Mobile To Become Top Email Platform

by , May 1, 2012, 4:23 PM
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Email-in-MotionReturn Path projects that mobile will overtake Webmail and the desktop PC to become the leading platform for e-mail by year’s end. Email readership on mobile devices accounts for 30% of all opens, up from 10% a few years ago, according to a new study by the email certification and reputation monitoring company,

Return Path estimates that proportion will reach about 35% by June, eclipsing Webmail services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail, and roughly equaling email opens on desktop clients like Outlook by mid-year. “What we’ve seen over the past year and a half is that mobile is really eating away at the share of Webmail views,” said Tom Sather, senior director of email research at Return Path. (A Webmail service accessed within a phone’s native email program would be counted as a mobile view in the study.)

That’s not welcome news for the Webmail providers. Email ads that might appear in a traditional Web browser will not show up in a native mobile email reader. "For Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, if their readers are moving away from a Webmail view, where they can monetize it, they’re losing out, too,” said Sather.

The share of desktop email clients led by Outlook, by contrast, have held relatively steady because people continue to use them mainly at work on the PC. Mobile email opens overall jumped 82.4% in just the last year, as of March. Driving that trend is the proliferation of iPhones and iPads, with Apple devices accounting for 85% of all mobile email opens, according to the data collected from 500 clients using Return Path’s analytics tools.

Sather said email opens are probably split about evenly between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS -- the two dominant smartphone platforms -- when allowing for technical differences in tracking that led to an overrepresentation of the Apple operating system. New data from comScore on Tuesday showed that Android was running on 51% of smartphones in the U.S., compared to about 30% for iOS.

More broadly, smartphone penetration has reached about 50% in the U.S., while 15% to 20% of mobile users now have tablets. The Return Path study showed that email readership on the iPad, in particular, had grown quickly -- up 53% from a year ago.

Despite the sharp rise in mobile email use, the company found that nearly half (48%) of marketers don’t know how many mobile subscribers they have. That can be a problem if people are getting email messages that haven’t been optimized for the mobile screen.

“If you have a poorly crafted email experience for mobile, people can just get frustrated and delete it,” said Sather.

In practice, that means email messages aimed at mobile users should be formatted so they render properly, at least on iOS and Android devices. Sather said new technologies are emerging that allow email marketers to see how their desktop or Webmail messages render on different mobile platforms to help avoid problems when launching campaigns.

5 comments on "Mobile To Become Top Email Platform ".

  1. John Grono from GAP Research
    commented on: May 2, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.
    I know you should never look at a sample of n=1, but the majority of the email 'opens' or my smartphone are generally followed by a delete. I use the smartphone to 'winnow my email list' when I am out and about and once the spam and junk is deleted attend to the 'real' email when I get home and on my computer.
  2. Dave Hendricks from LiveIntent
    commented on: May 2, 2012 at 11:10 a.m.
    The 30% number that is cited here is very close to LiveIntent's own research. Tablets are dubiously 'mobile', but we include them. Do you? Every time someone upgrades from a feature phone to a smartphone, mobile email gets bigger. People read more email once they don't need to be tethered to a desk and keyboard. It's the number one thing people do with Smartphones. Actual phone calls are a distant third...Email 1st, Texting/Social 2nd, Phone 3rd, and close is gaming...
  3. Warren Zenna from Phonevalley
    commented on: May 2, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
    I respectfully disagree with John's assessment. MOST of my work email is read FIRST on my smartphone - then the key emails are read again at my office. But its a 'mobile first' paradigm. What irks me most is how marketers just don't get it yet - and how little (10%!) of my email is not yet mobile optimized. I was just consulting a market research firm yesterday on "mobilizing" their content (finally) and one of the first things we discussed were their daily Newsletters. Items like this must be readable on all smartphones. It should be table stakes at this point. Think about how readership would skyrocket if content like this were mobile friendly. The main reason for any unread emails on smartphones is because the experience sucks. other than that people put up with it for how because reading emails on mobile phones is the quickest, most efficient way to receive and respond. Think Blackberry. They mastered this eons ago - and of course fell on their own sword. The platform that finally masters email delivery and readability will prevail. In the meantime, brands and publishers need to get on board and think 'mobile first' for all email communications.
  4. Silver Stoltsen from Veret Media
    commented on: May 2, 2012 at 2:08 p.m.
    I agree with John, I delete most of the junk and then get back to the real emails when behind a computer. But most of the emails are not optimized well and it is a hassel to go thru them on your phone.
  5. John Grono from GAP Research
    commented on: May 2, 2012 at 6 p.m.
    Warren, I agree that it is a mobile first paradigm, and I think your vision of smartphone optimised readability is exactly my experience. Most of my email is opened first on my smartphone and at best 'perused'. Stuff I can read later (for example the MediaPost newsletter) are deleted off the smartphone and read on the larger screen of my laptop at home. Junk is deleted off both the smartphone and the home computer simultaneously. Email that needs 'attending to' is opened, read and acted on (email back or a telephone call) on my smartphone. Maybe it is because the BB Bold 9900 screen is roughly half the size of other smartphones but I feel the screen 'real estate' is not conduicive to 'proper' reading. I think this comes down to what you define as reading. If you define it is 'opened and perused' ... sure I open everything on my smartphone. If you add caveats such as 'read in depth' or 'read again in detail later' or 'acted upon or replied to via email' ... then that remains the domain of my main computer. Again, this could be because I deem my home computer to be 'keeper of all knowledge' mainly because it all ends up in my Outlook .PST data base so I have the thread of my email communications. Should mobile's get a readable screen (iPad size?) and friendly keyboard (no Alt-key needed) and be able to store/link then they would be headed in the right direction. (P.S. I am not a fan off 'cloud-based' email as I find that the contents of my email are not as secure as my work needs them to be - convenient yes, secure no.)

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