Mobile Revolutionizing the Inbox

In Part 1, we talked with mobile email experts Justine Jordan of Litmus and Jay Jhun of BrightWave Marketing (my company) about mobile’s impact on the email marketing world. In this second part, we talk about what are some technology trends and changing consumer behaviors to watch for.

Simms Jenkins: Seventy percent (according to BlueHornet) of consumers will delete your email if it doesn’t look good on mobile devices. That is a significant number yet most emails don’t look anywhere close to good on smartphones. Why?

Justine Jordan: I’m not sure I believe that stat! Consumers might move on and come back to read the email later when their viewing environment is better suited to the email. But if this is true, it means that consumers are becoming less tolerant of tiny fonts, tons of copy, and emails that simply can’t be read on a mobile device. Consumers don’t want to work to read your message, so make it easy for them!

Jay Jhun: Perhaps what we as marketers really want to understand is the positive version of posed question: Would they be more likely to take action (like an online purchase) on a promotional email that they receive on their mobile device if it were optimized for viewing and usability? IPhones are an easier nut to crack because they’re easy to detect and content is scaled to fit the screen. The plethora of Android devices and operating system versions (Ice Cream Sandwich, Honeycomb, etc.) begs the question of what the most common email experience is outside of the iOS platform. ComScore’s stats from February 2012 show that of the more than 104 million smartphones in the U.S., 50 percent are Android and 30 percent are iOS.

SJ: Can you talk about expected results when you design and code compelling mobile emails?

Jordan: Honestly, hard case studies are just starting to come to light. It seems like 2011 was the year of discovery when it came to mobile email. I’m hoping that 2012 will be the year of optimization, action, and results! I’ve heard some promising anecdotes of how mobile-friendly emails have increased click-through and conversion, especially for retailers!

Jhun: My expectation is that click rates would increase, in general, when emails are optimized for mobile. Open rates are driven by things like subject lines, frequency, relevancy of the subject line, and whether images render or not. When comparing conversion rates for desktop vs. mobile devices, I would expect to see varying degrees of improvement for mobile emails skewing more positively when mobile-optimized destinations (websites, videos, etc.) are present.

SJ: What evolution might we see on the mobile email front?

Jordan: There’s a lot of opportunity here for technology-friendly brands to incorporate real-time data and technologies to communicate with consumers that are “on the go.” Combining triggered emails with location-based technologies could result in some pretty cool campaigns. I’m also hoping we’ll start to see more brands take advantage of mobile opportunities by incorporating games, apps, video, and other interactive elements into email, since most mobile devices are much more capable than their desktop counterparts when it comes to email rendering.

Jhun: One limiting factor to how email consumption might evolve is the content that marketers have available to them. For example, video content could play a huge part in driving mobile email engagement, but there’s a shortage of content. Imagine a restaurant’s head chef introducing the latest healthy menu items via video – it would be much more engaging than just delivering the benefits in writing.

Another area where I expect marketers to do a better job over the next couple years is driving clicks from emails into mobile apps. If I get an email from Amazon about something on my Amazon Wish List, I’d much rather complete my purchase on my device than on a mobile website because my phone is still more secure and easier to use. Reports coming out of the upcoming holiday season will be telling as to how much e-commerce is being driven by mobile vs. desktop segments.

SJ: Parting thoughts to marketers as they enter this new frontier of true mobile email marketing?

Jordan: I think the most important thing for marketers/brands to realize is that “mobile” and “email” aren’t things that will be going away any time soon. Email isn’t dying, and “mobile” isn’t limited to just smartphones. Technology and culture are rapidly evolving, and it reaches out and affects us as human beings – it even changes our behavior. Even if you thought you knew your audience, chances are they are changing right before your eyes as they learn to adapt to new ways of life and new products coming to market. Just as soon as you optimize your email marketing to be more readable on a smartphone, the next big thing will come along and you’ll have to figure out how to deal with that, too. Be flexible, be scalable, and don’t be afraid to experiment while staying true to your brand.

Jhun: My charge to marketers would be to do the due diligence now in discovering the size of your mobile audience across all channels. Determine the opportunity cost of not investing in mobile optimization and then you’ll be able to make the case for budgets that will help evolve your email program for the mobile age.

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