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Retailers drive mobile email strategies with time-sensitive holiday offers

October 11, 2013

Mobile email's role grows for holiday 2013

Crafting specific campaigns that are geared towards flash sales and are targeted towards tablet-wielding consumers will help kick retailers’ mobile email efforts into shape this holiday season.

A new report from Marketlive this week finds that 68 percent of consumers are expected to browse email from smartphones for gift ideas this holiday season. While retailers have been slow to adjust to customers’ changing habits, they are starting to do a better job pinpointing what works and what does not in mobile email.

“Modifying send times for those known historically to be tablet openers so they get messages during primetime tablet usage and spending hours is one tactic that should be more common,” said Dave Lawson, director of mobile and digital unification at Knotice, Akron, OH.

“Another business tactic that may be helped by the nature of mobile email and that we should see more of are things like flash sales, deals of the day, Black Friday door busters,” he said.

“If recent browsing and past purchase history can place email recipients into audiences that receive one offer versus another so only the product or deal type which best suits the recipient is featured, this makes it a much more mobile-friendly aesthetic these programs can drive serious revenue in a short amount of time. Including mobility as a factor can gain a retailer precious percent increases that often can make or break their year.”

Seamless experiences
Despite the growing uptick in the percentage of emails that are opened on smartphones and tablets, mobile email is still an evolving area for marketers and sometimes ranks as a smaller priority for marketers.

Over the past year though, marketers have increasingly focused on some of the more basic ways to get a branded message to fit on a smaller-sized screen.

Per Mr. Lawson, this is a step in the right direction and for many retailers is the first part in creating a more comprehensive consumer relationship.

During the holidays, email is particularly important for retailers in understanding how often and which types of content consumers are interested in receiving emails about, which could influence some budget spend to increasingly move towards mobile.

Optimizing for mobile

According to Mr. Lawson, much of the mobile email interest last year circled around the amount of high-frequency emails that were sent to large lists by a small group of retailers.

However, retailers need to be careful with this approach since it clutters email inboxes and is particularly frustrating for consumers that are opening up multiple non-optimized emails from smartphones and tablets.

With the changes to Google’s Gmail earlier this year, retailers could have a tougher time in increasing email opens  for consumers that rely on the company’s app as the primary way that they receive email.

Gmail now separates promotional and personal emails under different tabs, making it more difficult for consumers to access email campaigns from brands and retailers, and consumers must pick which emails from marketers can get placed into the more prominent personal email section.

Although many retailers have already sent campaigns reminding list members to add their emails to the personal section, marketers should send out an additional email reminder to ensure that consumers receive emails throughout the holiday season.

One-size-fits all?
As email moves forward with mobile-first designs, consumer expectations will likely be significantly higher this year when it comes to a streamlined shopping experience across multiple devices.

That means creating email campaigns that are responsive or scalable in design since more than 50 percent of opens are coming from mobile devices, according to Wacarra Yeomans, director of creative services at Responsys, San Bruno, CA.

For example, responsive design can be particularly helpful for retailers in repositioning some of the sections of email campaigns with prominent calls-to-action that drive in-store traffic. These emails can be used in conjunction with a loyalty-building or time-specific mobile coupon.

Additionally, marketers should view email as only one part of a multichannel mobile holiday strategy.

Take the in-store experience, for example.

With the expected growth in mobile point-of-sale this year, retailers will strengthen email efforts by asking consumers to opt-in to newsletters at the time of the sale.

The key to using all these different tactics together will be a stronger focus on personalization this year.

“To stand out on these platforms though, brands must ensure their messages are targeted, highly relevant and valuable,” Ms. Yeomans said.

“For instance, a retailer could attract last-minute shopping delivery alerts via SMS, which encourages loyalty and may reduce call center costs,” she said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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