Email volume in the second quarter was 17.9% greater than it was in Q2 2012, according to Experian’s Quarterly Email Benchmark Study. Unique open rates rose 7.2% in the period, while unique click rates declined slightly from 2.5% last year to 2.3%.
These stats all paint a clear picture of the email opportunity extant in smartphone boom times: People open a lot more emails on their ever-present smartphones, but don’t necessarily press the “buy” buttons on them. Half of all unique opens occurred on a mobile device in the second quarter.
Experian analyzed campaigns using tools from online email analytics provider Litmus to identify platforms on which emails were opened. The study looked at five million openers and their responses to 29 campaigns sent from seven brands in the past twelve months.
Mobile openers are not big spenders, though, at least not on their phones. People who opened only on their mobile devices averaged 10 cents per transaction, whereas people who opened on mobile along with another device returned $1.28 per purchase. “We find that mobile phones return mostly low-consideration purchases, things like ringtones,” says Bill Tancer, GM of global research at Experian Marketing Services.
The good news is that people who open marketing emails on cell phones often return to pursue a purchase later on a desktop, laptop, or tablet. Thirty-one percent of email subscribers studied open on a combination of mobile and another device. Since that is the group returning the most revenue, it lends credence to other studies holding that today’s consumers often open marketing emails on their phones and then, if intrigued, re-open them later on a desktop or tablet at home to make a purchase.
“The path to the consumer is getting increasingly complex,” Tancer says. “The interplay between mobile and other platforms encapsulates the future. People are collecting and digesting information everywhere at all times. We’re just now at the tip of the iceberg in knowing how to get from the initial contact to the end of the transaction.”
Webmail services provided by the likes of Google and Yahoo loom large in the path to conversion. The Experian study points out that while the average percentage of unique clicks received by webmail was less than that of mobile-only openers, webmail was the lead platform for clicks in half of the mailings in the study. If one subtracts cell phones from the mix, almost half of transactions were performed on webmail (48%), with desktop receiving the second largest percentage (25%). Including mobile opens, webmail was the leading platform in 80% of transactions.
Webmail has been weighing on the minds of email marketers since Google began rolling out its new tabs format for inboxes. Experian’s study offered the following tips to emailers operating in Gmail:
- Dynamically populate a banner or pre-header text for Gmail subscribers, asking them to click on the priority inbox or to “star” their emails under the promotions tab;
- Send a dedicated message to Gmail subscribers with instructions on how to receive your emails in their primary box;
- Monitor response rates and see if there are any downward trends with Gmail subscribers.
Experian analyzed a random sample of 12 brands’ email in May, before Gmail installed its tabbed feature, and then again in July and did not notice any systematic decline in open rates. Eight of the brands had higher open rates on Gmail in July and seven had higher click-through rates.