ExactTarget released its findings last month in a white paper titled âE-Mail Marketing for the Third Screen.â The companyâs research was conducted through an e-mail utilization survey of more than 4,200 mobile phone owners on market research company Zoomerangâs online research panel. In addition, ExactTarget interviewed mobile marketing and manufacturing experts, reviewed mobile e-mail rendering across 45 different devices and tested mobile e-mail practices on several of its clientsâ e-mail communications.
âWeâre on the cusp of a radical shift in terms of who is using mobile devices to view their e-mail,â said Morgan Stewart, director of research and strategy at ExactTarget. âIn our survey, we saw a drastic difference between those who currently owned and those who planned to buy [in the next six months] devices with mobile e-mail capabilities.â
ExactTargetâs research indicated current mobile e-mail users are 18-to-44 years old, self-employed or employed full time, affluent and highly educated. Seventy-two percent of current users have an annual household income of $100,000 or higher.
However, the decreasing cost of smartphones and the introduction of new devices, such as Appleâs iPhone, are attracting interest from new users. âWhen you look at where [the market] is shifting âŚ thereâs a fivefold increase in the number of homemakers and retired persons who plan to buy a mobile device in the next six months,â Stewart added.
ExactTargetâs research also revealed that students, Asian-Americans and African-Americans showed significant increases in those planning to buy mobile e-mail devices.
So what does this mean for b-to-c marketing?
Stewart cautioned that mobile e-mail remains somewhat difficult to respond to and is often checked while users are multitasking. Just 54% of mobile users in ExactTargetâs survey said they have clicked on an e-mail link using their mobile devices. But 55% said they routinely flag mobile e-mail messages for later viewing on a laptop or desktop; another 29% flag messages from time to time.
Stewart said that marketers can make mobile e-mail more user-friendly by sending messages in multipart MIME format, allowing recipients to view the text version from their mobile devices and the HTML version when checking e-mail from their home computers.
In addition, he suggested that companies optimize the text version of an e-mail to make it easy for mobile device users to preview and flag for follow-up. âCreate a very simple, very concise âŚ message that is the first thing that shows up in that text version,â Stewart said. âDonât put a bunch of disclaimer language or fluffy stuff at the top. Be very direct: This e-mail contains this offer for this time frame, and we want you to come back to the site and take action.â
Annie Angelo, online marketing manager at ExactTarget client Wild Oats Markets, said the research makes marketing to mobile device users seem doable for the average b-to-c marketer.
âI see us using this medium to create a new communication strategy within our online marketing plan,â Angelo said. âFor example, our customers could sign up for special mobile messaging that might include a weeknight recipe, complete with the shopping list, driving customers into the store for a quick and easy dinner solution.â
Jami Goertzen, advertising channel manager at Florida Power & Light Co., said, âThe biggest take-away has been the low-hanging-fruit opportunity of improving our text part of our e-mails to provide the mobile user the same information in a more readable format. We have now moved towards sending everything in multipart MIME to ensure we âŚ continue to evolve toward the needs of our consumer.â
As for when other companies should consider implementing changes, itâs important to note that ExactTargetâs consumer survey research was carried out in April 2007, with intent to purchase data compiled for the ensuing six months.
âWeâre in the middle of that transition from mobile e-mail being a b-to-b thing to becoming a b-to-c thing,â Stewart said. âWe need to start thinking about mobile e-mail now.â