Then & Now: Mobile & Email Marketing Predictions

I love reading those articles that compare 20thcentury science fiction to our modern world. This week, I stumbled across a list of author Isaac Asimov’s 1964 predictions for 2014. While we’re still not colonizing the moon, Asimov was pretty spot-on in the majority of predictions, including his descriptions of some of today’s mobile technology.

Since it’s that time of year when we marketers like to start opining our predictions for the coming year, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look back at the mobile predictions of the past — with a focus on their implications for email marketing — before offering up a few of my own for 2015.

As it turns out, we marketers aren’t always as good at predicting the future as Isaac Asimov.

OLD PREDICTION #1: Five years ago, smartphones weren’t yet ubiquitous, but that didn’t stop us from being overly optimistic about mobile commerce. 2010 was going to be the big year for m-commerce. So was 2011. And 2012 — you get the picture.



In reality, while there were marked upticks in m-commerce each year, they weren’t aligned with the booming adoption and usage of mobile devices.

What was the problem? Looking back, it’s tough to chalk it up to technology. Marginal marketing appears to be the real culprit, and that continues to be the problem today. M-commerce experiences that exceed consumer expectations remain few and far between.

I always ask clients how much of their revenue can be tied back to email marketing, and whether they know the percentage of subscribers who are accessing their email via mobile. They consistently report exponentially higher sales among customers accessing email via desktop, despite a larger mobile email audience.

NEW PREDICTION #1: Savvy marketers are aware that they’re missing huge opportunities with mobile customers, and they’re starting to get serious about tackling the problem. In 2015, more marketers will implement strategies aimed squarely at converting the mobile user, and will quantify success with metrics tied to revenue rather than engagement.

We’ll see these advances first among smaller, more nimble companies, where marketers are held more accountable for contributions to the bottom line. Many are already leveraging mobile-friendly email and mobile sites. They’re going to step up their games with more contextual one-to-one messaging — messaging catered to the limited attention span of the on-the-go consumer — and improved user experiences beyond the click, including responsive sites and streamlined checkout processes.

Larger companies with complex hierarchies will lag behind in this area, with the exception of those reliant on e-commerce. The primary reason for this is the difficulty of connecting the dots between marketing efforts and a company’s bottom line. Only marketers held accountable for conversions will aggressively pursue mobile-specific conversion strategies.

OLD PREDICTION #2: 2012 was the year that forward-thinking marketers got on board with responsive email marketing. And we were convinced the rest of the world would follow suit by 2013, which was surely the year mobile email renders would outpace desktop.

THE REALITY: We were right about one thing: Mobile did overtake desktop as the rendering environment for email marketing. But despite the trend, many marketers didn’t spring into action.

I just took a look at the last 10 commercial messages I received today. Half were static-width, image-heavy messages that gave zero consideration to the mobile user experience. Four out of 10 were “mobile-aware” — they were legible and functional on my smartphone. And exactly one was responsive. Sadly, it was an amateurish, poorly tested attempt, with broken code that produced two header images in error.

THE NEW PREDICTION #2: The current best practices of email design are all about taking a mobile-first approach, and they’re about to be tweaked a bit more thanks to the larger screens and higher resolution of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

But I predict that only a minority will keep pace with the evolving inbox. These will be the same marketing trailblazers also introducing more motion into email with animated gifs and embedded video.

Adoption of mobile-optimized templates will continue to occur at a slow pace, becoming the norm by year’s end. But truly spectacular multiplatform design will remain a rarity – and a missed opportunity.

OLD PREDICTION #3: Howcould I wrap up a recap of bum marketing predictions without the classic “EMAIL IS DEAD”?

This idea started started gaining momentum with a 2009 article from the Wall Street Journal that declared email would be replaced by Twitter, Facebook and… Google Wave. Why? Because mobile technology meant we’re always connected, and the “always-on” connection spurred new ways to communicate.

Mark Zuckerberg helped solidify this rumor when he reportedly called Facebook Messages a “Gmail-killer” in 2010.

THE REALITY: Does anybody remember Google Wave? How about the backlash that occurred when Facebook stripped users’ email addresses from their accounts and replaced them with a (now-defunct) Facebook Messages address?

While Twitter and Facebook have found their place in everyday communication and digital marketing, rumors of email’s death were greatly exaggerated. In fact, email consistently produces more ROI than any other digital marketing channel, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

THE (NOT-SO) NEW PREDICTION #3: Email is here to stay for the foreseeable future, thanks in great part to — not in spite of — mobile devices. Today, email goes everywhere that we do. And this portability presents tremendous opportunities for marketers. As our mobile technologies evolve, so too will the viability (and challenges!) of email marketing, which will retain its top position as an ROI-generator.

And here’s one final, hopeful prediction: That we won’t have to continue to argue this last point in 2015.

1 comment about "Then & Now: Mobile & Email Marketing Predictions".
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  1. Rick Noel from eBiz ROI, Inc., October 17, 2014 at 6:42 a.m.

    Nice post Jen. Mobile adoption has never been more important for email marketers than RIGHT NOW. Sounds like there is still early advantage opportunities there, especially significant due to mobile traffic over taking desktop for many.

    Hopefully your prediction that we won't have to continue arguing the point that email marketing is dead pans out in 2015.

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