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[13 comments]

Half read e-mail on mobile devices and nothing else

February 27, 2014

Fifty percent of consumers reading e-mail during the fourth quarter of 2013 did so using smartphones or tablets, according to new research by Yesmail Interactive. The findings were significant, according to the firm, because it was the first time that mobile devices reached the 50 percent figure.

According to the research, sales generated from e-mails on mobile devices increased at nearly triple the rate of those from desktop computers (52 percent vs. 18 percent).

"In quarters past, marketers have been embracing mobile as a variable in the consumer journey. Now, mobile should be marketers' primary focus," said Michael Fisher, president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing, in a press release. "The increase in mobile sales indicates that consumers are not only more comfortable with mobile, but more comfortable with immediately acting on e-mails opened on a mobile device."

The largest number of e-mails that led to a sale came from desktops (82 percent) versus mobile (18 percent). Among e-mails on mobile devices that lead to sales, 59 percent come from a tablet and 41 percent from a smartphone.

Discussion Questions:

What effect will the growing numbers of people who get their e-mail exclusively using smartphones and tablets have on the e-mail marketing practices of retailers and brands? Do you agree with the position that "mobile should be marketers' primary focus"?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Do you agree or disagree that "mobile should be marketers' primary focus"?

Comments:

Retailers and brands have to improve their mobile capabilities as mobile is the future. That doesn't mean they should ignore the desktop, but mobile is clearly where the puck is headed so retailers and brands should skate to where the puck is going to be.

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

"Primary" focus is a big word. Personally I "check" my email on whatever device is in front of me, often my phone, sometimes a tablet. On these smaller devices I only deal with urgent stuff. I "read" and work on email on my PC. Somehow doubting I'm typical, the phone based email that I do anything with is usually short and not requiring any long review or time spent on it.

Email marketing still has its place, particularly on more complex products, or more intricate path to purchase.

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Peter J. Charness, SVP America, Global CMO, TXT Group

It's really hard to say if mobile exclusive e-mail will represent a significant change in e-mail marketing. If a brand goes the location based offer route, launching an e-mail if it has a mechanism (like an app) to know where someone is, then there's a clear advantage over traditional e-mail.

My view, however, is that LBOs are going to peak and users are going to expect more engagement unless brands keep selling their souls and commodifying their products to unsustainable price points. I think it's more important to provide real personalization, as much as is possible per each user, no matter what the device receiving the message. Therefore, the "mobile first" position regarding e-mail is too much of a blanket statement and only relevant to individuals that can be personally identified as having a mobile first lifestyle.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

If marketing's purpose is to reach potential consumers, then marketers must to go to where consumers are...now.

One of the most powerful, emerging case studies of shift to mobile is in China. Beyond email, more than half of all online search in China is by mobile device.

The historical criticism of mobile has been low sales conversion rates, often in single digits. New research indicates that while initial mobile search make not close the sale, it triggers immediate follow-up behaviors.

In a Mindshare China & Millward Brown study of 25,000 smartphone users, the importance of reaching consumers on mobile devices is very compelling.

In China:

  • 66% of mobile searchers make immediate follow-up
  • 80% follow up on mobile device in less than 1 hour
  • 45% of follow up is directly related to purchase

While the US has historically been PC centric, the US sales growth curves of smartphones and tablets reliably predict a rapid shift to mobile as primary access rather than secondary.

Given the Chinese stats on how mobile search triggers immediate follow-up behaviors, US marketers need to mobile a very top priority, if not most important priority in reaching today's anytime, everywhere consumers.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

According to the study, 50% people are reading emails on their portable devices, but 82% of sales from email still come from desktops. This indicates that email marketing needs to be reformatted to fit mobile and the habits of mobile users. That means shorter emails that are easy to read and act upon, clicking between fewer screens to complete a transaction and emails that are easier to read.

Retailers and brands should pay attention to mobile, but not make it the primary focus. After all, 82% of sales are coming from desktops. Marketers need to be regularly experimenting with mobile to learn how to best reach their consumers.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

It means that email has to become real time - an idea and capability called Agile Email Marketing - a concept pioneered by an NY firm, Movable Ink.

Basically AEM enables marketers and others to alter the content of the email so that when the email is opened it delivers the latest and most relevant content to the user (including location customization if the content is there as I recall.)

The point is that email can't be static, and a disclaimer, the CEO is a former colleague and I will probably get a cup of coffee for this.

Regarding mobile as a focus, if you look at the depth of experience (and the ability to save for later) you can get from easy-to-consume applications like Flipboard, it seems like even the most complex categories will be sliced up for marketing purposes, so yes, it should be the primary focus for the appropriate context/audiences.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

The channel-less world, or omni-channel as some referred to it in the past, is a reality for all business processes, including marketing. There is no question that mobile devices will continue to gain in importance, but marketers need to be aware and consciously determine how, when, and where to market, including determining the implications of marketing via various digital channels including phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, television, radio, print, etc.

