Mobile + Email + Identity: A Winning Formula

As marketers yearn to make mobile an addressable and measurable channel, what means do they have? LiveIntent UK president and MD Dave Hendricks explores.

LiveIntent Dave Hendricks PortraitIn many way, mobile has made things a lot harder for marketers. But for LiveIntent, the rapid mobilisation of the populace has helped propel our partners – and ourselves– into the future.

So, what has mobile changed for marketers? Just when ad tech companies and marketers agreed that tracking cookies were a useful way to find and market to people on the internet, along came smartphones, and things started getting complicated for a lot of marketers, with the exception of one group: email marketers.

At LiveIntent, we learned this first-hand. While we may not send any email, our technology is embedded into email that is sent by our partners, the email service providers. The demand on those email marketers began to rise exponentially.

Why is email the beneficiary of the smartphone revolution? Portability. Mobile freed up email to walk with us to lunch, and to be there when we were waiting for our friends to show up.

When smartphones arrived on the scene, they pried the internet off the desk, and cut its cables. Before Smartphones, most email was read and responded to sitting down. Now, 75 per cent of email in the UK and the US is being opened on smartphones. Unlike with traditional phone calls – which most people agree are superior on landline phones – smartphones actually made email better and more important than it ever was on the desktop.

The smartphone catapulted email from being merely a universal messaging tool to the killer app of the internet. But it’s not the messaging part that made smartphone and email the killer combo, it was a new concept waiting in the wings: identity.

The smartphone and email are twins that were separated at birth, but now they’re conjoined again. It’s easy to see why. Take the unboxing experience. When you get a brand new iPhone, the most important part of your setup process is the entry of a key piece of data that unlocks your settings and access capabilities: the iCloud email address. When you buy a new phone, the way you unlock its delicious capabilities is by logging onto the cloud via your iCloud login and password. Once you do this, your phone now has a distinctive identity: you.

Your smartphone, unlike your desktop computer, can only manage a single identity. You don’t log off and log back in as another user. That’s one reason why you can only use your friend’s phone in an emergency. Besides the fact that smartphones are dirty and germ-laden, they are also an extension of the user who set them up. There a reason that there is no such thing as a rental smartphone – they’re useless to others because they are configured for that single user.

Despite the personal nature of the smartphone, the mere fact that it is connected to a distinct identity has not made it an instantly easier tool for marketing and marketers. The reason that smartphones have caused marketers problems has to do with what is referred to as ‘device fragmentation’. Tracking cookies are very effective at the task of remembering and remarketing to a user when that user employs a single-browser approach, but cookies do not travel from one device to another. This is one of the big problems that we’ve learned the email channel solves: the email address empowers you to find your audience when they split their time between multiple devices.

As users increasingly hop between devices, we’ve seen a steady stream of marketers confounded by the mobile world struggling to make sense of it. Do not pity them. It has become very difficult for marketers to do their jobs well, and that has resulted in annoying marketing practices (pop-ups, hidden ads) on mobile that have led to a rise in ad blocking on the web. The same sites that open instantly on a desktop browser attached to a fat and free office broadband pipe might take three times as long to open on a mobile browser, all the while consuming 100MB of a data plan that the user is responsible for paying.

As a result of the dichotomy represented by the two vastly different web experiences – mobile and desktop – the mobile web experience has diverged from its desktop cousin and become quite different. But one thing stayed the same, and got better: email. Email has its own look and feel on the smartphone, as compared to the desktop, and technology vendors like LiveIntent have made sure that their platforms recognize and reconcile the different user experiences on phones and desktops.

So, one could could say that smartphones actually brought email back from the brink of extinction. The arrival of the BlackBerry solidified email as one of the default applications of the mobile experience. But the BlackBerry didn’t keep pace and by 2006, it was getting tired. Blackberry email was still mostly text, and the devices couldn’t do anything interesting for marketers who had gotten accustomed to HTML on screens that grew to 1024×768 (and greater) sizes.

Still, email soldiered on, with businesses like Daily Candy and Thrillist creating markets around newsletters and brands by continuing their mostly desktop versions of newsletters that were happily consumed and clicked on desktops around the world – just never on phones. Until June 2007.

In June 2007, Steve Jobs and Apple introduced the first mobile platform for email: the iPhone. This was advertised as a phone, but it was so much more than that. The iPhone changed everything for email. And LiveIntent was there to help make it work for marketers.

Unlike the BlackBerry and feature phones that came before it, the iPhone had a native HTML-compatible email reader. When that was combined with the 3G mobile broadband service accessed via the iPhone, suddenly email was freed from the desktop and became mobile. And with that, one of the two most powerful interactive marketing channels – the other being ‘search’ – became mobile-first.

Almost nine years later, what’s happened? Your phone is now your identity; email is the number one activity on mobile; more than 70 per cent of all commercial email is now opened on a smartphone or tablet; and email newsletters have now been recognized as a critical tactic for all marketers. Most importantly, smartphone-based mobile email has enabled the monetisation of email newsletters with mobile-friendly and mobile targeted ads. The combination of HTML, identity and portability has created an extremely useful platform for marketers.

When LiveIntent-powered ‘ads in email’ is combined with verified human identity, location and logged-in smartphones, you have something that should be part of every marketer’s playbook.

This sponsored article was written by Dave Hendricks, UK president and MD at LiveIntent, and is editorially independent from Mobile Marketing Magazine