Every month, it seems a new report (or sweet infographic) is released announcing that more people are buying and using their smartphones to browse websites, send email, watch sale items and even make purchases. Some brands report as many as 40% of their opens come from mobile devices. Unfortunately, the explosion in mobile opens has not translated into an explosion in mobile clicks, and many brands are now seeing troubling declines in their engagement metrics. What’s even more troubling, though, is that many of these brands aren’t doing anything about it.
What’s going on here? Wasn’t 2012 was supposed to be the “Year of Mobile Email”? When responsive web design emerged, it created buzz all over the place. We can now use queries to transform the layouts of Web pages and emails, accommodating the constraints of the browser windows used to view them. It’s the logical answer to a growing mobile market, and blogs like DM News continue to extol its benefits.
Frustratingly, scores of marketers are still waiting to determine whether responsive design will help them generate measurable revenue, and that’s not easy to prove. Marketers are used to seeing as high as 7x ROI from email, and with ROI now declining, many managers are hesitant to invest more in delivering positive experiences – even though trends indicate that the long-term impact of such neglect will be damaging.
Data can certainly be valuable, but now it seems we’ve learned to be so dependent on data that we’re missing common-sense answers.
The case for responsive email design
The reality of the situation is this: We see an undeniably skyrocketing number of subscribers reading from mobile devices, we see declining engagement, and we have responsive design, which offers a coding solution for the viewing issues of a large segment of our subscribers. The move toward responsive email design seems like a no-brainer, and yet brands continue to look for quantifiable ways to prove that it’s worth taking that leap.
Some argue that boosts in tablet use will negate problems we see with email experiences, but I’ve seen how even companies that actually have data on which device each subscriber uses can’t reliably pinpoint when a particular individual will open on his Android (versus his iPad or desktop). We need a solution that is as flexible and ever-changing as consumers, and responsive design is it.
The fact that responsive email doesn’t necessarily boost ROI isn’t because responsive email doesn’t work. It’s because the email landscape has changed, and we now need to invest more in order to maintain past levels of sales success. Responsive design, then, isn’t about making more money; it’s about stopping the bleeding from the hit you’ve already taken. It’s about adapting to trends in a way that allows your brand to hold onto already-engaged customers.
The case for mobile-optimized web experiences
Setting up a good inbox experience with mobile optimized email isn’t quite enough, though; you also need to deliver an optimized web experience. If you don’t, you’re setting your customers up to experience frustration post-click and associate negative feelings with your brand. A recent U.K. Study by SmartInsights reported that nearly half of consumers would not engage with a brand after having a poor mobile Web experience, and nearly 60% said they viewed a brand as “being in touch” with their consumers after a positive mobile experience.
Granted, these studies are about the mobile Web rather than mobile email, but our emails send our subscribers to our Web pages. Once an email subscriber has clicked through and been offered a poor mobile Web experience, they have very little reason to click through again.
I’ve personally let months pass before trying to click through on a brand that previously offered me a lousy Web experience. There are not many more frustrating things than trying to complete an action from my phone while I’m on the go -- only to be thwarted by long page load times or too little space around areas where I need to click or type.
Responsive design won’t make a million dollars for your program by itself. There are still many factors leading to a conversion, and mobilizing email is only part of the battle. Web sites, where the conversion happens, are crucial. Completing transactions will always be easier on the web, using a desktop computer. We should really be looking at the number of people on mobile devices who abandon our site before completing an action.
The bottom line
As email marketers, we know that if 30%-40% of openers were using Gmail and encountering a rendering issue, we’d call in our code teams to fix it immediately. Similarly, just because subscribers have grown accustomed to poor mobile experiences doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in improving their interactions with your brand – as soon as possible.
If you haven’t started yet, now is the time. While we’re busy trying to find numbers to prove that responsive design and mobile Web optimization are worth the investment, your subscribers will continue to click less, spend less time and eventually open fewer of your campaigns – which means you’re losing money every single day.