Even with the growth of Chat, text messaging, and other social media messaging, email is still the primary means of business communication. According to a recent report from technology market research firm the Radicati Group, there were 4.1 billion worldwide email accounts in 2014 and that number is predicted to grow to 5.2 billion by the end of 2018. And, while consumer email is actually slowing down (in favor of social media, text messaging, and other non-email online methods), business email is growing– From 108.7 billion business emails per day in 2014 to an expected 139.4 billion emails per day in 2018. This equates to business users receiving 121 emails a day in 2014 (excluding those removed by SPAM filters), which is expected to grow to 140 emails a day by 2018.
That’s a lot of email! But, it doesn’t mean businesses people are sitting at their desks all day answering email on a computer. Increasingly, email is being read, responded to, and acted upon using mobile devices.
- The Radicati report predicts that worldwide mobile email users will double from 1.1 billion in 2014 to 2.2 billion in 2018.
Put this to use: Don’t ignore mobile friendly design when creating sales and marketing emails. Your email marketing provider probably offers mobile friendly templates, but if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, check out 18 Key Hacks to Make Your Email Mobile-Friendly.
A July 2015 report on Email Client Market Share from Litmus Marketing Analytics shows that the transition to mobile email dominance is already occurring. The report shows that:
- 28% of email is read on an iPhone, 16% using Gmail (some of which may be mobile), 11% on an iPad, but only 9% via a traditional laptop/desktop-based Outlook program.
Put this to use: Don’t just design for the averages. Figure out how your customers are engaging with your email, and design to meet their needs. Many email marketing providers include reports that let you know the type of device used to read the email you send. If you can’t get that data, take a look at log data for your website landing pages, it will tell you the type of devices used to access the page. (If you don’t have this at your fingertips, ask your hosting provider for access to a “cPanel” it will typically include log analysis reports.)
Further, unlike in the past, these emails are being dealt with exclusively on the mobile device without every going back to the desktop for a second access. A recent study, The People Behind the Screens: A Marketer’s Guide to Mobile Audiences, finds that:
- 52% of unique email opens in 2015 occurred on a smart phone or tablet, vs. only 24% in 2012.
Put this to use: Remember that you will likely get only one shot at engaging your customers. If they can’t easily view and understand your email on a mobile device, or worse, if they attempt to click through to your website and it is not mobile friendly, you will likely have lost them for good. Not only is it important to make email mobile friendly, but your website (or at the very least your landing pages) need to be mobile friendly as well. See How Mobile Friendly Is Your Design? 12 Tips to Follow, for tips on site design, then see how well you did by entering your site in the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. (See Helping users find mobile-friendly pages for more information about how Google promotes mobile friendly pages in search results.)
That study profiled mobile users by gender, age, and interests to determine when and how they are most likely to respond to mobile email messages. For example:
- While people in general are more likely to open email on a smartphone, they are more likely to convert (click through or purchase) from a tablet.
Put this to use: This goes back to design again. Make sure that your pages function properly and are easy to read on any device your customer may use. You can take a mobile design approach (see above), or a responsive design approach which alters the site based on the device used to access it. See Responsive vs. Mobile-Friendly Websites: What’s the Difference? to understand your choices. For a quick overview, check out the 10 Tips to create effective responsive design infographic.
- People interested in current events content are more likely to open and click in the mornings, while people interested in lifestyle content (travel, fitness, etc.) are more likely to open and click in the evenings.
Put this to use: This goes back to knowing your audience. Figure out when your customers want to hear from you, and send them messages when they are most receptive. You can do this by looking at customer profiles in studies (read the complete marketers guide for a number of different profiles). But your best bet is to profile your own customer base. Study your email response reports, make changes, and then review results again. When you find a sweet spot for your customer base, go with it.
- For men, the peak open time is 9AM, peak click time is 10PM, and peak conversion time is 3PM. For women, peak open time is 10AM, peak click time is 11-12PM, and peak conversion time is 11AM.
Put this to use: It can’t be repeated too many times, know your customer base and give it what it wants. Just remember, your findings may not be static and can change over time. This is especially true if your customers are aging with your business. As the marketers guide reports, age makes a difference in when and how people respond.
A 2015 research report from Yahoo, Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload, studied over 2 million users exchanging 16 billion emails over several months, and looked at patters in email responses in terms of length of time between receipt and reply, length of reply, and percentage of emails answered. While the study was intended to help improve email applications better classify and rank email, many of the findings are of interest to email marketers as well. For example:
- Users reply faster to emails received during weekdays and working hours, and that replies tend to become shorter later in the day and on weekends.
Put this to use: Keep this in mind when you are sending emails directly to customers and prospects (as opposed to targeting them with marketing email campaigns). If you want your customer to consider a complex business proposal and give you a detailed response, be sure the email gets to them early on a work day. If you want a fast response to a quick question, try later in the day.
- Replies sent from mobile devices were faster and shorter than those sent from desktops, with the median reply time for phones being 28 minutes and median length being 20 words, vs 57 minutes and 27 words for tablets, and 62 minutes and 60 words for desktops.
Put this to use: If you get a brief response to an email, and you can tell it was sent from a mobile device (for example you see “Sent from my iPhone” in the footer), don’t necessarily take it as a brush-off. Give the customer a call, or email again when it is more likely to be received on a desktop, in order to get a more thoughtful in-depth response.
- Controlling for SPAM and unsolicited marketing messages, the study found that as the number of emails a person receives per day increases, they actually respond to individual emails more quickly, though the response itself is shorter.
Put this to use: While it is important to be sensitive to “email overload” don’t automatically assume that you will be ignored if you send too many emails to a customer. Follow-up judiciously, and if your email requires a response your customer will likely get to it.
The Q2 Email Marketing Compass report from yesmail (you will need to provide an email address to register for a free account in order to download it), confirms Yahoo’s findings regarding response to increased email messages:
- Marketers increased their email sends in Q2 2015, hitting each person an average of 52 times per quarter (an 11% increase from Q2 2014), yet open rates increased to 8 messages per quarter (an increase of 10% from Q2 2014.)
Put this to use: This encouraging study finding shows that customers are engaging with email more than ever before. In fact, it also revealed that ‘never active’ subscribers (meaning consumers who opt in for brand emails but never open or click) are at an all-time low. So, as long as your content is consistently valuable, even if you communicate multiple times per week, your customers will likely not tune you out. The key is keeping content “consistently valuable” which can be achieved through providing insights on current events, offering exclusive discounts, and by personalization (tailoring communication based on a customer’s expressed interests or the actions they have taken on your website.) See 6 Email Personalization Techniques That Go Beyond a Name for some ideas.
The report also demonstrates that mobile purchases are on the rise:
- In Q2 2015, 27% of all email driven sales originated on a mobile device. Of those 54% were made on a phone, while only 46% were made on a tablet. This is the very first quarter in which phone-originated orders lead sales—with phone revenue increasing 33% over Q2 2014, and tablet revenue decreasing 22% in the same period.
Put this to use: This goes back to mobile friendly and responsive designs. Make certain that if you are offering items for sale, your entire purchasing process is smartphone and tablet friendly. This means accounting for a wide-range of screen sizes, and for a variety of bandwidths. The last thing you want is for your site to crash because a large product image won’t load because your customer has a weak signal. Check out the Mobify Ultimate Mobile Shopping Experience Design Guide for help.