerning purchase confirmations which often come from ticket offices, a student mentions a practical aspect: "if I buy in advance and I want to find the email with the e-ticket before the show, it's systematic: I can never find it easily in my mailbox. As they start from specific email addresses such as, if I just type the name of the venue in the search bar of my mailbox, I can't find them".

Concerning the pre-show mail it is a must. A student recalls a recent experience: "I offered a concert at the Zénith to a relative for Christmas. Luckily I received a reminder email 3 days before, because we had both forgotten the date".

Regarding post-event emails highlighting questionnaires satisfaction questionnaires, the students are fairly representative of the practices of all generations: a third of them systematically reply to them, "out of altruism" or "out of professional distortion"(after all, they too are destined to work in the cultural sector!), a third do so from time to time and a third never answer, generally "because it takes time and they don't have any".

The newsletter: a tool that leaves the choice

To bring this subject full circle, we discussed it within the Arenametrix team, where generations Y and Z live together. The first, the Ys, without having seen it born (Outlook was launched in 1992, and the first HTML emails in the late 90s), have witnessed its explosion. The second, the Zs, have never really known a world without email.

Maxence is a 25 year old support manager at Arenametrix. He gives an interesting summary of the subject:

"The newsletter format is developing a lot so that information comes to us. I have the feeling that as social media developed, we started to follow more and more structures/content so that the information would also come to us, but that the phenomenon of algorithms and the over-centralisation of content on a single news feed has made the information less readable. As a result, we are moving more towards newsletters, where we have more power of selection (unsubscribing, tracking by interests, less or no ads). Today, I have the impression that I have this distinction: social media is full of information in all directions, with rather light content, whereas in newsletters it is the "serious" and relevant information that I want to follow. But even in a newsletter, it's fundamental that the content is concise and clear, as it usually is on social media (it's the same news feed logic). I scroll on a newsletter like I do on Instagram or Facebook. Finally, I also have a lot of mailboxes, but I have one really dedicated exclusively to newsletters."

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Solène Jimenez

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Apolline Locquet

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