Bridging the Gap: Email & Slack

A series looking at the current ways to unify incoming messages

As teams have embraced new messaging tools for work chat, applications such as Slack, Cisco Spark, Stride, Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams have taken center stage. Despite all the great features and improved workflows built into these enterprise messaging products — email maintains a death-grip on business communication today.

Regardless, as the majority of people look to centralize and simplify how they chat with others, there’s a strong need to merge the message streams— few tools exist to bridge email with the new school of work chat. 💬+📧

In this series, we’ll be looking at the current landscape for unified messaging and the existing ways to connect our inboxes to enterprise messaging solutions like Slack. As of today, the current pain point is having an efficient way to handle incoming messages and notifications from a variety of sources. While messaging tools vary across large organizations, often there exists a primary app for internal chat and a different product to communicate with external partners, vendors, and customers.

You may also like: Ultimate Guide to External Federation in Slack

Source: TechCrunch

If you’re one of Slack’s 6 million daily users or one of the 50,000 teams that use Slack for team messaging, then you’ve probably had to find a balance between the missed notifications on Slack and the unread emails in your inbox. While Slack offers a variety of improvements to the way teams communicate, the current number of active users is hardly a fraction of the workforce that is still fully dependent on email. Rather than fully reject email and neglect all of the incoming notifications you are bound to receive in a work day, creating workflows to connect Slack and Email are detailed below.

Tackling Your Inbox

Having to switch between Slack and your inbox could be less than ideal or productive for some teams but solutions do exist for those needing to combine the two. Here’s a lineup of tools to get started:

3 years ago, Slack launched a feature that provides a unique email address for any specific channels in Slack. It’s fairly straightforward and often overlooked — check it out for yourself:

Mailclark logo
Mailclark logo

MailClark exists for teams looking to organize their incoming mail without having to leave Slack. A common pain point for a lot of teams is having to switch between a chat platform and a team inbox, so MailClark caters to each side by offering full functionality support for sending and receiving emails — all from within Slack.

Example of Mailclark enterprise messaging
Example of Mailclark enterprise messaging
Composing an email within Slack, even if it’s more than one Slack message. 📧

For those teams, there’s MailClark, who solves this communication preference pain point by creating a Slack channel with any combination of Slack and email users in your team. MailClark essentially caters to everyone on the team by handling email conversations from one place. When new emails get sent to your customer service team, that email is then posted into a Slack Channel as any other message and replies are then taken from your Slack messages and converted into an email. More importantly, the whole process of receiving, discussing the content of the email and replying to it is all done within Slack.

Example of Mailclark notifications on Slack
Example of Mailclark notifications on Slack
Chat normally within Slack, actual replies to the email have to be approved before sending.

MailClark covers a great use case for shared inboxes amongst your Sales, Support or Marketing Teams so emails become visible to the team that is best fit to handle incoming questions or requests. Once you’ve gone through an easy set of steps, MailClark aims to help improve workflows and shared knowledge across the team. For more distributed teams, the MailClark and Slack integration could also offer a live collaborative space for teams to discuss a customers problem or to offer some feedback before sending out a formal reply.

Astro got its start as an email client solution to help us solve the number of problems we have with email. With it’s Slack integration having launched two years after Astro had been founded, the software company looked to tackle some ambitious challenges amongst workplace messaging, collaboration, and automation.

Astrobot on Slack
Astrobot in Slack

On top of a simple interface, Astro includes a helpful bot — Astrobot, which uses AI to help make email a little more intuitive and actionable by adding features like discoverable insights, follow-up reminders, decluttering tools, priority tags, and more. The goal behind Astrobot and the Slack integration is to help users discover a better workflow that ultimately increases productivity. Aside from having all of your incoming emails routed through Astro’s very own email client, the Astrobot itself allows a user to reply to any email from within Slack — thus limiting the times you’d have to switch between the two tools.

There are few solutions that help bridge email and chat platforms but it’s safe to say that both MailClark and Astro lead the pack as they offer an easy setup, a simple user experience and some robust features that help improve the merging of both email and Slack. It’s also important to note that the playing field has gotten smaller over time as MailClark and Astro garner popularity and others like Mailbot, Alert.email and Franke have closed down.

Unmuse for Slack logo
Unmuse for Slack logo
Example of Unmuse for Slack enterprise messaging beta
Umuse in Early Beta

Currently in beta, Umuse is approaching Email + Slack by joining them in a single desktop interface. This combined stream of notifications appears as single feed with a virtual inbox that supports functionality for both without having to switch between the two.

Try out the private beta for yourself at umuse.io >

For a less robust approach, task services like Zapier or IFTTT help establish connections across hundreds of tools, including email and Slack, by utilizing triggers and actions to post new messages into a dedicated space.

IFTTT for Slack and Gmail

While both setups take more effort to setup, in comparison to MailClark or Astro, Zapier and IFTTT offer a far simple solution to bridging email and Slack by simply forwarding new emails to Slack. Aside from those actions, neither task service offers additional features that help improve the overall experience.

So whether you’re looking to bridge a group inbox to increase team productivity, migrate everyone onto the same tool, or for the sake of cutting down on notifications popping up from different tools — there’s only a few options to approach the issue.

While the mission of Slack’s is focused on killing email altogether, the reality is many team members will remain centered on their email inbox. Whether you prefer one tool over the other, the purpose of bridging the two is to ultimately cut down on having to manage both separately.

Be sure to👏 this post and follow us here on Medium as well as LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Chat better, together. Mio powers seamless intercompany communication across Slack, Microsoft Teams, & Webex Teams. Learn more at https://m.io