Email marketing is mobile marketing

6 minute read

Consumption of emails on mobile devices continues to increase. This in itself is not news. We’ve tracked email opens on mobile devices for many years and have watched the proportion grow from around 27% in 2011 to over half in 2015, actually 53.9%, as documented in our 2015 benchmark report.

desktop v mobile

The latest research from our 2016 email marketing benchmark report indicates that the proportion of emails opened on a mobile device has now grown to 54.6%, an increase of around 1.3% over the previous 12 month period.

Email opens on mobile device

Mobile opens by industry sector

As with the other performance metrics detailed in the report, when we look in more detail across the 29 individually tracked sectors we see a significant variation. The graph below shows the average mobile open rate for each of the tracked industry sectors, ranging from around 27% and 29% in Wholesale and B2B Services to over 71% in the TV/Radio/Film sector. By the way – the sectors shown in light blue are the top 10 performers in overall open performance (all devices) – more on these below.

Mobile opens by industry

Only 2 of the tracked sectors showed a decrease in mobile opens from the same period last year, Sales/Marketing/Design and Sport/Leisure. All other sectors showed an increase. To quantify the degree of change, the percentage increases in mobile opens ranged from 0.2% in Education/Training to 38.6% in Retail B2B. The largest increase in mobile opens were seen in the sectors of Retail-B2B, Health/Beauty/Spa and Recruitment/HR. In all, 8 of the 30  tracked sectors (including a generic sector for which no specific industry is identified) have shown more than a 10% increase in mobile open rates over the same period last year.


The top performers

If you consider just the top 10 performing of all sectors (in terms of their overall open rate performance ) and look at mobile open rates for this specific group then the proportion of mobile opens increases from the overall average of 54.6% to 58.91%.

A finer segmentation of the top 3 sectors only (again in terms of their overall open performance) increases the average proportion of mobile opens still further to 62.56%.

Whatever way you look at the data, two things are clear. The consumption of emails on mobile devices now dominates and is still growing.

Times are changing

Of course there are more mobile devices now than a year ago but our email consumption habits are also changing. Some (for example my partner, Karen) hasn’t looked at an email on a desktop device for over a year (the iPad has seen to that), and for some industries, the TV/Radio/Film sector for example, thrives on the very mobile nature of their audience. For many the mobile device now acts both as a primary consumption and as a pre-screening device. Yesterday on the train I watched many people (including myself) using their smartphone or tablet to initially review the daily inbox deleting some, responding in brief to the urgent quick actions, and earmarking others to be read in more detail on the desktop once at the office or back at home.

The conclusion here is that a few years ago addressing a mobile audience was a nice-to-have strategy – sufficiently important but not essential. After all mobile users probably also read those emails on a desktop device at some point in their journey. Today, and many people are saying it, email marketing and mobile marketing are now essentially merged. Failure to address the needs of a mobile audience is now a failure to address the needs of the audience.

There’s another aspect. We’re now at the point that simply catering for the mobile need is no longer enough. Today the opportunity is in really embracing the mobile audience. This means not just adapting desktop emails to display in a mobile friendly way but designing campaigns specifically for mobile. Don’t get me wrong. Responsive design is hugely important and there’s still a significant untapped opportunity – but as a technology it’s way beyond the early adopter.

Designing ground-up optimisation strategies which deal with the mechanics and really embrace the mobile audience is where the current innovators are thinking – where the future opportunity lies. This means everything is up for re-consideration. Design optimisation for the small screen, of course, but also the nature of email campaigns themselves, the message, the call to action and optimum timing to truly capitalise on a mobile audience are all on the table.