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Avoiding lower click-through rates tied to emails viewed on mobile devices

March 13, 2013

Quinn Jalli is senior vice president of marketing technology at Epsilon

Quinn Jalli is senior vice president of marketing technology at Epsilon

By Quinn Jalli

It is no surprise to any student of email marketing that consumer adoption of smartphones has created unexpected marketing challenges.

On the one hand, open rates on email have risen consistently since the onset of the iPhone and, on the other hand, analysis of click-to-open ratios reveals a problem.

The problem is that consumers are much less likely to visit a marketer’s site if a marketing email is viewed on a smartphone, compared to a desktop computer.

Open and shut case?
An analysis of opens and clicks by device reveals that the typical click-to-open ratio for most smartphones is approximately 13 percent, versus the 19 percent we see on desktop computers.

But the lower click-through rates, tied to emails viewed on mobile devices, is both the most well publicized issue and just the beginning of the problem.

Marketers looking to continue leveraging email as a high-performance channel need to understand two other “factors in mobile aggravation” that may affect their email marketing campaigns.

First, conversion rates are drastically impacted by the mass adoption of smartphones.

In fact, early evidence suggests that conversion rates suffer greatly when a consumer actually does click through to a site, with mobile consumers 50 percent less likely to convert than their desktop counterparts.

More concerning is that, in a December 2012 piece on conversion rates, reported that site visits on mobile devices lead to an almost 75 percent drop in conversion rates over similar visits on a desktop computer—a shocking revision in already low mobile conversion rates.

Second, a new and unexpected issue can be tied to consumers leveraging mobile devices to view email—consumers who first view an email on a mobile device are less likely to revisit that email.

Leveraging our device-of-open pixel, we can see that approximately 18 percent of all consumers will revisit an email after opening it for the first time.

However, consumers who first view an email on a mobile device are 32 percent less likely to revisit that email after the initial view when compared to their desktop equivalents, adding a final “factor” in aggravation.

In short, marketers now face an increasingly challenging email marketing landscape, where an average of 40 percent of consumers are engaging with email first on a mobile device.

This reality requires creative solutions that address the drop off in engagement, and specifically addresses a 30 percent drop in click-through rate, a 75 percent drop in conversion rate and a 32 percent decrease in the likelihood that a consumer will revisit an email first viewed on a mobile device.

Medicine recommended
Given the above, marketers need to think aggressively when addressing the issues raised by growing smartphone adoption. Smart marketers will start considering:

Mobile-optimized emails. A step all marketers should already take. Marketers must ensure that their emails are easily viewed, and interacted with, on smartphones. The goal is to reduce the marketing friction created by growing mobile adoption.

Device of delivery. Today, marketers are focusing on device of open—on what device are consumers viewing the marketers’ emails.

Moving forward, marketers will need to leverage device-of-open data to build a device-of-receipt profile. Marketers need to use historical open data to understand when an individual consumer is likely to be on a specific device, allowing for marketers to move beyond optimizing creative and toward optimizing message deployment.

Targets consumers on the right device. Ultimately, marketers need to think of consumers in terms of device and time.

Consumers typically stick to patterns of email interaction, and marketers who can easily identify and leverage consumers’ patterns can minimize the effect that mobile devices have on marketing campaigns.

IN THE END, consumers’ increasingly prolific use of smartphone and tablets is, for the first time in years, forcing marketers to think carefully how and when they reach consumers.

Like it or not—email marketing in 2013 is as much about “where” as it is about “who.” If you cannot predict on what device your consumer will be when they receive your email, you can predict declining marketing results.

Quinn Jalli is senior vice president of marketing technology at Epsilon, New York. Reach him at

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