Email Is Already Portable - Let's Make It Mobile

What is mobile doing to email?

Millions of emails a minute are being received, but many of the senders are still creating traditional emails without consideration for the millions of them being read on a mobile device.

With billions of people on mobile phones increasingly using them for messaging, many of the messages coming over the airwaves are still packaged as traditional email. I guess this is logical and to be expected, since many of the Web sites being sought out also are still just traditional Web sites, not mobile-optimized.

Even with the rapid-fire, multi info-swapping capabilities of mobile, email is hardly vanishing. Here are some email stats and estimates compiled by Pingdom.

  • The average corporate user sends/receives an average of 112 emails a day
  • 71 percent of email traffic globally is spam, with corporate inbox filters catching all but 19 percent of it
  • The first email was sent in 1971, making email more than 40 years old
  • The estimated return on $1 invested in email marketing is $44
  • Mobile subscriptions worldwide are estimated to be 5.9 billion

More than two million emails a second are sent, estimates Pingdom, compared to 200,000 text messages a second, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Although both numbers are large, email still dwarfs text messaging. Viewed another way, 107 trillion emails a year are sent, says Pingdom, more than 10 times the number of text messages.

One gauge of the scope of the market is the number of accounts set up. There are projected to be 4.3 billion email accounts worldwide by the end of this year, according to the research firm The Radicati Group. By contrast, there are 2.5 billion instant messaging accounts.

But the real question is less of volume than of effectiveness. For example, common market estimates put the open rates for email in the 20 to 30 percentage range and SMS in the 90-plus percentage range. While the exact numbers may be debated, it is clear that texts are more frequently opened.

Text messaging is the most common application Americans use on their mobile phones -- at least in the non-voice category, sending or receiving on average 42 messages a day, according to the Pew Internet and American Life study.

Think about your own behaviors. While you may get tons of emails and glance at many, when you receive a text message it’s immediate. Of course, it may be much more relevant, coming from a friend or a business to which you have opted in to receive messages that contain value, such as an offer or deal, making it much more likely to be viewed right away.

But the real question is not so much about the effectiveness of SMS, but rather the change in how email is managed via mobile. It begs the question of the relevance of email, or at least whether it’s still a real-time function.

This is not to say email to mobile is a dead business, since revenue for mobile emails (those targeted specifically to mobile devices, such as an email sent as a text message) grew 135 percent last year, according to PQ Media.

Email has clearly moved to mobile. Three-quarters (76%) of smartphone owners send or receive email via their mobile device, according to Pew.

One global survey we conducted at Mobile Future Institute showed that while working, 73 percent of senior executives and managers use their phones to receive mail and 70 percent to send it. And this is not a just-at-work phenomenon, since about the same number of business leaders use email from their phones while not working.

So what are the considerations for email via mobile? Here are some thoughts on sending and receiving emails via mobile:

  • Create one-subject emails. Better to send more than one so each can be easily routed or managed
  • Write shorter emails (you likely know someone you want to send this suggestion to)
  • If time-sensitive, send a text message alerting the person that you sent them an email
  • Change that “Sent from my Verizon…., sent from my iPhone…” message to your own message
  • Auto-blind copy yourself on all mobile email so you have a record on your computer for later
  • Scan the beginning of emails but don’t read the entire email (if using Android, use the email widget)
  • Look at the email on mobile and defer dealing with it until at a computer
  • Prioritize email on the phone for later (‘Star’ important emails if using Android)
  • If time-sensitive, send at least a short reply. The person sending from a computer may not realize you are on the move
  • As in all email, avoid the dreaded ‘reply all’

These are just a few ideas -- please send me yours. We all can use some help in the transition as mobile evolves email into the new snail mail.

Tags: email, mobile
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