I hope that marketers reading this study realize that if they are marketing via mobile device, the links in the marketing message need to go to a mobile friendly destination. I'm tired of clicking on a marketing link only to find out it can not be navigated via my very common mobile platform.

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Verlin Youd, Principal, VPY LLC

Much like marketers' optimized layouts, content and links for web browsers, they will have to customize their emails for reception on mobile devices. This means email templates that are designed for the smaller screen, content that is flexible to be viewed on these devices (I can never help but notice how much longer emails look on my iPhone), and hyperlinks to webpages that are responsive in design. Furthermore, eCommerce and Omnichannel marketers will have to ensure that the mobile shopping experience is on par with what consumers can find online.

I don't know that mobile should be marketers' primary focus in terms of choosing a channel, but given the current level of functionality on these devices versus their level of adoption and growth rates, it is fair to say that they merit increased attention and investment.

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Alexander Rink, CEO, 360pi

"Social," "Mobile," "Cloud," "Analytics (Big Data)," and "Security" are the top five priorities we hear from a growing number of CPG and retail brands. Mobile adoption is not only accelerating here in the U.S., but also even faster overseas. Brands are well aware of this trend and are moving swiftly to capture the attention of shoppers via mobile.

Mobile ties in all of the other four priorities I mentioned to create a complete "operating" environment for the consumer. Email is one aspect of that environment and targeted messages, like those described in the other RetailWire topic today on digital advertising are one way brands are driving shopper engagement via mobile.

Mobile already is the primary focus for marketers among several brands today. One challenge is getting the channel right for the shopper. As social channels continue to evolve, I personally spend time working on when or even if the channels will stabilize. Will Facebook even be around in its current form in five years? Look what happened to MySpace, when it used to commend the social space.

These are all challenges with the mobile strategy for brands. However, there are some great case studies today and innovative brands are finding ways to capitalize upon the opportunity.

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

Marketers and brands should position for a mobile focus and realign to this reality. Messaging must adapt to rapid reads and site connections permit easy navigation. It's important to understand how powerful this mobile reach is becoming, and the limitations of catching people in short moments of attention.

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Anne Bieler, Sr. Associate, Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions

Mobile is well beyond a curious novelty and is firmly entrenched as a dominant force. The Yesmail study builds on a growing body of information supporting mobile's rising dominance: in the third quarter of 2013, multiple sources reported that mobile users conversion rates have started to outpace conversion on desktop/laptop systems.

Clearly, mobile is no longer an optional platform. It must be a core platform for retailers and brands, if the THE core platform.

News reports seem to indicate that brands and retailers have gotten the memo. Many have shifted resources to increase their commitments to mobile platforms. Those that are still unconvinced should see Yesmail's report as further evidence that mobile must now be a priority.

Don't shut down your desktop efforts just yet, but definitely put mobile on the same footing so you're better able to handle the high level of consumer expectations for mobile -- and better able to create and manage all the mobile tools necessary to support omnichannel product research, price comparison, list making, social sharing, and payment.

Come to think of it, even if Yesmail had never published this report, the case for mobile investment is already well made in that single word: omnichannel.

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Lance Thornswood, VP/Managing Director, inRetail

The fact that a higher percentage of people are opening email on mobile devices is both good and bad news for retailer marketers using email. The convenience of opening, viewing, ignoring, and deleting from anywhere keeps the nuisance factor of email relatively low--that's the good news. More important is how email is perceived by the various age cohorts. Older segments will continue (for a while) to utilize email for meaningful communication but younger segments have already deserted it. The improved user experience of smaller mobile devices is approaching that of tablets which is helping older segments to adopt and move onto more interesting communications via their phones too. This transition period as hardware, UI, and habits change should give email a few more years before it ascends to the official "junk mail" of the 2010s (what is the proper term for the 10s?) to be replaced by all age groups with more interesting, immediate, and personal forms of mobile interaction.

Should mobile be the primary focus of retail marketers? Mobile should be an area that receives a great deal of attention and investment by all retail marketers. To be successful in influencing customers retail marketers will need to up their game in all types of communication (sms, ads, msites, social, games, etc.) accessed via mobile devices. And if the age target of the retailer is under 30, yes, mobile should be the primary area of focus.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

Some very insightful comments, definitely highlighting the key must-dos. If we can assume that the desktop revenue numbers are a proxy for consumer demand, then it really boils down to figuring out how to restore parity on the mobile medium. Clearly consumers want the convenience and they see value - there is no reason to believe why that will cease to be true on mobile. Therefore, it's more a question of how to bridge that monetization gap on Mobile.

Marketers need to thinking beyond just responsive rendering on mobile - while that's a necessary first step, mobile also gives them a chance to build a more engaging conversation with their most loyal, connected shoppers. It would be a big mistake to not take advantage of that opportunity.

Arvind Krishnan, CEO, Swym Corporation

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