The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Optimising mobile email is a no brainer, right? Wrong! Despite the huge growth in mobile email use, marketers are struggling to keep up. We have helped a host of companies, including one of the UK’s leading mobile operators, optimise email for mobile, and our experience has taught us that there is good, bad and ugly when it comes to mobile email.

The Ugly: awareness and understanding
The number of global smartphone users now tops 1bn (source: Strategy Analytics, 2012). Consumers are using these pocket computers for a whole host of daily tasks, including email. In fact, more and more people are now accessing their emails through mobile devices, with 53 per cent  now checking email on their mobiles once a day, according to the Marketing Tech Blog, 2012. The increased use of email on mobiles is good news for marketers. It means they can now reach consumers wherever they are, whenever they need to.

However, marketers do not realise the importance of mobile email. 48 per cent of marketers don’t know how many mobile subscribers they have (Return Path, 2012), and 38 per cent of companies do not have any strategy in place for mobile email optimisation (Email Marketing Census, 2012). Mobile email optimisation is not something that can be ignored. 61 per cent of Americans and 41 per cent of Europeans said they would either close or delete an email that was not optimised for mobile (Return Path, 2012).

Marketers must capitalise on this opportunity to enhance the content, reach and engagement of their marketing campaigns using mobile email. The first step in doing this is to understand what is wrong with the standard email templates that are currently used today.

The Bad: poor customer experience 
There are a variety of basic mistakes that are being made by marketers that need to be rectified if they are to engage with customers using mobile.

Based on our experience, here are three of the biggest mistakes:

No.1 is clutter. Consumers will pick up emails on their mobiles almost anywhere; on the train, in bed, walking the dog. If a text heavy email comes through, it is highly likely that it will be completely ignored. This is also true for emails with wide layouts; a multi-column template is not accessible to a smartphone user, so marketers should stick to a single column to accommodate the small screen.

No.2 is colours. Less is definitely more when it comes to the colour palette for mobile emails. Poor contrast and dimmed brightness settings on many mobile devices means that creative designs that work for desktop email will not have the same impact on a mobile.

No.3 is operating systems: Each mobile operating system will have a different user interface. The experience on a Blackberry is completely different to that on Android or iOS. Marketers must understand the nuances of the devices that customers are accessing emails from. They should prioritise iOS and Android, as 42.3 per cent and 39.7 per cent of emails are opened on these two platforms respectively (Marketing Technology Blog, 2012).

These may seem obvious, but they are overlooked by the majority of marketers. Emails must be tailored to mobile in order to maximise engagement with the target audiences.

The Good: mobile email is rewarding

The good news is that there are plenty of things mobile marketers can do quickly and efficiently to optimise mobile email. And the rewards for doing so are substantial. We have delivered mobile optimised email campaigns with open rates as high as 40 per cent, which exceeds open rates for PC users.

To achieve such results marketers should keep three important things in mind:
The first is understanding: A simple way to improve mobile email is to make sure the aesthetics are pleasing for the mobile user. Scale, fonts and colours must all work in tandem. The starting point for this must always be customer understanding. The email format must resonate with your target audience, and only customer and device intelligence will ensure success.

The second is the call to action: Enhancing the call to action for mobile is crucial, and arguably the most important part of any email marketing campaign. Calls to action such as postcode store locator or click-to-call are easy to implement and measure. If the call to action is at the bottom of a long email, it will be ignored. It needs to be prominent in the email and clearly labelled. It is also important not to surround the call to action with various other web links. With small screens it is easy to miss-tap another icon if it is too close.

The third point to remember is to cut to the chase. Emails need to be streamlined to ensure the message comes across as quickly and simply as possible. There is little benefit to an email full of text. Use creative ways to visually indicate the call to action. Ideas could include images, highlighting texts and shadows.

Customer journey
Getting mobile email right should be high on any marketers to-do list. However, it is important to bear in mind that although mobile email optimisation is important, it is only one part of a wider mobile customer journey. It is hardly worth optimising your email if you are directing users to a site that is not mobile enabled or to a mobile app that won’t work on their device. 

With new mobile technologies coming in to play all the time, it is important for marketers not just to keep up, but to harness the power of these developments. Mobile is transforming how organisations communicate for the better. Some are just getting it sooner than others.  

Alex Klose is head of marketing at IMImobile

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