According to Campaign Monitor in a new report, whether email is increasingly being consumed on mobile devices is no longer a question: it’s a fact. But the days of the desktop are not over. Data from nearly 6 million email marketing campaigns suggests the shift to mobile has made it more difficult to get readers to engage with your content, unless you can drive a subsequent open in a different environment. If a mobile reader opens an email again from a different device, more clicks happen, says the report.
Data from over 1.8 billion opens, from campaigns with nearly 22 billion email recipients, sent in 2013, shows that mobile is the most popular environment for a subscriber’s first interaction with an email. The shift towards mobile has also been rapid. From 2011 to 2013, email opens on mobile phones devices increased by 30%. Mobile first took the lead in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Opens By Environment 2013
The overall trend towards opening email on mobile devices is undeniable, says the report. The iPhone is the most common mobile device that subscribers use to open their email for the first time. Between iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, nearly 90% of all mobile opens happened on an Apple device. Marketers should note that this data is likely skewed by the fact that Apple devices will display images by default, thereby automatically registering an open, whereas many Android email clients don’t.
The rapid shift and overall popularity of mobile means playing it safe with a basic one-column layout isn’t enough anymore. Marketers need to focus on creating the most compelling content possible, so responsive design is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Opens By Mobile Device
Data based on 780,479,174 mobile opens across 2,164,665 campaigns in 2013
Opens on desktop clients account for more than a quarter of all opens, and the desktop landscape is quite fragmented. Across all editions, Outlook accounts for 56% of all desktop opens and nearly 16% of total opens in any environment. Unfortunately, the fact that the majority of desktop opens happen in different editions of Outlook doesn't make life any easier for email marketers. Each edition of Outlook has its own unique rendering challenges, making it notoriously difficult to code for. In fact, the newer versions of Outlook for Windows are more difficult to work with than older ones: 2000 and 2003 render HTML email using Internet Explorer, whereas 2007, 2010 and 2013 render the HTML using Microsoft Word.
The release of the new desktop client Outlook 2013 will drive a decline in opens on Outlook 2000, 2003 and Express, so Word-based rendering isn’t going away anytime soon. The good news is that Outlook 2013 renders very similarly to Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 so if you’ve already optimized for these environments, no big adjustments to your email templates are needed to support the new client.
Opens by Desktop Client
Data based on 522,832,451 desktop opens across 2,164,665 campaigns in 2013
Hotmail was rebranded as Outlook.com in 2013 and together they account for nearly half of all opens that happen from webmail clients. The rebranding introduced a new set of display challenges for email marketers and coders: most notably, Outlook.com removed support for the margin property, a CSS fundamental. They also have styling on paragraph and list tags that’s tricky to override. If you’re not careful, says the report, you may see your campaign render in a less than optimal way for 1 out of 10 of your readers on average.
Opens By Webmail Client
Data based on 580M desktop opens across 2,164,665 campaigns in 2013.
At the same time that opens have been shifting towards mobile devices, the study shows a correlating decrease in click-through rates, with a 10% decline in 2013 vs. 2012, says the report. Aggregate opens rates, on the other hand, have stayed more steady in recent years.
Open Rates Vs. Click Through Rates: 2011 - 2013
Source: Campaign Monitor, May 2013
Clearly, there’s been a shift in email consumption that is more prominently reflected in aggregate CTRs than opens. While there are several factors that may be contributing, including an increase in the sheer volume of email sent, it’s also worth trying to isolate the impact of the shift to opening email on mobile devices.
First, 87% of clicks will happen when a reader opens an email for the first time. Accordingly, since initial opens are increasingly happening on mobile devices it is more common for a click to happen on a mobile device than it is on a web or desktop client. In fact, one out of every three clicks occurs on a mobile device today.
Distribution Of Clicks By Environment: Q1'13 - Q1'14
However, when opens on mobile devices are isolated, less clicks are happening on the initial open than across all environments. Only 78% of clicks on mobile devices happen on the first open. Comparing clicks as a percentage of opens, it’s immediately clear that an open on a mobile device doesn’t hold the same relationship to a click that it does elsewhere.
Percentage Of Clicks Relative To Opens By Environment
Additionally, the percentage of clicks relative to opens on mobile is decreasing, even as it stays fairly steady in webmail and desktop clients. Though mobile devices are growing in popularity for first time opens, the trend suggests it’s becoming more difficult to turn those opens into clicks.
Percentage Of Clicks Relative To Opens By Month
% of Total Clicks
Source: Campaign Monitor, May 2013
From looking at the ratio of clicks to opens alone, users consume email differently on mobile devices. But are they in fact flagging emails to read later on different devices? To answer that, look at the end-to-end behavior of people who first open their emails on mobile devices.
How Mobile Readers Interact With Email
41% Open campaigns on a mobile device
8% Click a link after opening
59% Do nothing
23% Open the campaign for a second time
70% Open on the same device
7.8% Click on the same device
30% Open on a different device
12.9% Click on a different device
Nearly one-quarter of people who open on a mobile device will open an email again. But it’s still more common for that second open to be on a mobile device than it is on a different device: 70% will stick with their mobile device, and 30% will go elsewhere. The data suggests that screen size really does factor into the way readers consume content, says the report. Mobile readers who open emails a second time from their computer are 65% more likely to click through.
Key Takeaways (according to the report)
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