|Most "mocial" (mobile/social/local) email conversations have been about the impact of social media and networks. Participants range from the misguided, who suggest that social media would kill email, to folks like yours truly, who believe that the two channels actually can support each other and make each other more relevant.
Social networks and media have had little serious impact on email marketing. The mobile aspect of the mocial trifecta, however, looks like it will have a monumental impact on our beloved channel.
First, let's look at the trends driving mobile's impact on email marketing:
1. Smartphone adoption: According to Nielsen research, 49.6 per cent of the U.S. adult population now own smartphones, up from 36 per cent a year earlier. This explosive growth is the driving force behind mobile's impact on email.
2. PC/laptop sales: Forrester says sales of tablets (23 per cent) will actually outpace desktop PCs (18 per cent) and netbook/mini laptops (17 per cent) by 2015 but trail laptops/notebooks (43 per cent). Further, smartphones outsold PCs for the first time in Q4 2010, according to IDC.
3. Tablet sales: Gartner predicted in April 2012 that 119 million tablets would be sold in 2012, and 369 million by 2016.
4. Tablet content activities: A July 2011 study by IDG Global Solutions pegs reading emails (84 per cent) as the second-highest activity on tablets after Web browsing (93 per cent).
5. Platform email access: According to a June 2012 report from Litmus, mobile email opens (36 per cent) passed desktop (33 per cent) and Webmail opens (31 per cent) in April. The number of mobile opens marked an 80 per cent increase over the previous six months.
A recent Return Path report shows lower but similar numbers: Email readership on mobile devices accounted for 30 per cent of all opens, up from 10 per cent a few years ago.
Return Path estimated that mobile opens would reach about 35 per cent by June, eclipsing Webmail services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail and roughly equalling email opens on desktop clients like Outlook.
6. Day of week usage: The Return Path study revealed a big dip in desktop email client usage over the weekend, with a corresponding rise in mobile and webmail use.
7. Specific email client opens: The Litmus study shows email opens doubled or more in the last year on iOS (10 per cent to 20 per cent), Android (2 per cent to 7 per cent) and iPad (3 per cent to 8 per cent), but plummeted 51 per cent on Outlook (from 37 per cent to 18 per cent).
8. Touchscreens: An August 2011 report from ABI Research suggests that 97 per cent of all smartphones will feature touchscreens by 2016, compared to 7 per cent of touchscreen-equipped smartphones in 2006.
9. Multiple device opens: Of all this data, perhaps the most surprising comes from Litmus. It found that just 3.3 per cent of users have viewed a single email on both a mobile device and either a desktop OR a webmail email client.
Not surprisingly, though, someone who opened email on a mobile device at least once in the past will do so again about 45 per cent of the time.
Put Statistics into Action
Some of the statistics above might vary widely from your specific subscriber base. You might even question their validity. The important thing to focus on is simply the general and rapid adoption of mobile usage.
Okay, let's net out all the above statistics:
• No matter what your subscribers' demographics are, more than half of them either own a smartphone or tablet or likely will within a year.
• Within a year, potentially one-third to one-half of your subscribers will view your email on a mobile device often or almost exclusively.
• The finger is the new mouse. When viewed on a mobile device, nearly all interactions will be touch-based.
Key implications for email marketers include these:
• It is time to consider taking a "mobile first" design strategy.
• Assume you have only one shot at persuading your subscribers to click on your CTA, because so few view the same email on different devices.
• Ensure a consistent, simple and mobile-friendly experience at the destination, whatever device your subscriber takes to get there.
• Links and calls to action must work easily for the finger.
• Copy and layout must reflect mobile context. Your users are on the go and short of time.
• Add mobile to your testing strategy.
While email marketers could have safely ignored the impact of social media over the last few years, the same does not hold true for mobile usage.