January 06, 2015

Ecommerce Research Chart: How mobile can help you maximize your email marketing investment

SUMMARY: While email is the top channel for ecommerce companies to invest in, mobile marketing is at the bottom for digital marketing investments.

With more and more customers checking email via mobile, the two channels are in a sense one and the same. This lack of budget for mobile can undercut the investment in email marketing.

We talked to three experts who, collectively, were involved with more than 7 billion emails sends over the past year to give us some tips on how you can start and improve your mobile email marketing.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study survey, we asked marketers:

Q: What percent of your marketing budget was spent on each of the following in 2013?

The below chart shows channels and tactics that marketers are spending at least some part of their budget on:

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

While 93.36% of companies paid for email marketing, only 51.46% used mobile marketing — the digital tactic that was invested in the least (followed only by Old World laggards "Radio Ads" and "TV Ads.")

This presents a challenge for many marketers since mobile devices are a popular and ever-growing way for customers to read and interact with email.

For example, when asked about her biggest challenge in the Benchmark Survey study, one marketer responded "mobile." How did she overcome this challenge? Her company "created a responsive site email" (and also "changed providers.")

If you’re looking to change your email provider, you can read our previous chart — Marketing Technology: 4 essential steps when choosing an email service provider.

If you need help getting started with or improving your mobile email marketing, keep reading for tips from three email industry experts.

Understand how customers interact with mobile email

Mobile email is about more than just a different screen size, platform or device. You must also factor in different customer behaviors and psychology as well. Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer, ReturnPath, advises marketers that the goal of all mobile email needn’t necessarily be a purchase:

Tip #1: Survive mobile email triage

Dennis Dayman: I think the one thing that still is not occurring is the idea of creating mobile content that is scalable, fluid or responsive to the device or email client in use.

With the sharp rise in mobile sales, it’s no surprise that email consumption on mobile devices is following a trend. [Customers have gone from] reading email on a desktop to it being done on a mobile device, and, more scarily, mobile is being used to triage less important email before the user returns to their desktop.

[According to a Return Path study of 400 million data points,] mobile email open rates increased 34% in the last six months of 2011. Compared to mobile, desktop email opens dropped by 9.5%. Similarly, email open rates via webmail decreased by 11%.

Marketers really need to ensure — like many websites are today — that their emails are able to be read easily and with some sort of action that will make that user keep that email in their inbox to look at on their desktop at a later time vs. triaging it to the deleted folder.

Serve content based on behavior and past purchases

As Dayman explains above, your subscribers may decide that some actions are too complex to conduct on a mobile device, and (hopefully) they may triage your email for later desktop use. Or they simply may not have time to complete an action during their email snacks throughout the day — three minutes spent waiting for the train, two minutes spent checking email while waiting to pick up the kids from soccer practice, etc.

However, sometimes they may have the time, ability or motivation and want to complete a conversion action on their smartphone right away. You can help make that happen, according to Loren McDonald, Vice President, Industry Relations, Silverpop, an IBM Company, by leveraging the actions your subscribers have already taken in the past to focus your content and offers around what you know they want to consume and making it easy for them:

Tip #2: Reduce friction to subscriber action and conversion for smartphone users

Loren McDonald: Beyond the obvious responsive and mobile-friendly design approaches, leverage what you know about your subscriber to serve up content, products and offers based on behavior and past purchases.

You must narrow the focus of your emails and make them more personally relevant for smartphone users who spend less time and view fewer pages on your website than they do on tablets and desktop devices.

While smartphones are browsing devices, the quicker your email content can get a subscriber to your conversion point, the better chance of having them add something to their shopping cart, register for a Webinar or other goal.

Smartphones aren’t just inboxes

While email is a prime way customers communicate with brands using mobile phones, it isn’t the only possibility. Text messages, officially known as the Short Messaging Service (SMS), are another way to communicate with customers — a way that's full of opportunity but also fraught with peril if you abuse this channel and send texts to potential customers who do not want to receive them.

Ryan Phelan, Vice President, Global Shared Services, Acxiom, urges you to segment when using text messages:

Tip #3: Annoyance factor is high with SMS, so you must segment

Ryan Phelan: Segment. This is a pristine channel, and not only are marketers learning what it means to utilize this channel, but consumers are trying to understand if they like it.

The annoyance factor for consumers is pretty high, so segmentation is really a way to ensure that consumers don’t end up hating you. This is not like email. SMS is still considered a 1:1 medium, so you need to act like you know the consumer. Any segmentation will help, but realize that this is not a broadcast medium where it’s one message to everyone.

You can meet both Loren McDonald and Ryan Phelan at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 at the ARIA in Las Vegas, where Phelan will be discussing "Segmentation 101, 201, 301, 401 … in six minutes or less."

Related Resources

A/B Testing: How to improve already effective marketing (and win a ticket to Email Summit in Vegas

Email Marketing: 4 steps to optimize a mobile experience for better conversion

Mobile Marketing: 31% of marketers don’t know their mobile email open rate

Hidden Friction: The 6 silent killers of conversion

Mobile, Webmail, Desktops: Where Are We Viewing Email Now? (Return Path study of 400 million data points)

MECLABS Email Messaging Online Course

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