For years, the email inbox -- and the resultant behaviors associated with its effectiveness -- have been tied to the relatively predictable context that the marketing messages within it are consumed on the desktop computer. As vigilant marketers anxiously awaited the official year of mobile, a paradigm shift has already occurred -- consumers carry their email inbox with them wherever they go.
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With mobile devices in hand, consumers are checking email on the train, in bed, waiting in line, and at the airport. The expectation is to connect at any place, at any time, so the onus is now on brands to deliver relevant and complete experiences throughout the email process. Previously predictable email behaviors have materially changed.
Early on in the mobile revolution, the mobile device would serve as a triage area for the inbox, with consumers checking and discarding messages, leaving time to go through their inbox when they were seated in front of a desktop PC. But things are different now.
Now that more subscribers are leveraging fast, smart, super-converged devices, they are doing everything from checking email to viewing business presentations -- all on their mobile devices. Often, a smartphone owner will shuffle through multiple tasks simultaneously, with the expectation that, if it can't be done from where I am, it's time to move to a task more readily accomplished.
The mobile device is a connected, trusted advisor always within reach of its owner. Add to this the trending adoption of smartphones and tablets, and the question for marketers is no longer whether they should have a mobile-optimized email experience, but instead -- how much is not having one costing them?
Numerous industry-standard studies indicate that mobile-specific opens on email sends can reach as high as 35 to 40 percent, depending on the brand. Additionally, when looking at mobile traffic to websites, along with search, social, 2-D scans, and redirects from a wired website, a high percentage of activity comes from links in emails. In spite of this, many emails still don't render well or are not viewable at all on a mobile device.
Even with recent messaging innovations from the likes of Facebook, the inbox is not going away. It has unique value. But the concept of the inbox -- how consumers interact with it and the message -- is significantly and quickly changing.
So how can you keep pace?
Here are some tips for marketers to create a convenient, productive, and enjoyable mobile email experience:
1. Gain an accurate understanding of the mobile usage of your current customers. Seek out a mobile partner with the technology that has the ability to determine if an email recipient opens the email on a mobile device. That technology should also be able to easily optimize your email for a variety of mobile devices. Keep in mind that mobile usage can vary by time of day, device and operating system, day of week, season, geography, subject line, and certainly holiday vs. regular days.
2. Modify your existing email templates to accommodate the requirements of mobile viewers. Include things like a call to action placed within the email, and provide text links within the first-page view upon opening.
You should also segment your active email list by recipients who only open emails on their mobile device. Send mobile-optimized content to this list in the initial send.
Be sure to create a dedicated mobile template with a link to the mobile-friendly web view at the top of each email. Also, update the email-preferences page to include mobile-friendly email as a formatting option alongside options for the traditional HTML version and the text-only version.
3. It's all about optimization. If consumers open your email on a mobile device, chances are they're also clicking through on that same device. It's critical to optimize your click-through for mobile. Your mobile partner should also be able to easily create and deploy mobile-optimized landing pages that provide a consistent, enjoyable experience regardless of the device.
At minimum, you should make the post-click destination mobile friendly. Ideally, it would be a mobile-optimized experience specific to the offer or reason for the click. The use of mobile creates possibilities for other more powerful calls to action, like click-to-call, check-in, pay with phone, and download branded files or apps.
If you don't have many mobile initiatives in market, or if you are wondering how to get started, understanding and deploying mobile-optimized email can be a great place to begin. Conversely, if your mobile programs are more advanced, email provides an excellent opportunity to begin sophisticating your overall mobile strategies and dialing up the return on the greater investment. The email inbox isn't going away, but the concept of it and how consumers interact with it is rapidly shifting. Optimize your email experience for mobile, and your customers will thank you.
Dave Lawson is the director of mobile engagement for Knotice.
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