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How Are Email Marketers Handling The Shift To Mobile? How To Prepare
Ten years ago, email marketers could be nearly certain that the messages they sent would be received, opened and read on a desktop or laptop PC with a dedicated wired Ethernet connection to the internet. Today, however, email messages are more likely to be opened and read on a smartphone than a PC.
Marketers today have to consider an enormous number of factors when sending messages to customers and prospects. Not only do we need to think about mobile-optimizing our emails, but now we need to consider whether other mobile channels would be more appropriate for a given interaction: Would a text be more relevant? Mobile push notification?
Tech industry commenters like to toss around terms like “disruption,” but in the case of customer messaging, the changes wrought by the mobile revolution really have been enormous. This shows through in recent industry studies.
The “Disruption” Is Real
As well-known tech industry analyst Mary Meeker highlights at the outset of her recently released 2014 Internet Trends report, the internet is fast becoming a mobile environment. Mobile usage as a percentage of total worldwide web usage reached 25 percent in May 2014 — up from 14 percent in May of 2013 and less than 1 percent just five years ago.
The report also found that surging growth of mobile devices is an important driver here: smartphones and tablets together are flying off the shelves, with global shipments now at four to five times the unit volume of TVs and PCs. Meeker shows that, in many parts of the world, smartphones are now the most-viewed screen, overtaking time spent viewing TV or PCs and laptops.
Of course, since text messaging and push notifications are essentially mobile-only messaging channels, the overall business-to-consumer messaging experience today is best understood as primarily a mobile interaction.
New Survey Results
My company recently commissioned Harris Poll to conduct research that provides further insight into these trends. The study surveyed a pool of more than 200 customer messaging decision-makers within enterprises across North America. Respondents were primarily VP and director-level marketing executives from industries including banking, travel and hospitality, consumer technology, retail, telecommunications, Internet and e-business, publishing, cloud computing, media and several others.
The survey was conducted online in the spring of 2014, and asked these decision makers from companies with annual revenues of $100M or more their opinions about the state of mobile messaging and how they planned to incorporate mobile messaging into their customer communications strategies.
One key finding was that these marketers are embracing mobile messaging strategies (and apps) to reach the growing mobile user base. At least eight in ten customer messaging decision-makers report that their company currently has or plans to adopt the following in the next 12 months:
- SMS text: 89 percent
- Mobile-optimized email (responsive design): 89 percent
- Mobile apps: 86 percent
- MMS text: 86 percent
- IM chat: 83 percent
- Push notifications: 80 percent
Not surprisingly, sizable majorities of these marketers are acting to accommodate their mobile customers. Further, text and mobile email — the longest established messaging types — are leading the way as channels for reaching mobile customers. At nearly 80% adoption, push notifications are not that far behind, however.
We were a little surprised to see 89% of these decision-makers claiming to have adopted or planning to adopt mobile optimized/responsive design for email. Our very unscientific personal experience is that the vast majority of commercial email today is still produced in standard HTML. But it also points to the fact that email is certainly going to remain central to any effective mobile messaging strategies.
Optimize For Mobile
There are lots of great resources out there on the web for designers who work with responsive design, and we won’t attempt to reinvent that wheel here. But my team at Message Systems has spent a good amount of time over the past few months optimizing our lead-gen communications for mobile devices (and have started on our website).
So we do have a few nuggets of wisdom that Marketing Land readers who are starting on their own mobile optimization/responsive design journeys should find useful:
• Test. Email clients are not standardized as well as web browsers are (and browsers aren’t perfect, either), which can lead to your HTML email content rendering far differently in Gmail on an iPhone than in Outlook on an Android device. Testing email messages on various devices and clients is time-consuming, but until the industry becomes more standardized, it’s good policy to do so.
• Simple Is Smart. Complex layouts generally don’t work well in Gmail or Outlook on smartphones. Our designers have found that getting our emails to look “good enough” on the more challenging browsers is a good working rule of thumb.
• Understand Your Space Constraints. Copywriters and designers who have been creating for online media (email and websites) most of their working lives can have a rocky transition to mobile. Five lines of copy in an email viewed on a laptop can appear endlessly bulky on a smartphone. Alternating short copy with visually interesting graphics or other eye-catching things works best.
• Think Tap, Not Click. Our team members use their thumbs for usability testing with our mobile email. If the call to action is too small for your thumb to hit with precision and ease, then it needs to be bigger. Buttons work great, too. As with any email, the goal is to get the recipient to convert by clicking through, so be sure to make doing so as easy as possible.
The new reality in the mobile age is that interactions are becoming shorter, and people expect to have useful information presented to them in contextually useful ways — including email — when appropriate. This is the biggest factor in why marketers and engagement professionals need to get up to speed quickly on the power and potential of mobile messaging. And it’s also why marketers need to get serious about the new design techniques that optimize messages for mobile screens.
Note On Survey Methodology
The survey referenced above was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Message Systems between April 23 to May 19, 2014 among 208 US full-time employees of companies with an annual revenue of $100M or more, who are employed at the director level or higher in key departments (administrative/executive, customer service, e-business/e-commerce, production/operations, IT, marketing, communications, or advertising), and have at least a major influence in decisions regarding their company’s mobile messaging efforts.
This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For additional survey findings and methodology, including weighting variables, you may email me via my author profile.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.