January 13, 2011, 10:47 AM

20% of e-mail sent by retailers is opened on a mobile device, Knotice study reports

And it’s iPhone users who are the most voracious mobile e-mail readers.

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One out of every five marketing e-mails a retailer sends is opened on a mobile device, shows a new study of millions of e-mail messages from direct digital marketing firm Knotice. Users of the iPhone represented the most avid mobile e-mail readers. And mobile readers typically view their messages early in the morning or late at night, the study finds.

Knotice examined a sampling of 155.3 million e-mails sent across 12 industry segments in Q4 2010. It breaks out e-mail activity by industry and by mobile device. Of the 12 industries measured, retail had the highest percentage of mobile e-mail readers.

Numerous devices, featuring six mobile operating systems, contributed to the 20.08% of retail e-mail opened on the go. 11.99% of e-mail was opened on an iPhone. Then there’s a significant drop. 3.73% was opened on an iPad, 3.73% on a device using the Android operating system, 0.28% on a device using the Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7 operating systems, 0.27% on a Palm, and 0.08% on a BlackBerry.

“The iPhone clearly dominates in terms of e-mail interaction. And with the recent Verizon announcement bringing iPhone 4 to their network, it will be interesting to see if this domination continues, or grows,” the report says. “The data suggests the level of e-mail interaction from Android devices isn’t tracking with its overall market penetration. The very low e-mail interaction rate for BlackBerry devices, surprising considering their market share and legions of enterprise users, may be a result of the default text-only e-mail rendering BlackBerry is known for. Like traditional e-mail open reporting, mobile opens are recorded when images are downloaded, so viewing text-only e-mail may mask the true interaction levels.”

Bryce Marshall, Knotice’s director of strategic services, points out iPhone users essentially do more of everything in mobile; however, it doesn’t necessarily mean a marketer should solely focus on the iPhone.

“For a few years now we have seen the activity rates of the iPhone—e-mail opens, mobile web views and app downloads, for instance—far outpace the share of market the iPhone has in the U.S. Simply speaking, the iPhone users in this country have traditionally been investing more of their time with the device and accomplishing more diverse tasks,” Marshall says. “But the mobile landscape is shifting quickly. Even as Verizon is announcing availability of the iPhone 4 on their network, it is difficult to predict what the market share of devices will look like in six or 12 months, or how mobile behavior trends will change. A marketer needs to analyze their own data to understand the impact of the iPhone along with other devices across e-mail and the web, and, better yet, focus on the demographic of the active smartphone user to develop e-mail and correlating mobile tactics that connect with this demographic, fluently, across device types.”

Knotice also researched the time of day when consumers on mobile devices generally open their e-mails, and the results are not surprising.

“The ratio of mobile activity spikes noticeably in the early-morning hours, presumably as mobile phone users are waking up and checking e-mail before starting their day,” the report says. “The ratio of mobile activity drops during the traditional working hours where consumers presumably are more engaged with a desktop device, with only a slight peak in activity towards the end of the work day. Mobile activity dips during the traditional dinner and early prime-time hours, with a final spike in the late evening.”

Marketers should understand how targeting certain times of day with e-mail delivery can impact the ratio of mobile interactions, the report says. “Sending e-mail in the very early morning, as many marketers do, may determine an increase in the ratio of mobile interactions as consumers scan their inbox first thing in the morning, in contrast to an e-mail delivered mid-day where more consumers are more likely to view the e-mail in a traditional desktop setting.”

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