Packing Light For Mobile Email Success

Packing light has never been my strong suit. I always seem to return from trips—be they business or pleasure—with way too many unused pairs of this and that. One might trace my excess to some Boy Scout-ish desire to be prepared; however, I was never a Boy Scout. The real reason for my overstuffed luggage is that I hate packing—and it’s much easier to pack the kitchen sink than it is to whittle down to the bare essentials.

I share this personal foible because it serves as an apt analogy for the email marketing practices of many in the travel industry today. Instead of packing their emails with personalized, data-driven offers tailored to each individual recipient, all too many companies are falling back on one-size-fits all promotions that stuff each email until it bursts at the seams with multiple calls-to-action. This approach may generate sales; however, it fails to reach the true potential afforded by a more personalized email strategy.

Just as the airlines’ introduction of baggage fees and weight limits caused flyers to rethink their packing behaviors, travel marketers are facing changes that should cause them to rethink the overstuffed, “batch and blast” email. Consumers are in the midst of “The Great Mobile Migration”—a massive shift from feature phones to smartphones and from single-device to multi-device, mobile email engagement.



According to comScore’s 2012 U.S. Digital Future in Focus report, the time spent by18-24 year-olds reading email on mobile devices has grown 32% while their use of webmail (reading web-based email on a computer) is down 34%. These users are not abandoning email, but they are shifting a significant amount of their usage to a device—the smartphone—which changes the way they engage with your email—and the way you need to message to them—in four significant ways:

1. Known, Trusted Senders Get Preference

If you have a smartphone, think about how you react when you receive an email from a colleague you know versus a stranger. With each message just an impulsive thumb-swipe away from deletion, building a reputation as a known, trusted sender helps you survive the recipient’s first moment of decision—whether to even open your message. The FROM line is the first place smartphone users assess whether a message is relevant to them, and you stand a far better chance of getting that email read if your brand builds a reputation for “packing light,” i.e., delivering only the most relevant content to each recipient.

2. Time Is of the Essence

The smartphone is a Swiss Army knife of the modern age, and email is just one app among hundreds of thousands at consumers’ disposal. The good news is that email is a default app on every smartphone and one of the most used channels on the device altogether. The challenge, however, is that your email is now competing with phone calls and text messages and Facebook updates and tweets and push notifications. As a result, those senders who can leverage subscriber data to craft timely, relevant messages that get to the point quickly will have the advantage over those who still load each email with the kitchen sink of offers.

Want a quick place to improve? Look at your subject lines. In the mobile email, they scroll more like text messages—quick snippets that should inspire action. Do yours? If not, it’s time to boil them down so recipients know what your message is about and are inspired to open.

3. Smaller Screens Require More Creativity

Much as it takes more thought to pack light for a trip, you should also put more thought into designing for the smaller, smartphone screen. Notice I didn’t say that you should abandon design altogether; rather, you should whittle down your content to the most important, the most personal, and the most relevant calls to action so that your mobile email readers have a clear understanding of the email’s purpose and offer within the first screen.

Need some inspiration? Go look at how daily deal sites like Groupon, Gilt Groupe, and LivingSocial are optimizing for mobile email. At the recent Email Evolution Conference, Gilt Groupe’s VP of Customer Marketing shared that over HALF of their emails are now opened on a mobile device. You can be certain that the emails from these companies will inspire tactics that travel marketers will want to test for themselves.

4. Think Cross-Channel

Another fact shared by Gilt Groupe’s VP was that they were seeing a significant number of users read about their offers via mobile email and then purchase via Gilt’s mobile app.

With the complexity of travel bookings, this may be the most valuable lesson of all—that email can and will drive cross-channel conversions. Consumers are increasingly masters of their multi-channel domains, and they opt to complete transactions in the channel of greatest convenience to them. For some, this may be clicking on the mobile email and purchasing via the mobile browser. For others, it may be that email inspires action but the app makes purchasing easiest. Still others may “shelve” the email and wait to purchase when they can take action at their laptop or desktop. View your emails as a cross-channel catalyst and some new ways to optimize them for your mobile recipients may become readily apparent.

As the daily deal sites demonstrate, you don’t need to sacrifice conversions to optimize for mobile email. Rather, you just need the discipline to refine your messaging for smaller screens and shorter attention spans. Yes, the Great Mobile Migration is underway, and those marketers who “pack light” when it comes to email will be at a distinct advantage in the race to win mobile consumers.

2 comments about "Packing Light For Mobile Email Success".
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  1. Tourism Tim Warren from Travel Business Success, March 12, 2012 at 12:41 p.m.

    In the spirit of your message; Great job. Concise profit-producing advice for travel marketers.

  2. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, March 12, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.

    It's a shame that you are using selective statistics to make your point. The 18-24 year old demographic, in my mind, is a bad one for spending money on travel. They do travel, but they do it themselves on a cheap to free basis.

    So no one, in my opinion, makes money on this demographic. Yet this is the first statistic you choose to trot out in your article. Why don't you use statistics that match up with the demographics that have money to spend on discretionary travel?

    Are you infected with the same virus that seems to make so many mass market, old school broadcast-oriented journalists think that "youth" is where the money is?

    For me, you need to work a bit harder on finding relevant statistics to support your argument.
    Other than that, I agree with your premise, that mobile users do consume content differently, relative to desktop users.

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