Commentary

Mobile-First? Don't Write Off The Tablet

We have all talked about a mobile-first world for a good couple of years. It has always seemed like an observation that splits the market into smartphones and desktop. There is a timely reminder today that this isn't totally accurate. While the majority of emails in the UK and U.S. are opened on smartphones (51% and 58%), the rest of the market is not desktop-only. There is our old friend, the tablet. 

It's quite a surprise that the latest Movable Ink research shows far more emails are being opened on tablets in the UK than in the U.S. In fact, a massive one in four emails are being opened on British tablets, compared to 15% in the U.S. 

If nothing else, then, the research works as a reminder that the power of the tablet should never be forgotten, particularly as it is a slightly bigger sector of the UK market than desktop -- 25% compared to 24%. So if we accept that as many opens happen on tablets as desktop, what does this mean for marketers?

The big difference between each email marketing channel is usually location. The desktop will typically be at work or in the study, perhaps on the laptop on a sofa, but this market is clearly being overtaken by the tablet. Or is it? Perhaps it's the same market? Just the device has changed. I agree with eConsultancy that although people often think about tablets as mobile devices, they're usually anything but. They're effectively slimmed-down laptops that are used on the sofa or dining room table, in the same way that a laptop used to be.

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So that means that the UK market is nearly split in half between truly mobile and then desktop and desktop-like (tablet) email. Smartphone email is obviously far more "lean-in." It's an experience where someone is giving the device nearly all their attention and is open for suggestions, particularly if marketing messages fit in with their location and current circumstances. The tablet will nearly always be used in the home, so is barely mobile at all -- so location can be accepted as only varying between kitchen, sofa and bedroom. That means people are far more task-oriented, moving on from one thing they need to do and then another. 

Smartphones are obviously limited by a smaller screen, requiring very clear messages and prompts, whereas tablets are more like the desktop where marketers can expect more content to be consumed on a wider, larger landscape. 

So to put it very simply, if you can point mobile email marketing campaigns to very clear, easy-to-follow prompts to allow simple tasks to be completed, you will have more success. If you can tell somebody is on a tablet, they are more open to content consumption and research and getting slightly more complex tasks completed. There is a subtle difference there, but it's one that's worth exploring if you accept that a massive one in four emails are being opened on tablets.

If the tablet channel is as prominent as desktop, it has to be worth researching and fully utilising in its own right.

This column was previously published in Euromail on February 27, 2017.

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