September 9, 2013, 9:35 AM

Nearly half of marketing e-mails are opened on mobile devices

But when consumers want to take action on messages, bigger screens are favored.

Lead Photo

Consumers open their marketing e-mails on tablets and smartphones nearly as much as they do on desktop and laptop computers. But when they want to take a brand marketer up on a promotion or click a link in the message to access more information, they more often use their personal computers, according to new research from e-mail services provider Yesmail Interactive.

The study, which bases its findings on more than 5 billion marketing e-mails sent by Yesmail clients in Q2 2013, finds 49% of the e-mails sent were opened on mobile devices and 51% on computers. However, when it comes to consumers clicking on links or offers within e-mails, 23% of desktop e-mails opened convinced consumers to interact with the message compared with 11% of mobile e-mails opened.

The study also finds that 61% of consumers now read at least some of their e-mails on a mobile device, with 30% reading e-mail exclusively on mobile devices. 31% open e-mail on both mobile devices and desktop computers, and 39% open e-mail only on desktop computers.

Michael Fisher, president of Yesmail Interactive, says the trend of consumers opening messages on mobile devices but not taking action on the messages as often as they do on computers suggests that many marketers are providing a poor mobile e-mail experience.

“The discrepancy means many consumers are disregarding mobile e-mails,” Fisher says. “Brands need to implement mobile strategies that rely on responsive design, customized content and easily clickable calls to action. Otherwise, their messages will be deleted or go unread.”

Instead of sending one fixed-width e-mail that isn’t formatted differently for different-sized screens—such as for a desktop computer, tablet and smartphone—and instead of designing for every screen size, which can be time-consuming, responsive e-mail uses one set of content and one template to automatically adjust messages to the screen size of the device opening the e-mail.

As more consumers become familiar with accessing e-mail on smartphones and tablets, the 31% of consumers who open messages on both mobile devices and computers will grow, Fisher says.  “Marketers should strongly consider hybrid viewership—the casual transition between viewing e-mail on a desktop and viewing on a mobile device—as a part of the e-mail experience,” he says. “The prominence of hybrid viewership indicates subscribers are responding to the most convenient device when they receive a message, regardless of it being mobile or desktop.”

Mobile devices running on Apple’s iOS operating system are consumers’ top choice for reading e-mails via mobile, with 82% of all messages opened on mobile opened on an Apple mobile device. Google Inc.’s Android comes in second with 17% of mobile e-mail opens. Blackberry, Windows Phone and other devices combined account for less than 1% of mobile e-mail opens.

Consumers opening e-mails on mobile devices interacted the most with messages from consumer services companies, such as Groupon and Yelp. 20% of shoppers who opened e-mail from such companies on mobile devices went on to take further action by clicking links in the e-mail, Yesmail finds. Financial services e-mails have the lowest mobile interaction rate at 2%. However, both industries have mobile open rates above 50%, indicating that consumer services companies do a better job of optimizing e-mails for mobile screens, Yesmail says.

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