Why Have Email Marketers Dropped The Mobile Ball?

So we Brits are spending nearly three hours a day online -- that's roughly one in every six waking minutes! Today's research is interesting because the IAB and UKOM, with the help of comScore, have used a poll of more than 70,000 Internet users, as well as a host of tagged sites, to determine the active time we spend online. It answers that age-old question of whether someone is active online or simply has Chrome running in the background while they compile a report or make a cup of tea.

We're actively online, then, for two hours and fifty-one minutes every day, and that's a near even split between desktop or laptop and mobile or tablet (slightly in the favour of the latter, more mobile channels). 

The big takeaway is that social is up from 12% of our time two years ago to 17% today, and games have doubled from 3% of our time to 6%. Entertainment, meanwhile, has nearly halved from 22% to 12%. So we're spending a lot more time on social and killing time playing mobile app games as well as watching longer-form entertainment on a connected TV now that Netflix and Sky have established offers and fibre broadband is widely available. 

Social, games, news reading and messaging are shown by the research to be nearly two or three times as likely to be enjoyed on a mobile device as they are a desktop, while the opposite is true of entertainment and email.

So this begs the question: what are email and entertainment, or rather mobile video, doing? -- Why are they lagging behind? With entertainment, or mobile video at least, it's probably safe to say that no matter how many times a digital zealot stands up to tell us tv is dead, it is very much alive and kicking. People don't always have the connectivity on the move and are more likely to have their attention on work or a social outing while out and about than when they are seated on the sofa in lean-back mode each evening. So the larger screen environment of the living room is probably set to dominate how we seek to entertain ourselves. The content may well sometimes be non-linear and digital, via a set-top box or connected television, but the mobile device is very much unattended in a pocket or on the sofa arm.

Where the real question lies is why email marketers have taken their eye off the ball. Clearly, people still want to communicate on mobile devices but that keeping in touch is being done through messaging. It goes without saying that a text is the most likely tool to reach someone when either one of you might not have wi-fi but I think that is only half the story.

Email marketers, to my mind, are napping on the job. While Web sites have become adaptive to mobile and tablet screens, the messages that attempt to get our attention have not. Just take a look at your mobile email inbox and see how many are virtually unreadable until you take the time to select the message and zoom in on the text. Why would that be? Why would marketers spend so much time getting our contact details and then not bother to have a message display properly according to the device it finds itself on?

And why don't email marketers make it easy for us to interact with them within the email they've sent us? If a brand is trying to get me to buy a case of wine, pre-order a computer game or select seats for my favourite band, why not allow me to say "yes" with the click on a button? Think about it. If you're on a mobile device and want to say 'yes' to a brand, how hard do they make it? First you have to enlarge their text so you can understand what they want and then scroll awkwardly through it. Then you have to click a link, remember a password and enter a bunch of information with, if you're anything like me, fingers ill-suited to dainty pop up keyboards. 

All this, despite the fact that my iPhone has fingerprint ID that could be used and has Apple Pay all set up for simple payment. The tools are all there in the background, so why make it so tricky for me to say "yes" on the move. Sure, there are boundaries, but if I were running a brand today one of the first things I would insist on is that anything we ask of the customer is easily read and acted on through mobile email. It might not be possible within the email message, but it most certainly is by offering a click button that takes them to a pre-populated interaction form on our app where all the customer has to do is click accept and the ticket/wine/shoes/flights are booked.

If we can send "read" messages back at the click of a button, why not allow consumers to send back a "yes" or a "send me more information" at the click of a button? Spend a day trying to interact with a brand or, better still, purchasing from them and you'll see what I mean. Us non-millennials are famed for our love of email marketing and so it surprises me more hasn't been done to convert our acceptance from the desktop to mobile.

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