Brands Could Benefit From Google Email Search Feature

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A Google feature that serves up related emails in search engine query results could build closer ties between brands and customers. The company recently began testing the ability to read messages in a search browser when signed in. Keywords in the search query trigger the email content.

Consumers could begin that same query in their email in-box, but David Atlas, senior vice president of marketing at StrongMail, admits that Google's latest feature provides an added utility to find information, offers and deals in search results.

As consumers access their inboxes through more devices, marketers' reliance on email will increase, and many will become smarter at effectively driving messages across channels. A Google spokesperson did not have available data to share on Thursday.

Email marketing budgets remained flat for the most part in 2011, but a recent Forrester Research study suggests that 43% of companies believe email marketing will become more effective in coming years.

Although it's too early to tell whether Google's search feature will increase email marketing click through rates on desktops, it's clear that consumer perception of mobile email marketing is changing. Findings from a separate Forrester Research study commissioned by StrongMail indirectly point to benefits gained by clever uses of email marketing.

The study attempts to understand how general online consumers prefer to receive promotional messages via email, SMS and apps. It found that 32% of smartphone users said they click through email marketing messages to make a purchase.

The StrongMail study confirms Forrester's findings that 19% of the U.S. population check emails on mobile phones, and many consumers abandon the ones they can't read or that take too long to open. It found that 40% of smartphone owners decide immediately whether they will save the email message or delete it, and the majority who keep it view the message again later.

About 23% wait to open the email on another device, and 20% read the email on the mobile device and click through to the offer. Still, 18% don't access email on their smartphone device.

The findings also identify issues with email messages on smartphones. Owners said they experience the most challenges when attempting to interact with a brand via their device, but messages typically produce mixed results. About 25% said they experience some type of issue, while another 25% don't have a problem.

As email changes, Forrester suggests that marketers should invest in analytics platforms. The research firm believes the tool will "catch on big" and predicts a 13% compound annual growth rate on email analytics spend between now and 2016.

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