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The proportion of email opened on mobile devices reached 41% in the second half of 2012 and is on course to surpass desktop by the end of this year.

The findings, which come from a report by Knotice, show that smartphones now make up 29% of the total while tablets account for 12%.

This increased from 26% and 11% respectively in the first half of 2012.

And despite the increasing dominance of Google’s Android operating system, iOS devices account for the vast majority of mobile email opens.

Of the 29% of email viewed on smartphones, iPhones account for 22% compared to 6% on Android, while iPads account for a massive 11.4% of the 12.1% opened on tablets.

There is no longer a debate over whether brands need to begin the process of optimising email for mobile, though the speed with which it needs to be implemented will vary from business to business.

A recent survey from Nielsen found that 68% of UK smartphone owners used their device to check email in the previous 30 days. Only text messaging was more popular (92%), while using the mobile web (66%) and social networking (63%) achieved similar results.

US smartphone owners exhibit similar behaviours, with 86% using their devices for text, 82% for the mobile web, 75% for email and 63% for social networking.

However our Email Marketing Census reveals that 39% of businesses have no strategy in place for mobile optimisation and a further 37% said their strategy was ‘basic.’

Furthermore, our Marketing Budgets 2013 Report found that only 36% of businesses plan to invest in mobile optimised email this year. This puts it behind mobile apps (47%), QR codes (45%) and mobile search (39%) in terms of priority.

Which of the following mobile channels or technologies do you plan to use in 2013?

Breaking the results from Knotice down by industry, the sectors that achieve the highest mobile open rates are consumer services (50%), hospitality (44%) and cable and telecommunications (40%). And while some categories are levelling out, others saw strong gains. 

Categories such as consumer products (36.22%, up from 29.60%), cable and telecoms (40.35%, up from 35.85%), consumer services (50.29%, up from 42.17%) and hospitality (44.18%, up from 34.35%) saw significant increases in mobile open rates when compared to the first half of 2012.

Knotice’s report also includes stats which debunk a commonly held assertion that consumers use their mobile to check through emails before revisiting them on desktop.

Looking at emails from retail businesses, a mere 2% of messages are opened on more than one device. This suggests that if users see an enticing subject line they want to be able to act on it immediately, which is an extremely compelling argument for optimising email for mobile devices.

Knotice’s report is based on a composite cross sampling of approximately 500 million emails sent across 11 industry segments in the last six months of 2012.

David Moth

Published 4 March, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1680 more posts from this author

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Tim Watson

Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

Thanks for sharing the Knotice stats. I've found that whilst the number of people who open the same email on multiple devices is very small, they are x2 to x3 more likely to act.

Most brands will find between 25% and 75% of their opens are on mobiles now, from a wide analysis of brands.

I'm not in entire agreement with the statement: "There is no longer a debate over whether brands need to begin the process of optimising email for mobile"

Whilst there are lots of published stats on growth of email on mobile, there is just about nothing on the level of need and value of optimising for mobile. Its always *assumed*.

Until now. This analysis of 377 million emails shows that generally speaking current emails are not failing badly on mobile devices:
http://www.zettasphere.com/mobile-email-responsive-design-a-waste-of-time-for-many/

Of course brands should evaluate if their email is poor on mobile, but for many the point is that increasingly large mobile screens do a good job of making existing emails usable. No changes needed.

May be in some cases a few minor tweaks are all that's needed.

Only if the UX is really bad for mobile is significant work, new templates and optimization called for.

over 3 years ago

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Becs Rivett

I agree with Tim that emails should be viewed and looked at on mobile to see whether they work rather than always "optimising" emails and making them responsive/adaptive (FYI mine ARE responsive). The biggest issue we found in my previous job working for a fashion retailer is that it's very hard to use image slices which was unfortunately a necessary evil for branding/styling (the slices end up with all sorts of weird gaps which cannot be resolved). Therefore we made sure that text in images was legible on iPhone screens which was the majority of our mobile opens.

over 3 years ago

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Robert

I agree and share the hype around email marketing for mobile.
We found that for generating openrates on mobile, subject lines are more important than ever, because they are often all that is shown in a preview like on iPhones notification centers and determine if a mail is opened or not. Wingdings in the subject line can help additionally in catching attention as long as they are encoded correctly.

over 3 years ago

Dan Coleman

Dan Coleman, eCommerce Technology Expert at Exceptional Commerce Ltd

Optimising the e-mails themselves for opens and clicks shouldn't be that challenging. As Tim points out above in general mobile devices are doing an increasingly good job of rendering without significant rework.

The real skill in optimising e-mail for mobile is what goes on post click and how to make the most of those interactions. Truly mobile users (as opposed to using a tablet on the sofa over wifi) often have a different requirement to their desktop counterparts.

over 3 years ago

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Alec

Great post & stats to prove the importance of email in mobile. We believe in this move so much, that our email editor doesn't even allow more than one column. Are your emails mobile-friendly when your subscribers open them? Well, they should be... Our focus is simplicity for our users, and with it we tackle the mobile aspect of it as well :)

over 3 years ago

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James Murray, Digital Insights Manager, Experian Marketing Services

The rapid growth of smartphone penetration in the UK means that mobile email is reaching the tipping point and very soon is going to become the rule not the exception for marketing communications. These statistics are further evidence of the growing importance of mobile within the digital marketer's arsenal and Experian's own data showed that 25% of all product searches this Christmas were for a tablet, which means this is only going to get bigger as more mobile devices come onto the market.

Optimising emails for mobile is no longer a nice to have, but is a must have for brands these days. The frustrations of trying to click through on poorly rendered emails risk alienating customers and our own client case studies show that properly optimised mobile emails can increase conversion rates by 9% which should be all the encouragement marketers need to take this seriously. Brands need to provide a seamless experience for their customers regardless of channel or device that they interact with and ignoring the benefits of mobile shuts out a huge swathe of potential customers.

over 3 years ago

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Martin

Good Research Information.
Can be kept in mind while making Email marketing strategy for your company

over 3 years ago

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