personalization - improving email with reader-specific content

Time for a Mobile-first Email Strategy

Ian Linton Strategy & Planning

Mobile email has been responsible for a healthy resurgence in overall email usage following a worrying 20 percent decline between 2008 and 2012, as reported by McKinsey’s iConsumer survey. That resurgence has been partly due to the increasing uptake of smartphones and the adoption of responsive design techniques by email marketers.

However, experience from the marketplace suggests that email is still in a hybrid phase where users open email on mobile devices, but complete any interactions and transactions on desktops.

Email in the mobile lifestyle

The statistics indicate that email is now an integral part of the mobile lifestyle. That’s no surprise when two thirds of Americans own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center, and when software firm Blue Hornet found that 67 percent of US consumers open email on smartphones. And, the strong BYOD (bring your own device) trend means that more and more business users use their mobile devices for work.

Responsive design plays its part in making mobile email acceptable and attractive to marketers. The Yesmail Email Marketing Compass measured average order value for email in the final quarter of 2015. Order value for mobile email increased by 28 percent, compared to 14 percent for desktop email.

A hybrid approach remains

However, Spear Marketing Group found that comparing the number of openings with clicks revealed a different pattern. Using data from B2B and B2C client campaigns, they found that 42 percent of openings took place on mobile devices, but only 19 percent of clicks derived from mobiles. Those campaigns all featured responsive design.

Howard Sewell, president of the group, suggested that users, particularly B2B users, were scrolling through emails on mobiles, but engaging or carrying out transactions at the desktop.

Time to read emails could be a factor. Campaign Monitor looked at the time people typically spend reading emails. They highlighted three ‘windows’ that people have to read emails – 3 minutes, 5 minutes and 10 minutes.

A 3-minute window while waiting for coffee might be enough to scan emails; 5 minutes between meetings gives someone enough time to read and respond; and a 10-minute slot at lunchtime or while travelling gives more time to read and respond to non-urgent emails, or revisit earlier emails.

Beyond responsive design

Although time to read may be partly responsible for hybrid behavior, Spear Marketing Group believes that, while responsive design is a big step in the right direction, it does not go far enough to create a user experience that drives engagement.

Even with responsive design, many email campaigns retain elements of desktop practice. The group suggests a number of initiatives that will optimize the mobile user’s experience.

Shortening elements like the subject line, registration form, and body copy will make the email easier to read. To make sign-up easier, Spear recommends pre-populating forms and landing pages where possible or using drop down menus rather than text boxes for forms. Offering mobile-friendly content, rather than large downloadable files can also increase engagement and improve campaign results.

Taking responsive design to the next level is clearly important but it can also prove time-consuming and require high levels of customization.

Automate customization

But, with dynamic customization, it is no longer necessary to create ‘mobile-first’ emails manually. Dynamic customization is an integral part of email automation, which helps to speed up the creation, deployment and management of email campaigns.

By using email templates with sections assigned to dynamic content, you can quickly and easily tailor subject lines, body copy, forms, and content. The result is an email customized automatically.

You can simplify the process of customization and ensure consistent branding on all your emails by using a template-based tool like BrandBlox which helps you create mobile-first emails quickly and easily.