Email On Mobile Devices

There was a lively discussion among the Inbox Insiders recently that provides food for thought for all email marketers. It started simply enough with a question about how to help a user view email via a BlackBerry.

Deirdre Baird, president and CEO of Pivotal Veracity, pointed out that both her firm and Return Path have rendering tools that show what a user sees on a BlackBerry, which are incorporated into the offerings of many top-tier ESPs.

Liquid Traffic's Roxy Rosen mentioned a discussion about putting a pre-header with an "if you are viewing this email on a mobile" link, then building a Web email version for mobile. There was also discussion of allowing people to subscribe to a mobile version.

Andy Goldman, senior director of email and digital dialogue at OgilvyOne and my esteemed colleague, questioned whether we want people to read messages on their mobile devices. "The experience is never what we come to appreciate from a brand. The colors, richness in content and ease of engagement is lost on most mobile devices. One could argue that the recipient's patience and behavior toward their inbox is affected by the still cramped, often panic-driven ways we engage with our handhelds. Let them stop and smell the roses! Besides, they can't buy from the site, or sign up for your program with ease on a mobile device quite yet."

Elaine O'Gorman, Silverpop's senior vice president of marketing and product strategy, countered that she had ordered a case of Omaha Steaks using only her hand-held. She was in favor of lobbying mobile device manufacturers to render the email properly and wondered whether there was any action on that front.



Morgan Stewart, director of research and strategy at Exact Target, countered that market forces both prevent this standardization and will ultimately drive toward it. "How well devices render mobile email (and the Web in general) is a huge competitive advantage -- and when you are talking about selling cell phones, you are talking about big, big bucks. The market forces against getting manufacturers to standardize how they treat email are simply too strong at the moment." On the other hand, rendering improvement by one provider may set the standard for others to follow. "Consider that iPhone recently leapfrogged the entire industry in their ability to render email.... I agree that standardization is the right answer, but I think Apple has done more for creating the necessary pressure than any lobby could ever hope to do."

The conversation then returned to whether consumers actually read marketing emails on their mobiles. Many said they use their mobiles to perform "inbox triage," a term attributed to David Daniels of Jupiter Research. The group questioned whether the experience of email marketers could be applied to other audiences, including "55-year-old mom empty nesters in suburbia."

Deirdre Baird referred to a Marketing Sherpa study which found that "64% of key decision makers are viewing your carefully crafted email on their BlackBerrys and other mobile devices." She pointed out that "even if you do go down the route of a 'mobile' versus 'computer' version, your customers may still get and read them on both." Baird's recommendation: "It's always sound to try to design your emails to reach some satisfactory level of performance across email platforms.... We call this cross-platform optimization and believe it may serve to be the best long-term strategy."

As an almost-55-year-old mom empty nester in suburbia, the Email Diva would have to agree. It brings to mind an anachronistic but appropriate David Ogilvy quote: "The customer is not an idiot. She is your wife."

Optimize your message for all platforms, don't expect the industry to make it easy for you, and seek the advice of smart people.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva



Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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