SEMA News—September 2013
By Joe Dysart
Mobile E-mail Marketing: Now, Too Critical to Ignore
E-mail marketers operating without significant, robust accommodations for mobile device users are leaving trunks of money at the table, according to two new reports on e-mail usage.
A full 41% of all e-mail is now read on mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—and that’s a spike in preference that will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, according to the “Mobile E-Mail Opens Report, 2nd Half 2012,” released by Knotice, a marketing firm.
It’s been a dramatic, quick upsurge: Only 20% of all e-mail was read on mobile devices just a year prior during Q3 and Q4 of 2011, according to Knotice. A similar statistic—43% of all e-mails being read on the same devices by the start of 2013—was reported in a study entitled “2013 Consumer Views of E-Mail Marketing,” which was released earlier this year by Bluehornet, an e-mail marketing services provider.
“The rate of increase in mobile open rates continues with consistent strength, which lends further evidence to the accelerating rate of mobile adoption,” the Knotice researchers said.
Not surprisingly, much of that mobile e-mail is read on Apple devices; a full 33% of all mobile e-mail is opened either on an iPhone or iPad, according to Knotice.
Mobile users are most likely to read e-mail on their devices at the start of the workday or right after dinner, Knotice said—although the researchers found that there has been an overall increase in e-mail being opened on mobile devices throughout the day.
Researchers also debunked an oft-repeated myth with their study: Overwhelmingly, mobile users do not use their smartphones and tablets to “preview” e-mails that they later read on their desktops or laptops. Instead e-mails get only one chance to make a good impression, and only 2% of e-mails opened on a mobile are re-read on more traditional devices later.
Interestingly, mobile users are still hesitant to engage in calls to action on their mobiles, such as invitations to click on links, buy products, send a reply e-mail, make a call or similar interactivity, the report said. So far, a majority of users still prefer to make those clicks on their laptops and desktops.
“We can attribute this to the fact that many e-mail marketers have yet to successfully optimize e-mail content to mobile users,” Knotice’s researchers said.
Moreover, many mobile users are still hesitant to engage in commercial activity on mobile devices, which may require revealing credit-card info, banking info or other critical, personal identifiers. Compared to desktops and laptops, which are often guarded by firewalls and Internet security software, mobile devices often have much less protection from hackers.
One takeaway is certain from both studies: Marketers who take pains to ensure that their e-mails are easily readable and easy to work with on mobile devices stand to reap substantially greater profits. Specifically, here are some recommended best practices drawn from Bluehornet’s study:
Design for Mobile: There are scores of mobile e-mail design tips you can find on the web with the keyphrase “mobile e-mail design best practices.” Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to use images in your marketing e-mails that can scale according to screen size. You’ll also want to feature crisp, terse copy and large fonts. And you should feature large buttons that people can tap on to interact with your e-mail.
Offer Discounts: If possible, offer a discount as a way for a mobile user—or any user, for that matter—to sign up for your e-mail marketing list. Bluehornet found that 84% of respondents signed up for e-mail marketing lists when they were lured with the promise of discounts.
Implement “Text to Join”: You can make it easier for mobile users to sign up for your e-mail lists by including a text-to-join option in the e-mails you send to them.
Ask Permission: Many companies believe that it’s perfectly okay to add a customer to their e-mail lists as long as they’ve sold a good or service to that person. Trouble is, consumers don’t agree. A full 75% surveyed said that simply doing business with them did not equal permission to begin pummeling them with marketing e-mails. “Sentiment remains strong against the practice of sending promotional e-mails to consumers who haven’t specifically signed up for a brand’s e-mail program,” Bluehornet’s researchers said.
Don’t Pester: While it’s tempting to continually inform your customers what a great brand you’re offering, send too many self-congratulatory missives to customers phones and you could be off the hook. The number-one reason consumers unsubscribed from marketing e-mail lists was because they received too many e-mails from a company. The second most common reason for ditching an e-mail communiqué: The e-mails received from the company seemed irrelevant.
Make E-mails Social-Media Friendly: Including links to your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other presences is a good idea when marketing by e-mail in any medium. Bluehornet found that 33% of those surveyed posted at least some of what they found in marketing e-mails to one or more social networks. So making it easier for them to post what they find in your e-mail only makes sense.
Consider GPS-Sensitive E-mails: Service providers such as Foursquare (www.foursquare.com) are able to add location-based sensitivity to marketing e-mails. With Foursquare, for example, you can automatically send e-mails featuring discounts and special offers to the mobile phones of Foursquare members passing by your company store. The same service can also be used to quickly spike new subscribers while you’re at a trade show. A company might give away a free iPhone to a lucky person passing by its booth at a random time, for example. To enter, showgoers would simply need to sign-up for the company’s Foursquare program via the mobile device—a sign-up that would include their e-mail address.
Knotice’s researchers concluded: “If your brand has not yet reached the tipping point in mobile e-mail engagement, it will soon. How your e-mail subscribers view and consume e-mail has fundamentally changed. Every marketer will have to embrace the mobile-majority audience or risk continued declines in click and conversion metrics.”