Email From 3.7 Billion Users

According to a new study from Return Path, The Online Client Experience, email is projected to surpass 3.7 billion users in 2017, which is almost half the world’s population. No other marketing platform comes close to the unprecedented reach of email.

Since the last email client study in 2012, the way users interact with email has changed significantly, says the report. The widespread adoption of smartphones has increased the ability to access email, with 44% of the world’s population owning a smartphone in 2017. Mobile clients give users constant access to their emails, says the report.

The ever-changing email landscape makes it more important than ever to understand where, when, and how subscribers are interacting with email, allowing you to optimize your program in response.

The report looks at how subscribers interact with email, analyzing:

  • Which email clients subscribers are using to read email.
  • How much email is opened each day of the week on each email client
  • How long subscribers spend viewing email on each email client

Where People Are Reading Emails

Mobile includes any smartphone, tablet, or e-reader that allows users to access their email. Over the period analyzed, mobile was the preferred method of opening email. On average, 55% of email opens were made on a mobile client. Summer and fall saw the most opens on mobile clients, with the highest percentage of mobile opens occurring in July (58%), says the report.

Webmail includes any email opened on an internet browser, such as or Webmail retained a significant share of opens with an average of 28% over the period analyzed. Unlike mobile, webmail saw the most opens in the winter and spring months, with the highest percentage of opens (32%) occurring in February and April.

The report says that desktop includes any email opened or viewed on software that is installed on a laptop or desktop, such as Outlook or Apple Mail. While the vast majority of opens occurred on mobile clients, many people still rely on desktop clients to view their email. On average, 16% of email is opened using a desktop client. Unlike mobile and webmail, the percent of desktop opens remained relatively steady throughout the year.

  • Webmail email opens  In 2012, Yahoo Mail was the most popular webmail service, with Hotmail in second place and Gmail in a distant third, says the report. Today, Gmail is the clear winner with nearly three in five webmail opens. (formerly Hotmail) comes in second at 15% and Yahoo Mail, once the most popular webmail client, now sees only 5% of total webmail opens.
  • Desktop email opens  In 2012, Outlook was the most popular desktop email client. Today, Apple Mail is the most used desktop email client with half of the desktop email client market share, while Outlook has fallen to second place with 43%. Usage of Windows Live Mail declined throughout the period analyzed, and is likely to continue this trend as it was discontinued in 2016. In the future, we might see former Windows Live users switch over to Outlook, says the report.
  • Mobile email opens  There are two dominant mobile platforms in the world: iOS and Android. Today, an overwhelming majority (79%) of mobile email opens occur on devices running iOS (iPhones and iPads). Despite this huge advantage, there has actually been a slight decline in iOS market share from its 2012 average of 85%. Android opens have increased 6% in five years to 20% of total mobile email opens.

When People Are Opening Email  There is a correlation between the day of week and the environment that people use to open email. Not surprisingly, desktop opens occurred primarily during the workweek as people are situated in front of their computer, ranging from a high of 19% on Mondays to 16% on Fridays. Only 13% of total opens occurred on a desktop client over the weekends, on average, concludes the report.

The study looked at more than 27 billion email opens between May 2016 and April 2017, giving insight into what clients subscribers use to view emails, when and where they’re opening emails, and how long they are reading.

To access the complete Email Client Experience, please visit Return Path here.



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