September 18, 2012
Case Study

Mobile Email Marketing: 50% more app downloads from device-targeted ads

SUMMARY: Email marketers have seen a steady rise in mobile subscribers. The smart ones treated this group as a new segment to increase relevance and response. This case study describes a company that went a step further.

A team of consumer marketers increased orders 90% by targeting custom banner ads by mobile platform. The article walks you through a test that proves mobile subscribers are not all the same.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


Email marketing is a "critical channel" at Seamless, says Ryan Scott, VP of marketing at the company. Seamless helps consumers order food online from local restaurants, and its marketing team uses sophisticated analysis and segmentation to drive response.

A growing number of customers access Seamless through the company’s mobile apps. This group is vital to the business.

"35% of our business on a peak weekend comes from mobile," Scott says.

The apps are a big part of Seamless’ strategy to attract and retain mobile customers. Scott’s team uses email marketing to encourage readers to download the apps, but the team had not yet leveraged the full power of its program to push downloads.

Seamless needed to target messages within its mobile audience to increase relevance and engagement. Since this was a new audience with different needs, how could Scott’s team get started?


Seamless already promoted the apps in one of its welcome emails. The call-to-action came from a banner ad, but the same ad appeared for all mobile subscribers.

Scott’s team wanted to know if delivering custom ads targeted by mobile platform could increase downloads and orders.

The team took three steps:

Step #1. Choose the email

The apps offered by Seamless make it easier for customers to order food on a mobile device. The team offers them to new customers as soon as possible.

The first email a new customer receives is a confirmation and welcome message. Sent immediately after an order, it includes the following:
  • Welcomes and thanks the customer for ordering

  • Confirms their new username

  • Sets expectations for the content of later emails

  • Offers the mobile apps

Since this was the first time Seamless promoted the apps in the customer’s email lifecycle, the team focused its test on this message.

Banner ad and landing page

The welcome email offered the apps in a banner ad just before the footer. The banner included a picture of a smartphone, a list of the platforms supported and a call-to-action button: "get your app." This was the only call-to-action in the message.

Once clicked, the ad brought readers to a landing page where they had to select their device type out of the three provided options:
  • iPad

  • iPhone

  • Android

Customers were then directed to the corresponding app store to download.

Step #2. Create and target custom ads

Scott’s team saw an opportunity to make this ad more relevant to each reader and to shorten the path to conversion. In place of the original banner, the team created three targeted ads. Each was customized to feature a different mobile platform.

The new ads shared the same headline and button, but had several differences:
  • Different smartphone image

  • Different call-to-action: "Download Seamless for [device type]"

  • Different platform logo

The team planned to target the ads by detecting each reader’s platform. This made the previous landing page unnecessary, so it was removed.

"You are removing a click and are deep linking them right into the appropriate app store," Scott says.

Segment on the fly

The team could have segmented the audience by platform and targeted the ads before sending the email. However, since people often use multiple devices, this would have made it possible for an Android user to open the email on an iPad and see the wrong ad.

Instead, Seamless took a different approach. The team used technology to target the ads in real time. Once a person opened the email, the system detected reader’s platform and delivered the correct ad.

Step #3. Automate test and delivery

The team also used technology to automate the test. This helped cut production costs and time spent, Scott says.

Here’s what the team automated:
  1. A sample was randomly selected from the mobile audience for the test. One group received the control ad, and a second group received ads targeted by device type.

  2. Results were tracked.

  3. Once the results reached statistical significance, the winning treatment was delivered to the remainder of the audience.


"We saw significant results," Scott says. "Everything pretty much increased when you look at the KPIs."

The targeted ads outperformed the control by a wide margin:
  • 100% higher clickthrough rate
  • 120% higher share of clicks

  • 35% more clicks overall

  • Nearly 50% more app downloads

  • 90% more orders placed after download by clickers

The lift in orders was truly incremental, Scott says, and a direct result of the targeted ads.

Scott’s team uses a sophisticated calculation for ROI that accounts for production and delivery costs, average order volumes, and incremental orders (among other metrics). Weighing this, the campaign was "highly ROI positive," Scott says.

The team plans to continue testing ways to segment and target the mobile audience to increase engagement and downloads.

Creative Samples

  1. Welcome email

  2. Original ad - control

  3. Targeted ads - treatment



Moveable Ink - provided the technology for real-time targeting and test automation

Related Resources

Mobile Marketing: A look ahead to 2012

Product Launches: How HotelTonight's mobile app became the most downloaded app in its category in just one month

Mobile Marketing How-To: 9 tactics for improving ranking in Apple’s App Store and the Google Android Market

Mobile Email Marketing: 5 tactics to engage and convert smartphone users

Mobile Email Marketing: 53% higher clickthrough rate for mobile-optimized newsletter

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