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Is Email Screwed on Mobile Devices?


By Ken Magill

More evidence that email marketers face grave challenges on mobile devices:

Fifty nine percent of respondents in a survey of 1,572 people conducted in eight countries said they would prefer SMS and push campaigns on their mobile devices over other forms of marketing, according to mobile marketing firm mBlox.

Comparatively, just 14 percent said they would prefer commercial email on their mobile devices, according to mBlox.

This comes on the heels of a study by Experian Marketing Services that revealed while most email opens and clicks are happening on mobile devices, conversions are taking place on larger screens.

To recap: Half of all email unique opens in the second quarter of 2013 occurred on mobile devices, according to Experian.

Mobile also accounted for the highest percentage of unique clicks at 40 percent according to Experian, while webmail and desktop accounted for 35 percent and 19 percent respectively.

However, webmail—such as Gmail, Yahoo! and AOL—accounted for 48 percent of transactions in the second quarter of 2013 and desktop accounted for 25 percent of transactions, according to Experian.

By comparison, mobile accounted for 13 percent of transactions in the second quarter of 2013, according to Experian.

None of this is shocking. It’s more difficult to interact with email and complete transactions on a smart phone than on a larger screen. Marketers probably aren’t taking mobile into account in their email design as much as industry chatter would have us believe. And consumers probably aren’t as confident making transactions on their phones as they are on larger-screened devices.

Another possibility is that people interact with email on their mobile devices but complete their transactions on another channel.

Stacy Adams, vice president of marketing for mBlox, recommends taking reality into account and crafting digital campaigns accordingly.

“To complete a purchase on a mobile device, the smaller the screen, the harder it is,” she said.

Adams recommended, among other things, adding text-messaging capabilities to email campaigns.

“People love text messaging because it’s easy to get the message. It’s easy to digest in a short period of time and it’s easily actionable,” she said. “You can do the same things you do with email but it’s native to that device.”

She added it doesn’t matter where the sale takes place as long as email is pushing recipients toward making the transaction.

“It’s okay if that conversion is happening somewhere else as long as you’re utilizing these channels to keep pushing them in that direction with the understanding that they’re most likely not going to convert on that device,” she said. “But if you can push them a step closer by, say, sending a geo-targeted push notification to someone when they’re a block away from your retail store with an offer that gets them to go into the retail store, you are succeeding with that channel.”

According to the mBlox study, 80 percent of respondents said they would share location information with companies via their mobile devices to receive SMS messages.

But while it seems commonsensical to use mobile communications to drive sales in other channels, email marketing managers are often held accountable to sales directly attributable to their own channels. Translation: If their campaign makes a sale, they want credit.

Once again, Adams recommends crafting the campaign around the phone.

“Why do I still receive emails that encourage me to print the email to take it into my retail environment?” she said. “Where’s the mobile component in that? Why would I have to print that out at all? There should be a button in that email that says: ‘Send this coupon to my phone.’”


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Jordie van Rijn
Date: 2013-10-17 12:19:18
Subject: Too big of a gap

I would love to see a copy of that mBlox report, do you have a link? I Remember that nobody actually wants commercial SMS messages. The 2012 Channel preference survey said that 77% like to have their commercial messages via email and 5% via SMS. That is too big of a gap to ignore. Maybe we are talking about direct discount codes (= money) ?