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What retailers need to know about mobile email

January 27, 2011

Emails from retailers and financial services companies are opened on mobile devices more frequently than any other sector, according to a report by direct digital marketing software and services provider Knotice.

A much smaller percentage of people read business-to-business emails from their mobile device – 3 percent – as compared to emails from retailers – more than 20 percent – or information from financial services – more than 19 percent – where there is a deeper, more personal brand relationship. Email marketers must consider the situational context of mobile use as it pertains to brand.

The data is based on a sampling of approximately 155.3 million emails sent Oct. 1-Dec. 31. The results underscore how much customer behavior and the brand relationship  influences the penetration of mobile in the email channel by industry segment.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services at Knotice, Akron, OH. Here is what he had to say:

What is the key finding of the study?
Anecdotally many marketers are aware that more and more of their email campaigns are being received and read by their customers on mobile devices.

What we have not seen to this point is hard data to support anecdotal evidence.

The report finds that the number of email recipients engaging with messages through their mobile device is significant, as measured by email opens.

In some verticals 20 percent or more of all email opens are on a mobile device.

Even though the data does not spell it out explicitly, we can assume this number to be higher in reality, since opens may not be recorded as a default setting on very popular devices such as Blackberrys or Androids.

Within the retail vertical for instance, it would not be a stretch to imagine 25-30 percent of all opens occurring on a mobile device.

By slicing this data by industry, by time of day and by the primary mobile operating systems, marketers have more substantial insight into how the mobile phenomenon may be impacting their tactics.

What is the most surprising finding, and why?
The most surprising finding is the apparently low levels of email opens occurring on BlackBerry devices.

Considering BlackBerry devices still represent a significant share of the mobile market – nearly on par with iPhone and Android devices – it is surprising to see the share of opens significantly out of line with market share.

What is driving the growth of mobile-optimized email?
Consumers are snapping up smartphones and tablets at an astounding pace, as well as the data and messaging plans to support tasks such as reading email and accessing the Web.

Simply speaking, consumers find this level of access extremely convenient.

Staying connected is becoming a 24/7 necessity for a large share of the population, and this is enabled by mobile devices.

And it is clear that staying connected is not limited to social media, text messaging or voice. Clearly email is a significant component of connectedness.

What advice can you give to brands, agencies and retailers based on these findings?
First, identify to what level your own email recipients are interacting with your messages and through which mobile devices, and refresh this data often, since mobile adoption is a fast-moving cycle.

Based on those findings, you may need to immediately refine your email marketing approach, whether that is creating mobile-friendly alternate layouts for each email or an overall re-design of your primary email templates to be more usable for mobile viewing.

Not only does mobile viewing impact things like HTML rendering and images, but mobile users also are dedicating less time to tasks overall.

So, streamlining content and emphasizing calls-to-action early in the message are important considerations for mobile users’ typically short attention span.

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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