What Not To Do In Mobile Email Marketing

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For better or worse, mobile is increasingly the way people are accessing their inboxes and receiving (or deleting) emails. This presents both opportunities and challenges for marketers.

We recently explored some things to consider to improve your open rates in this climate, but have you ever considered what email users actually say they don't like about mobile email? Doing so may help you reassess your own strategy.

Mobile Means More Opens

According to research from The Relevancy Group, 73% of consumers utilize their mobile phone to access one or more email accounts. As time has gone on, it's only gotten easier to add additional accounts. Google, for example, recently added support for third-party accounts to Gmail, enabling Gmail users to use the app to also check their Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Outlook accounts.

It's no surprise that the rise of smartphone usage has led to increased email open rates. According to Epsilon, North America saw open rates increase by 6.5% year-over-year in Q3, thanks mainly to mobile device usage. Return Path data from December found that 62% of emails in the UK were opened on mobile devices compared to 21% on desktop. In the U.S. it was 48% from mobile and 25% from desktop. A similar story is told in other countries around the globe:

So people are opening email from their mobile devices. That's great news for email marketers. Unfortunately, the mobile experience often leaves a great deal to be desired by the people opening it. This was addressed in a report from The Relevancy Group (via MarketingProfs).

What Not To Do

The survey asked participants what they specifically don't like about getting email messages on their mobile phones. 44% of them said they get too many messages. 37% said the marketing messages aren't relevant to them. 32% said the messages are too small to read and interact with. 26% said when they click-through, the website is illegible on their mobile device.

"Marketers must focus on frequency, relevancy and real-time capabilities to capture consumer attention and drive engagement," the report says.

Frequency

Let's think about each of these complaints for a moment. Too many messages. This is a complaint that's practically as old as email marketing itself, and it's certainly not limited to mobile. The nature of mobile, however, only amplifies the potential annoyance level. Users are carrying around their devices all day. It's always with them - possibly even beside them while they're in bed. They likely get push notifications, and maybe even receive sounds with these notifications. It's not hard to see why frequent emails may get annoying, particularly if they're irrelevant.

Frequency has always been a difficult balancing act for marketers. On the one hand, you don't want to drive subscribers away by annoying them, but on the other hand, you need these messages to be seen, and people don't always open the emails they receive, even if they are relevant. They may not realize a message is relevant without opening it, they may get distracted and forget to open it later, or they may simply just not have the time to concern themselves with the message upon delivery. This is why follow-up emails are sometimes the way to go.

Neal Taparia co-CEO of Imagine Easy Solutions recently contributed an article to Forbes claiming to have increased overall reach by 54.7%. by sending follow-up emails to those who didn't open the message the first time. The company increased potential sales by that amount while maintaining a consistent unsubscribe rate. In other words, they didn't push it too hard. To minimize the annoyance factor, they wait a week to send the second email, and make some minor changes to it.

Relevancy

So what about relevancy? According to the report, marketers that leverage existing customer data and pair it with context in a real-time manner have the best shot at increasing accuracy and relevancy of an offer.

"Often what prevents marketers from utilizing data to improve relevancy is that they don’t have access to it and/or lack the resources to coordinate programs, offers and staff across channels," it says. "As marketers begin to think about implementing real-time email, they must seek coordination and organizational buy-in first. Real-time email doesn’t always require access to data, but to accomplish many of the most advanced real-time email tactics it will require access to data. The overall organizational shifts to cloud computing will simplify data access. Marketers must be prepared to define the value of the data and begin to map out different offers for different types of circumstances that will happen in real-time."

The report looks at what tactics are regularly utilized:

According to The Relevancy Group, a countdown timer is one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost real-time email effectiveness. They provide a sense of urgency, have shown to lead to a 15% to 68% increase in click-through rates. They also take five to ten minutes to set up by adding an HTML embed code into an email template.

They also suggest using a live social feed, context personalization, real=time A/B testing, embedded video, live web content, personalized deadlines, and real-time personalization using disparate data sources.

One of the best things you can do to improve relevance is take advantage of location. You can have multiple sets of creative, and change content automatically based on weather or inserting local content based on subscriber location at the time of open. I'd encourage you to check out the report for additional ideas on boosting relevancy.

Mobile Usability

A handful of the complaints from people talking about what they don't like about mobile email are directly related to the usability of the emails they get and/or the websites that they're promoting. This is a clear indication that if you are using email marketing, you need to make sure your site is optimized for mobile.

Not that it should come as s surprise, but a recent study from NetElixir found that mobile shoppers convert 160% more often on sites that are optimized for smartphones. Obviously this will apply to conversions from emails.

There are plenty of other reasons to have a mobile-optimized site in 2015. The biggest one is that IT'S 2015!

"Desktop websites in mobile browsers are ineffective at converting visitors into buyers," wrote Magicdust CEO Ian Mills at The Huffington Post. "Calls to action (CTAs) are often obscured, links are difficult to click and contact pages are buried in awkward menus. Mobile shoppers have little patience for an unwieldy website and one-third of them will leave a transaction if the site isn't optimized for mobile."

"To make the most of mobile, CTAs should be clear and easy to click and contact information should be one of the first things visitors see," he added. "80 percent of shoppers admit that mobile purchases are impulse-driven and that they're more likely to purchase from and interact with a brand that offers an engaging mobile experience."

Basically, if your site isn't mobile friendly, it's time to get with the program, and mobile conversions is only one area where you're bound to see improvement as a result.

Sending App Users Emails

The other complaints from mobile email users are about getting emails when they use your app. This probably isn't much of a concern for most businesses. For one it's very possible that you don't even offer a mobile app, and if you do, there's also a good possibility that a relatively small amount of your email subscribers are using it.

These are also the smallest points of concern in that part of the survey, so there's just probably not a huge impact with this. That said, it can be a point of annoyance, so if you feel like this could potentially apply to you, you may want to take note, and perhaps cut down on the emails sent to app users.

Wrapping Up

The bottom line is that mobile is only going to continue to account for a bigger slice of the email open pie, and consumers are only going to use smartphones more to shop and transact. Paying attention to what their habits and preferences are is key, and leaving your email strategy stagnant is ill-advised.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.