Marketing trade publications have been declaring “the year of mobile” for many years now, but this was particularly true in 2011, when the reach and effectiveness of email increased primarily thanks to mobile and tablet devices. A recent study we did showed that email opens on mobile devices grew by 34% over a six-month period in late 2011 when compared to the previous six-month period. iPad usage jumped by 73%, partly due to Christmas and the launch of iPad 2.
Many pundits focus on issues of mobile design -- as if mobile emails were just like regular email, but smaller. While design is an important consideration, I think we need to focus more on how mobile email actually changes overall behavior around email in ways that could be very interesting.
I see three trends to watch:
1. Email is everywhere you want to be (and some places we’d rather not know). People are checking their email everywhere -- in bed, in church and yes, in the bathroom. An AOL survey showed that 59% of people use their time in the bathroom to check emails (leading to the suddenly less-surprising fact that half of all water-damaged phones were from dropping them in the toilet). We are almost never far from email.
The Energy Project polled people to see how long they were completely disconnected from email in a day. On average, people were away from email less than two waking hours in a day. It’s hard to think of anything else that we may be as plugged into. The clear message here is that for most marketers, there is no longer a perfect time to send an email in order for it to land at the top of the inbox. People are constantly in their inbox separating the good emails from the bad. Exact Target’s recent mobile study also showed this to be the case, with only 38% of people in 2011 flagging messages to view again while on their PC, a drop from 59% in 2009.
2. First thing in the morning, last thing before bed. Not surprising, given those stats, we also find that nowadays people begin their email usage day very early in the morning and end it quite late at night. While the middle of the day is all about the desktop, those edge times are more likely to involve a mobile device. While examining data for our study, we found mobile usage was at highest when people weren’t in front of their desktops. It appears that the first thing people do upon waking is to reach for their phones and check email.
We saw email opens on these mobile devices steadily move upwards starting at 6 a.m. ET, when people start to wake up on the East Coast, and then trailing off at 11 a.m. ET, when most people are at work, across all the U.S. time zones. Email usage on mobile devices then stays lower throughout the day when people are in front of their desks and picks up again before they go to bed. While subscribers may be opening emails more during these times, marketers should be on the lookout for changes in conversions. People might read an email at 11 p.m., but they might not have the energy to click through and buy something. Combining the two data points should give marketers that sweet spot on the best time of day to send an email to their subscribers.
3. Someone has a case of the Mondays. Additionally, Mondays appeared to be the worst time for subscribers to open an email on webmail and mobile devices. This is likely due to coming back to the workplace with full inboxes, with most mail being deleted without being read on mobile devices. B2B marketers may not be as affected, but B2C marketers should take note. Subscribers may not be reading non-work emails on Mondays as they try to purge their inbox of anything unnecessary.
But the flip side is that consumer marketers now have new times to reach users who are on mobile devices when they are out and about. Not surprisingly we see mobile opens increase on the weekends, along with webmail views. This means that weekend views could have a direct impact on foot traffic in stores if people are out shopping and checking email. About 55% of mobile shoppers have reported that email was the main driver for their decisions. Again, the key is for marketers to look at the data for their business -- which may be different from overall trends -- to determine where mobile opens and conversions meet for the perfect time of day email.
What does this mean for your marketing strategy?
The clear takeaway from all this data is that email is now always on the go. In order to develop a revenue-generating email strategy, marketers need real-time specific data on when and where subscribers are reading emails. By combining data from engagements, such as opens and conversions, savvy marketers can create the ultimate email strategy with huge returns in the coming year.
The other takeaway is to wash your hands after borrowing someone’s phone. You’re never sure where it’s been.