December 4, 2013, 5:06 PM

Most top e-retailers do not optimize holiday e-mails for smartphones

But smartphone owners do respond to relevant mobile messages.

Lead Photo

The department store retailer's mobile-optimized e-mails link to its mobile commerce web site.

Consumers receive all kinds of messages on their smartphones, including e-mails, text messages, app push notifications and mobile wallet messages. Most top e-retailers, however, failed to optimize their marketing e-mails for the recent holiday weekend, missing out on potential sales, one vendor finds. On the other hand, retailers that offer mobile-specific messages such as push notifications and text messages that are relevant to customers can tap into a growing source of revenue, another vendor finds.

65% of top e-retailers did not optimize their Black Friday (Nov. 29) or Cyber Monday (Dec. 2) marketing e-mails for reading on smartphones, according to a LightningBuy study of 60 of the top 100 e-retailers in the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. 35% did optimize their e-mails for smartphones; however, while 25% linked their mobile e-mails to mobile commerce web sites, 10% linked those e-mails to full desktop sites, which largely defeats the purpose of e-mail optimization, LightningBuy says. What’s worse, four of the retailers that optimized their e-mails for mobile but did not link to a mobile site do in fact have mobile sites, says the vendor of mobile checkout technology.

In another study, e-mail marketing services provider BlueHornet recently found that 76% of smartphone owners access e-mail on their devices, and that 80% of non-optimized e-mails accessed on smartphones are deleted.

Retailers that do not optimize e-mail for mobile run the risk of having their e-mails deleted or having customers unsubscribe, says Carissa Ganelli, founder and CEO of LightningBuy.

“This wastes marketing spend since retailers spend a lot of time and money building e-mail lists and marketing to their e-mail subscribers, and this allows competitors who do engage in mobile e-mail best practices the opportunity to gain a toehold,” Ganelli says. “Consumers have to purchase gifts for the holidays. If they can’t read an e-mail on their phone or can't purchase from a mobile web site, they'll go to a competitor that makes things easy for them on their phones.”

Many businesses with mobile web sites redirect consumers coming from anywhere—e-mail, paid search ad, natural search result, mobile display ad—to the mobile site’s home page, which is not a good practice as that requires consumers to search for the product or promotion in question on the mobile site, mobile experts say. However, of the retailers studied by LightningBuy that linked mobile-optimized e-mails to mobile commerce sites, most linked to appropriate product or promotional pages, Ganelli says.

When it comes to communicating to consumers on their smartphones, highly relevant mobile messages can prompt consumers to follow through with purchases, particularly when those messages are part of an orchestrated campaign that unfolds over time, across channels, and is tailored to an individual’s behaviors and preferences, web and mobile marketing firm Responsys Inc. says.

The firm polled 1,200 U.S. smartphone owners and finds 28% have subscribed to mobile marketing—such as text messages, app push notifications and mobile wallet messages—from brands. However, 35% of those consumers indicate that the messages they receive are not relevant.

The types of mobile offers most likely to trigger consumer action, Responsys finds, are pricing-based (66% of smartphone owners), time-sensitive (52%) and location-based (50%). 51% of smartphone owners say referrals from friends or family will prompt them to opt in to mobile messages; 46% say e-mail can make them join.

“Effective mobile marketing drives consumers to purchase, and yet it seems that many marketers are missing out on this opportunity,” says Michael Della Penna, senior vice president of emerging channels at Responsys. “However, it’s not enough to add mobile as a standalone effort. Best-in-class marketers are leveraging data to drive relevance and are adopting multichannel marketing orchestration to accelerate sales.”

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