Image by Ian Lamont via Flickr.

Image by Ian Lamont via Flickr.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 mobile device users found that for the first time ever, email is the primary reason people are using smartphones.

According to the report from Adobe, 79 percent of people said they use their phone for email, compared to 78 percent who identified making and receiving calls as the primary use for their mobile devices.

The same Adobe report includes a statistic that is even more relevant to marketers: 59 percent of smartphone users say they’re likely to make a purchase directly from their handset during the next year.

What’s more, emails from brands are second only to personal recommendations when it comes to influencing purchasing decisions on mobile devices. In the survey, 69 percent of smartphone users and 71 percent of tablet owners indicated that direct emails from businesses influence their buying behaviour.

What does that mean for marketers? It means that despite the rise of social media, augmented reality and SMS, email may be the best way to reach consumers on the go.

But there is more to successful email marketing than simply delivering a message to a handset. You need to ensure that your message will be opened, and that your call to action will be followed – be that visiting your website, taking advantage of a special offer, or whatever else.

Here are a few key factors to keep in mind:

Relevance

Your emails must be relevant to your reader. Usually this will be controlled by their own contact preferences when they signed up to your mailing list. However, it is essential that you segment your mailing list to create more targeted campaigns based around other ancillary data, such as purchase history, abandoned shopping carts, or wish lists.

Timing

Image via The Noun Project.

Image via The Noun Project.

In the U.K., 55 percent of 18-34 year olds read their email on mobile devices, but research from digital specialist Steel shows that one-third of them simply screen their messages for reading later.

The best chance of converting the reader into a customer is to get them to take action immediately and the best way of making this happen is to get the email to their inbox at the right time.

The question “When is the best day to send emails?” is a matter of hot debate. This report says users are more likely to open messages received on a Friday than on any other day of the week while others say that midweek marketing can be successful, particularly in the early morning and evening commutes.

Test, test, test

Luis Prado via The Noun Project.

Luis Prado via The Noun Project.

The frustrating fact is that it really “depends” and what works for one brand’s audience might not work for another’s.

Each email campaign is a learning experience. Marketers will need to record what works well, what could be improved, and what needs to be dropped altogether.

As such, mobile email campaigns should be viewed as long-term projects with many “versions”, and which seek to improve with each cycle.

Into the future

Image by Antonis Makriyannis via The Noun Project.

Image by Antonis Makriyannis via The Noun Project.

As the quest for increasingly relevant messages continues, context will become even more important. Some of the most interesting opportunities lie at the intersection of data and retail.

For instance, a loyal customer could be emailed a special offer on the day he or she would normally visit a store. By creating email campaigns that address specific preferences based on a customer’s previous shopping history, marketers can craft messages that customers actually want to receive.

Over time, brands may be able to leverage GPS or proximity services, which can create even timelier messaging for greater success.

Whether these messages would be delivered via email is debatable, but there are a number of  ethical and privacy issues at play here that make email an ideal platform. After all, customers are already used to “opting in” for email marketing; retailers will need to find a way of securing the same assent for proximity marketing.

Despite reports to the contrary, email is not dead. So long as people are using their mobile phones for email and choosing to receive relevant messages from brands, it will remain an important tool in the marketer’s kit.

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