July 11, 2013, 1:44 PM

Mobile-optimized e-mails boost revenue at Beyond The Rack

40-50% of the flash-sale e-retailer’s 12 million daily e-mails are opened on mobile devices.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

The flash sale e-retailer's new mobile-optimized e-mail for smartphones.

Flash-sale e-retailer Beyond The Rack yesterday rolled out mobile-optimized e-mails for its 9 million members after testing showed the e-mails, tailored specially for smartphone screens, increased the merchant’s click-through rate by 15% and revenue per e-mail by seven percentage points, the merchant says. Between 40-50% of the e-retailer’s six million morning and six million afternoon e-mails are opened on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), the merchant reports.

Beyond The Rack uses responsive design e-mail templates created by its e-mail marketing services provider ExactTarget. On the web, responsive design enables a retailer to use one set of content and one code base to create a single site that detects the size of the screen on a device and renders the site to fit that screen. Responsive e-mail is similar. Beyond The Rack sends out a single e-mail file; the responsive template detects the type of device and delivers the standard e-mail to desktops and tablets and the mobile-optimized e-mail to smartphones.

“For customers on smartphones, there’s no more pinching and zooming to try to read an e-mail,” says Richard Cohene, director of marketing. “We made images bigger, deleted unnecessary copy, made calls to action larger, and added a basic navigation bar at the top with buttons for Women, Men, Home and Kids.”

The layout of the mobile e-mail (see picture) is quite different from the layout of the desktop e-mail. The desktop e-mail features the primary content in the center, with a column for upcoming events, social sharing and other elements. The mobile e-mail stacks the primary content vertically to better fit the narrow smartphone screen, and tucks secondary content such as Account Preferences and Invite a Friend underneath. What’s more, the merchant features two lines of descriptive copy per sale event in the desktop e-mail, but it deletes the descriptions in the mobile e-mail, leaving only the image and the title.

“We keep the focus on the products, the images, and take away distractions so the customer primarily sees what we’re selling today,” says Kevin Murphy, director of customer relationship management and business intelligence.

Cohene declines to reveal the exact cost of optimizing e-mail for mobile, but says it’s minimal. There are some larger costs, though, associated with redesigning marketing e-mails overall, for desktop and mobile, he adds. Mobile e-mails were part of a larger project at Beyond The Rack to overhaul marketing e-mails.

“The three-month project involved our creative team, user interface team and e-mail marketing team building out what would be our next-generation desktop e-mail, and as we were doing that we kept in mind how we would make this new e-mail mobile-friendly,” Cohene says. “I anticipate mobile optimization of e-mail having a material difference on our bottom line this year.”

Beyond The Rack is very active this year in mobile commerce. It is in the final stages of launching an iPhone app and an iPad app, using app developer Plastic Mobile, and next month it will debut a tablet-optimized site, built with m-commerce technology provider Mobify. The merchant has offered an m-commerce site for smartphones since July 2012. The m-commerce site, built with Mobify, generated $1.75 million in sales in May 2013, 15% of total revenue, the e-retailer reports. In May, mobile accounted for 37% of traffic and 33% of revenue on weekdays and 41% of traffic and 41% of revenue on weekends.

Cohene says mobile sites and apps are the foundation of mobile commerce today—moving mobile into other areas of the business, such as marketing, is the next step in the technology’s evolution.

“When you start combining mobile with other strategies, like marrying mobile with e-mail or social media, these are the ways mobile is going to play a bigger role in the future,” he says. “Or take things a step further and merchandise specific products or events to mobile. That is taking mobile to the next level for today’s retail market.”

ExactTarget is No. 6 among e-mail marketing vendors in the “Leading Vendors to the Top 1,000 E-retailers.” It has 56 clients among the Internet Retailer Top 1,000. Mobify is No. 9 among mobile commerce vendors. It has 4 clients among the Top 1,000.

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