Amid all the rush to mobile applications as the ultimate marketing platform for smartphones and tablets, one stalwart of the mobile landscape is being overlooked: email. Mobile email has incredible strengths that shouldn't be overlooked by savvy marketers.
Perhaps the best reason for embracing mobile email is that everyone uses it. Reading personal email, in fact, is still the number one task people perform on their Internet-enabled mobile devices, as a recent Merkle study confirmed. Moreover, research by Return Path shows that email volume is exploding. Clearly, people who won't download a mobile app to check the weather are still reachable by email.
And that means you can connect with them anywhere. Just look around—the world is filled with folks on buses, in hotel lobbies, at rock concerts, in shopping malls and even in movie theaters (unfortunately), all checking their email. This kind of real-time availability means that your efforts can have an instant response. It can even drive location-based programs that promote behavior and build sales at the moment your audience is most interested.
To make the most of mobile email, however, it's critical that you think beyond the traditional messages you send to your customer's desktop PC. Obviously you must optimize the physical format of the email to the device. But just as important is leveraging the mindset and motivation of mobile users.
Here are some ways that you can leverage the hidden power of mobile email:
1. Encourage Email Opt-In Via Text Message
The best time to elicit a response to a call-to-action from your target audience is when they are engaged with your brand. If you're involved in some way with them at a physical location—a store, restaurant, event or other public place—that means giving an incentive "in-venue." Whether it's a sales meeting, amusement park, hotel, concert, or other places, offer a reason for them to quickly and easily sign up for email before they leave.
The best way to do this is by letting people sign up via text message, since it's faster and more convenient than creating an email. At a convention, for example, don't wait until people have gone home or to their hotel rooms to turn on their computers to subscribe; get them to use their mobile phones to sign up while they are on the show floor. Once people have signed up for your email marketing program by texting in their email address, they should immediately receive a mobile-optimized welcome email with a thank you reward that they can redeem immediately within the same physical context of where they are at that moment.
2. Take Advantage of Mobile App Promotions
For brands that offer mobile apps, mobile email provides the perfect opportunity to increase email engagement as well as app downloads. Keeping the consumer within the same device optimizes the context for both experiences. Emails should be formatted for the mobile device—not for the desktop. They should always link to the app store.
For example, a recent British Airways mobile email campaign promoting the airline's mobile application garnered a 50% open rate and 70,000 click-throughs, which resulted in approximately 250,000 downloads of the app. The campaign was extremely effective and greatly exceeded British Airways's key performance indicators and expectations.
3. Send In-Context Vacation Messaging
Because travel and hospitality brands already know when and where their customers are travelling, they are in a unique position to tap the mobile email opportunity.
Travelers may not always bring their computers with them, but rest assured they have their mobile devices. Capitalize on this by sending mobile email offers and promotions to vacation spots while travelers are on vacation. For brands with social sites, send vacationers a mobile email inviting them to upload their in-the-moment vacation pictures to that site.
Mobile email, whether alone or in combination with your mobile application, has enormous potential for building brand equity and increasing revenues. As with social media, however, make sure you respect the usage context and provide value. No one wants to feel exploited, especially when they're on the go.
That said, brands that offer their customers a great mobile experience have the advantage of staying relevant and continuing a lasting relationship. Brands that don't are in danger of losing their customers to those that do. Put your customer first, offer value, and you'll make the most of the mobile revolution.
Manny Ju is the director of product management for BlueHornet Networks, a business unit of Digital River Inc.