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Email marketing on mobile

It's really important to consider the mobile device when it comes to email communications. 48% of email is read on smartphones. Just to be clear, that's read, not checked. According to Exact Target’s ‘Mobile behaviour report’ 2014, 91% of consumers check email on their phone at least once a day. In other words almost all of us use our phones to 'screen' emails deleting ones which we think aren't of any value, based on who they're from and the subject line. Email marketing on mobile needs to take this behaviour into account. Building up a reputation for irrelevancy will decrease the chances your email will be opened. According to LiveClicker and The Relevancy Group “Exploring the Benefits Real-Time Email – Driving Marketing Effectiveness” (2015) the biggest turnoffs people have with mobile email are:

Receiving too many (44%), Not relevant (37%), Too small to read and interact with (32%), Website and landing pages not mobile optimised (26%) and Not well formatted for mobile phones (21%).

So the first two turnoffs are nothing to do with the content of the emails received!

Email marketing on mobile - what to do to make it work if you're an e-commerce retailer

1. Nail the frequency, for each customer.

You have to accept that a weekly email to all your subscribers isn't a socially intelligent way to market. So many retailers treat consumers with little respect, pounding them with daily emails. Do I buy clothes daily? No. So why would I need to get a daily sales email. I suppose such retailer think that persistence is key to break the customers will. Fact is, it'll work for some but not all. And you can't build a business on marketing that works for some of your customers. So if your business model is one, which provides an opportunity for repeat purchase, then use data to tell you when the right time to reach out to them again is. If your email marketing strategy is more about brand building, sharing content and building credibility then use data to determine who opens such emails. There'll be an engaged group who opens them every time and a less engaged group. Don't send the less engaged group an email every week. Make more of an impact by contacting them less frequently.

A really useful exercise to work through is to think about the single objective of each email you send. What do you want customers to do as a result. Here are some examples:

  • Introduce customers to a new range that's coming to get them interested
  • Introduce customers to a new range and encourage them to buy
  • Introduce customer to a partner who you've agreed an affiliate commission with
  • Remind customers that it's time to re-stock
  • Follow up with customers who've looked at specific items on your site with a relevant call-to-action to encourage them to buy
  • Build you brand credibility by sharing original, visual content that supports your brand image
  • Offer customers a seasonal promotion
  • Offer customers a specific time-bound promotion which encourages them to buy

Once you've done this, then think about the segments of customers who are most likely to respond well to each email. This in turn will determine who gets which email and who you omit. This will naturally lower the frequency of emails going to some customers because it won't be relevant for them to receive such emails. Which brings us to the next point...

2. Relevancy, relevancy, relevancy

Delivering relevant email marketing on mobile means doing a couple of things. Firstly it means considering when people interact with email and on what device. According to Movable Ink's consumer device preference report in Q3 2014,  reading emails on mobile peak first thing in the mornings (just when I wake up), on desktop peaks late-morning (when I'm at work and I've caught up on work emails first thing), on tablets at night (when I'm home and don't want to sit in front of a laptop screen any more thank you very much).

Reading emails across devices


As consumers we're in different engagement modes throughout the day. This should be taken into account when it comes to the subject line and content. When we're commuting to work, we might have time to browse something quickly and get some inspiration for later. We might have more time to read more content later on in the evening. Perhaps we're starting to feel hungry just before lunch at work. All these states can be used to deliver a more relevant message.

Secondly and most importantly relevancy means delivering the right content to the right customers. No need to labour on this one. It means making sure vegetarians get vegetarian emails and road bike cyclists get info on road bikes etc. In fashion in its simplest form it means men getting menswear and women, womenswear. But the more sophisitated fashion retailer will take into account categories, colour and spending habits to deliver relevancy that encourages stronger email conversion.

3. Make email easy to read - obvious right?

Responsive design ensures that your email will appear easy to read regardless of the screen size or device. Most email service providers enable email marketing on mobile by providing mobile-ready templates. But sometimes companies like to code their own templates to fit more closely to their brand look and feel. Most designers will code such templates responsively, but it's definitely worth making it explicitly clear in the scope of such work to make the email responsive to any smartphone or tablet device.


Do all these three things and you'll be on your way to delivering relevant email marketing on mobile!