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Are you optimising for mobile email or just for mobile email devices?

New survey reveals email marketing top for ROI, but still much potential for improvement

Shocking news in the latest Econsultancy/Adestra Email Marketing Industry Census: 68% of respondents rated email's ROI as excellent or good (the top result).

OK, not a shock.

However, despite the continuing strong results from email, the report suggests there is still much potential for improvement. The related infographic is below, and one area definitely in need of more focus is mobile email.

2014 Email Census

When I state the mobile email needs more focus, I don't just mean mobile email design, but mobile email as a whole. So what needs optimising?

Ignoring measurement issues for the moment, around half of mails are recorded as opened on a mobile device. This is the obligatory stat to remind us that mobile is not the future, but the present (almost one billion smartphones were sold in 2013).

Accordingly, many companies are moving to mobile-friendly design approaches, varying from simple changes to link spacing (so they're easier to prod with a finger) through to fully-responsive email design templates.

Mobile email optimisation is more than design

This design focus is understandable, though I would throw out three warnings.

1. At least some of the redesign benefits come from the copy and content refocus that tends to go hand in hand with any template redesign. See, for example, the DMA experience.

A template redesign shouldn't just be about compatibility with mobile viewing environments, but about optimising email elements per se...for both mobile and desktop environments and for the response you want from the reader.

2. Purely anecdotal, and I'd be interested if your experience is similar, but some of the mobile-friendly (B2B) mails I get from different companies (no names!) are edging toward a similar look: a trend towards functionality at the expense of creativity.

Only tests can reveal what's right, but I wonder about the long-term impact, particularly in terms of standing out in the inbox.

3. Design dominates the mobile email discussion. But don't forget that the "mobile challenge" is about more than just what the email looks like. In particular, how can your email marketing exploit the fact that people carry their mails around with them?

Wearing my consumer hat, these wider implications of mobile for email strategy, tactics and content seem ripe with potential. Here a few possibilities:

  • Can/should you personalise mails with local contact data and opening times for the nearest store/office?
  • Can emails help me make the "right" in-store buying decision, for example through reminders of the unique value of buying from you (maybe through best price guarantees or highlighting unique features/benefits of your own products or store)
  • Does your language reflect the new mobile reality? Are readers really "just a mouseclick away" from something?
  • Does the popularity of social networks among mobile users reinvigorate the value of "share with your network" links? Or give more impetus to campaigns with a strong social element, like dedicated "enter our Facebook competition" campaigns?
  • Are your apps and their use now a more valid email topic?
  • Should you also add elements (perhaps links to more in-depth content) for those mobile users who are not "in a rush, on the go" but "sitting around looking to kill three hours on the train"?
  • Should you invest more in mobile sign-ups?
    • SMS-to-subscribe or in-app sign-up opportunities
    • Sign-up copy plus URL and/or QR code on offline materials, such as around checkouts, trade booths, reception...anywhere customers and prospects have time to kill, on packaging, posters, print ads, etc.

Mobile email optimisation is a hot topic, right now, but look beyond design improvements to give thought to other mobile opportunities, too.

Mark Brownlow

By Mark Brownlow

Mark Brownlow is a former email copywriter and publisher of the retired Email Marketing Reports site. He now works as a lecturer and writer. Connect with him via Lost Opinions.

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