Harnessing the E-mail Marketing Power of the iPad

It’s slick, slim, and sexy; and being adopted in increasing numbers around the region. Apple’s iPad fills the gap between its powerful little brother, the iPhone, and a full-sized laptop (or MacBook as they would have us say.) The iPad tablet computer is fast becoming the accessory of choice, seen in equal measure in the coffee shop and the VIP lounge at the airport. How do we adapt to and exploit this new tool to ensure we are driving the most effective email marketing?

Remember: an iPad is that it is predominantly a leisure tool rather than a business one. With its big screen and touchy-feely interface, it’s the sort of thing you gently caress whilst sipping your latte. Not pound and bash like the road warrior’s BlackBerry as he struggles to get off the plane. Just touching its smooth surface seems to put people in a better frame of mind. This is our first opportunity.

Often, but not always, we are trying to sell something. We want our customer to be relaxed and open to the powers of suggestion and creativity as they linger a little longer over our finely crafted message. Compare that to wading through the hundreds of emails on your crowded Outlook in the office. The iPad lends itself to better reception of the message. We should therefore be encouraging and promoting adoption to make sure customers know we will cater emails to that particular device.

The large, generous display does justice to great email design. But a new challenge is that the display and screen layout are sensitive to device orientation. A flick of the wrist, from portrait to landscape mode, the email client layout changes and an inbox sidebar suddenly steals valuable real estate from your message. It’s important to detect the screen resolution in your email code, so you can render the optimum size. The iPhone also has fantastic resolution and display capabilities. But the small screen size makes reading anything but the most urgent of messages really quite hard work, so ultimately does not offer the same user experience as the iPad.

Web mail accessed via the email client performs very well. That said we have identified some niggling problems with Gmail, where it stubbornly refuses to serve up email images. If you detect your Gmail-based customer is using an iPad, you may want to revert to a good old plain text version or HTML without images.

We all know Apple doesn’t like Flash. E-mail marketers are not keen on fancy scripts and codes, that fall foul of corporate IT and their email security, either. The iPad does offer us the ability to utilise HTML5, with the richer media experience like embedded videos and variable content, allowing us to make that email a more compelling overall experience; the power and emotion of TV, with the targeting and precision of direct marketing.

The other way that the iPad or iPhone family are changing the world is the proliferation of applications. There is a whole industry around developing some great and genuinely useful apps that bring company and customer closer together. It can only be a matter of time before Apple will let us jump seamlessly with a single click from an email to the unlimited potential of a branded application where the customer can interact and engage with the brand safely, securely, and with amazing ease of use. This could drive sales, support customer service, or continue the educational dialogue where the email left off.

Clearly opportunities abound. How do you get started? You need to have enough customers with iPads first of all. A starting point would be to start tracking the operating system and screen resolution to understand what your customers are using. From there, a dynamic, CSS-based approach to an email template ensured that the most appropriate format and content is served up each time; then get creative. Although, like in the old days on the Internet, keep an eye on email size and weight – your customer may be on an expensive data plan.

The iPad may be all the rage today, but already more tablet devices are on the way. They will all have their nuances, different screen sizes, and different rendering characteristics, but will offer the potential benefits such as talking to people in a richer media format and more relaxed context. We need to stay nimble footed here. As the market fragments and competes we need to work across more platforms and higher standards to achieve results. There is a lot to learn in this brave new world; the first step is to understand what is out there and start to test.

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