Emailing It In

by , Aug 7, 2008, 2:15 PM
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"Why didn't you answer me? I sent you a message yesterday about going to that midnight book launch tonight." My daughter, who I am proud to say eschewed Harry Potter throughout her childhood (because she knows a shallow dweeb when she sees one), blindsided me with her devotion to this Stephanie Meyer phenom. I volunteered to bring her to the bookstore Friday night for the ubiquitous launch event, but I never got a message back from her about final plans.

"Why would you email me?" she asked in that loaded teen way that packs a decade of issues in half a sentence. Here was another opportunity to demonstrate how "little I really understood" her. And I must have missed the point at which "email" became an alien term. I am supposed to understand that SMS pretty much replaced email long ago for her and her friends. Only Neanderthals like me use email anymore.

I have to admit that mobile marketers are starting to confirm this trend. Some radio stations are having more success cultivating phone databases via text message promotions than they are in growing an email database for some younger demos.

Meanwhile, here in the retirement village, my fiancée was proud of having successfully sent her first text message to me last night. Ironically, it said, "Call me."

We are in transitional times, where older new media and new new media mash up in unexpected ways because many of us carry over to emerging platforms familiar forms and habits.

With all of the investment and attention aimed at mobile display advertising and even mobile search, marketers should keep in mind that their most direct connection to the most phones is not through these emerging platforms but through an older one -- email. According to Informa, mobile employees accessing email will triple in number by 2011. Overall, M:Metrics finds that 13.1% of us are using phones for email, almost equal to the 14.4% who use the mobile Web browser.

It shouldn't surprise me then (but it did), that landing page designer ion Interactive finds most mobile clickthroughs coming from email links rather than mobile search or ad banners. The company designs landing pages for scores of major B2B and B2C clients, who leverage their email lists traditionally to drive Web traffic. Increasingly, higher percentages of that traffic are coming from a mobile browser as mobile email use accelerates.

Ion CEO Justin Talerico says he already is designing alternative landing experiences that recognize a mobile browser off of an email link. The company just launched an iPhone-specific product because some clients were seeing significant percentages of clickthroughs coming from the mobile Safari browser. Generally, Talerico says, people coming through a mobile email link are highly focused. "They are a great captive audience," he says. Unlike the Web environment, mobile is not conducive to multitasking, and because of the relative slowness and unpredictability of browsing here, most of us don't click on links as liberally. In other words, we click through on the things we really want to see. "You have a more committed person," he thinks. "You apply the same landing page principles but it is a smaller canvas. "The interesting thing in our opinion is that psychographically you have a more focused person." Counterintuitively, perhaps, this means that a mobile landing page could have more latitude in engaging the audience because the viewer is not doing a casual drive-by. These are people worth investing in with deeper content than you might offer on a Web landing page.

Mobile search is still warming up. Talerico warns that from his perspective on the landing sites, little traffic comes from the major engines right now, although he admits that is the platform with the most potential for growth over time. For now, the most direct route to mobile users could be through the less sexy, less trendy side door of email.

Unless you are trying to communicate with my daughter and her ilk. But even if you do leverage SMS effectively with her, don't be surprised if she comes up with another excuse for not answering.

"Ok, I'll text you from now on."

"I am having trouble with my keypad. I think I wore it out." I can't figure out if this is an excuse or a tactic, because she keeps asking what I plan to do with my dormant last-gen iPhone now that I upgraded to the 3G model.

"I thought you didn't like the touchpad. You said that to me. I wrote it in a column."

"And because you wrote it in a column it must be true? I am 16, and even I know most of what I read online isn't true."

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