The iPad and E-mail: What You Need to Know

By Mar 02, 2010

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in late January, the hype obscured the facts, making it difficult for to determine what effect, if any, Apple’s new tablet computer would have on e-mail marketing. But with at least 12 million people expected to buy iPads this year and next, according to Piper Jaffray, it’s worth looking beyond the puffery to see how marketers need to accommodate the product.

A few weeks after the iPad’s introduction, Pivotal Veracity, a division of marketing solutions provider Unica, sent out a press release announcing that its MailboxIQ deliverability tracking solution had already been modified to support the iPad. So it seemed logical to ask Michelle Eichner, vice president of e-mail products for Pivotal Veracity, for her take on iPads and e-mail.

E-mail Essentials: In the MailboxIQ press release, you referred to the “rich e-mail capabilities” of the iPad. Other than the ability to zoom in on images, what capabilities are you referring to?

Michelle Eichner: The iPad’s rich e-mail client provides the groundwork for maximizing the impact and potency of digital communications by providing images for e-mail, video in e-mail support, a large preview pane (approximately 700px x 580px), and optimized reading and browsing through the use of WebKit’s rendering platform, the same technology that drives Apple’s Macbooks and iPhones.

E-mail Essentials: In what ways would adapting a marketing e-mail for the iPad differ from doing so for the iPhone and other mobile devices and for a traditional computer? Is it simply a matter of rendering for the different screen size?

Michelle Eichner: The rendering difference is one aspect, but it’s also about adapting to a different consumer experience that is, quite frankly, much more exciting and engaging than your trusty old Outlook. Graphically rich e-mails will be image- and even video-enabled by default on a large and bright screen and consumed by the user from the comfort of his or her couch, in a relaxed environment rather than in between processing and responding to work e-mails. In turn, the iPad e-mail experience will be more engrossing and create an interesting new palette for marketers to play with.

E-mail Essentials: If marketers currently have to create a “traditional” version of an e-mail and a mobile version, would the iPad necessitate the development of a third version? And would the same version used for the iPad work for other tablets as well?

Michelle Eichner: Adding a link to view the e-mail on a web page designed for mobile rendering is one tactic that marketers are using, but at the end of the day, the priority is to identify which e-mail clients need to be optimized for and then ensuring that the templates you are designing will render well across those environments.

As we see Apple iPhone, Google Android, Windows OS, and other mobile e-mail systems continue to pick up market share in terms of the systems consumers are using to open their e-mail, marketers cannot ignore the trend and should follow their customers.

Ultimately the consumer is in full control and will be opening their e-mail across multiple environments—the same e-mail can be viewed through their desktop software, web mail, and phone-based e-mail clients—so messages should be optimized for all of them.

In regards to tablets manufactured by companies other than Apple, it is likely that they will have their own nuances when it comes to screen size, capabilities, and the way the e-mail client/browser is presented to the user itself. Again, the key is to keep your pulse on what devices your customers are using and ensuring the best experiences when interacting with your brand on them.

E-mail Essentials: What advice would you give marketers regarding how best to proceed?

Michelle Eichner: At this point, marketers should proceed by making sure they closely monitor and measure user adoption of the iPad as well as its potential impact on the marketplace as competitors introduce their own offerings. All of this new technology introduces new complexities but also introduces even more new opportunities. In a world where e-mail can be consumed on desktops, laptops, phones, social networks, television sets, and now “tablets,” the key is to understand their impact on the user experience and respond in kind at both the strategic and tactical levels.