Email Marketing

Email Marketing to Smartphone Users Challenging, Doable

The dramatic shift to mobile devices affects how consumers interact with brands and websites.  The shift presents challenges for email marketing by ecommerce companies.

In this article, I’ll review three new mobile email metrics faced by many ecommerce merchants. I’ll then analyze the pros and cons of each metric, with suggestions for how merchants can react.

1. More Emails Opened on Smartphones vs. Desktops

According to the Litmus 2015 State of Email Report, mobile email opens seemed to have plateaued, accounting for about 48 percent of all email opens, which was a 1 percent decline from the prior year. But that overall percentage, 48 percent, is still significant. Depending on your product or industry, it may actually account for most of your email traffic.

  • Pros. People are still engaged enough with your brand and email offers to take the time to open the email on their smartphones. And because opens only register when images are downloaded, the recipients are engaged enough to view the entire email. In addition, smartphones enable users to open emails at any time and any place. Prior to widespread smartphone usage, email opens typically followed a typical work day, with ebbs and flows based on when people were at their desks.
  • Cons. Maintaining mobile open rates consistent or level with desktops can be challenging, as you are competing for people’s time and attention while they are on their phone. A quick open on a smartphone may not have the same engagement as on a desktop.
  • How to take advantage. If you are keeping your benchmark open rates consistent over time while the overall percentage of people viewing on mobile is increasing, that translates to an easy transition from desktop to mobile. If your open rates are slipping on mobile devices, however, this may indicate issues with either subject line relevancy or rendering. Review your creative and consider moving to responsive email design to keep these rates stable or increasing.

2. Decreased Clicks from Mobile

While open rates on mobile devices have stayed strong, click rates have often suffered for many email programs.

  • Pros. Although click rates are typically lower on smartphones than on desktops, the behavior of those who do click from smartphones show they are committed to purchasing. This chart below, published by Yesmail, an email service provider, shows the value of each mobile click (40 cents) versus desktop click (19 cents) during the last quarter of 2014.
Yesmail, an email service provider, published data that shows the value of each mobile email click is 40 cents, versus 19 cents for desktop click.

Yesmail, an email service provider, published data that shows the value of each mobile email click is 40 cents, versus 19 cents for desktop click.

  • Cons. Because so many recipients are opening an email on their phones but not clicking, it is increasingly difficult to track sales attribution and how the email may have influenced a purchase decision. This then leads to difficult return-on-investment calculations, to determine which channels to spend marketing dollars.

Mobile is changing the way people respond to online advertising. What was once simple to measure – such as an email that led to a direct click and then a direct purchase — is disappearing. Prior to making a purchase, consumers may open an email on their phone, later research on their iPad, and finally search on Google from their desktop.

  • How to take advantage. Email clicks are vital to ecommerce merchants. However, understanding the full power of an email open without a click is important, too. Much of advertising stresses the importance of branding, messaging, and delivering a message that people would remember when it came time for them to purchase.

Treat email opens, without a click, as advertising. Think of it as having someone’s attention. Because she didn’t act right away doesn’t mean that message wasn’t effective or powerful.

One interesting test would be to try more of a branding message in an email, which could inform the consumer, versus attempting to influence an immediate action like a click and sale. Test the two strategies with small control groups over time and compare the overall performance.

3. Higher Abandonment Rates from Mobile Email Traffic

Many ecommerce merchants are experiencing higher bounces and higher abandons from visitors coming from mobile email messages.

  • Pros. Mobile recipients are taking the time to open and click on the email they received from you. This shows engagement from the user. The messaging, creative, and offer were, apparently, enticing and effective.
  • Cons. If mobile email recipients are abandoning the ecommerce site more often desktop recipients, it’s likely that the call to action from the email was too difficult or confusing on a mobile device.
  • How to take advantage. This can be a good triggered email opportunity. If you can isolate those who open, click, and then subsequently abandon the site, attempt to get them back when they are at their desktop. Change the time of email deployment to when they are at their desktops, which is typically during the work day for most brands.

Also, confirm the mobile experience by reviewing the path that you are asking people to complete via their mobile device. Identify areas to improve, to reduce bounce rates from mobile email traffic.

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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