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Email Marketing: Mobile Will Overtake Web-Based Email This Summer

It will be a quiet shift, but a huge one. In June of this year, predicts the email deliverability firm Return Path, more people will read email on mobile devices than on webmail or desktop clients. To marketers, this means a lot of work, describes DMNews.

Tom Sather, director of professional services at Return Path, described some findings among 500 of Return Path’s key clients, which hint at a June 2012 webmail/email takeover. Sather described how marketers will need to prepare for the shift.

First, they know that they must optimize their email for mobile views, but must optimize websites right along with them. “Obviously when you're reading the webmail, you need the website to be optimized…If it's not, people will say ‘Forget about it,” and the chances of them returning are slim.

Secondly, they must be aware of how text and images render across the myriad of browsers, mobile operating systems and different mobile devices—which frankly, acts as a deterrent. Cross-platform optimization “creates another step for designers and marketers in that process, and many are already overburdened. Add social on top of that and you have marketers pulling out their hair.”

At present no mobile viewing standards exist, but Sather believes that marketers will push for such standards. And likely, there will be those standards (though not in time for the mobile email switchover). Sather describes a “power play” among mobile platform providers, but they are not above coming to the table. Google, Microsoft and AOL famously collaborated on the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) display ad formats released in February. It will require an organization like the Email Experience Council (EEC) or Direct Marketing Association to bring them to the table, as IAB did.

It will be just in time. eMarketer today released a report describing “The Smartphone Class.” “What others do with a PC, they do with their smartphones,” said Catherine Boyle, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the report. The uptake is that the smartphone class like to use the phones in digestible chunks, what Boyle describes as “snacking”—short windows of time in which to grab the mobile consumer’s attention with well-placed display or video ad, or with direct marketing through email.

Return Path found that mobile email views increased 82.4% year-over-year among its client base between from March 2011 through March 2012, and that 88% of people check their email via mobile device daily. Apple devices accounted for 85% of mobile emails that were opened: While the app wars might lean toward Google, short-handed or short-funded marketers trying to prioritize will likely find optimizing for the iPad and iPhone the best near-term strategy.

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