June 16, 2011, 12:56 PM

IRCE 2011 Report: Petco optimizes e-mail for customers on smartphones

In Q1 2011, one in five customers opened the merchant’s e-mails on a mobile device.

Lead Photo

John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce at Petco, speaking at IRCE 2011

A study by marketing firm Knotice last year found that 20% of marketing e-mails are opened on a mobile device. Most of those are e-mails designed to be read on desktop monitors or laptop screens and are shrunken down automatically by a smartphone to fit the device’s smaller screen.


“It’s hard to read, hard to click, hard to convert—you’re throwing money out the window,” said Jim Kelley, creative services manager at e-mail marketing services firm e-Dialog Inc., a unit of GSI Commerce Inc. He spoke at the 2011 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in a session entitled “Mobile E-mail: What You Need to Know to Make Your E-mail Intelligible to M-consumers.”


This is why an increasing number of retailers are optimizing the size, structure and content of their marketing e-mails for consumers opening them on smartphones. Optimization can be done in a way that splits the difference between large screen and small so that a single e-mail works well in both worlds. Or a campaign can be optimized specifically to fit smartphones by sending a special, smaller e-mail.


Petco Animal Supplies Inc., with help from e-Dialog, tweaked the size and structure of its marketing e-mails because the number of customers opening e-mails on mobile devices was quickly rising. In Q4 2009, 6% of e-mails were opened on mobile; that number jumped to 13% in Q3 2010 and 20% in Q1 2011.


Kelley said that a standard width for desktop marketing e-mails is 600 pixels and a standard for smartphone optimization is 300 pixels. E-dialog split the difference to 450 pixels for Petco so that e-mails would still render well on desktops and laptops while appearing significantly better on smartphones. It also went with less copy, larger fonts and bigger buttons.


“Today we have a constantly connected consumer, and we can constantly market to them, which is a great opportunity,” said John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce at Petco and co-presenter of the session. “The consumer is becoming an omni-channel customer, shopping where and how she wants. If you’re not mobile, you’re potentially damaging your brand because you’re not where she wants to be.”


And if she opens up an e-mail on her smartphone and finds it optimized instead of difficult to read, “she may reward you with more of her wallet,” Lazarchic said.



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