Mobile: 30% of opened marketing emails. What does this mean for marketing?

Short answer – bad news for crap marketing departments.

At the Stifel Nicolaus Wiesel Partners Internet and Media Conference in sunny New York. Listening to public company CEOs NOT answer questions they don’t want to answer is entertaining in itself (though not particularly enlightening) but there are some interesting points coming out about the move to mobile in a few of the sessions.

Some things that people said that made me think, Part 1.

AddThis CEO, Ramsey McGrory mentioned in the first session – Capturing User Intent: Where Advertising Meets Big Data.

  • About 30% of opened outbound email is now being read on a mobile device.
This clarified in my mind something I have been thinking about for a long time and it has a huge implication for anyone involved in email marketing. If you are sending email to people…
  • Your email subject heading has to be compelling within about 50 characters. That is all most devices will show of a subject header.
  • The first 120 characters of your email better be compelling enough to make someone open it.
If the subject and first few words (and note this is 50 CHARACTERS and 120 CHARACTERS, NOT WORDS), don’t grab someone and make them open your email, you have lost them.
Simple. I sat with a few others at the break and discussed this and as an experiment, we looked at some of our inbound emails and discussed how we decided whether they got read, let alone whether someone would take action. There seems to be a fairly common technique that everyone uses to read and prioritise email.
Let’s say someone is looking at a fairly typical block of 50 inbound emails:
  1. Grab the gold. Flick through incoming email to see if there are any really important/really nice/really urgent stuff. Generally, this is prioritised because it is from people you know well. Deal with it immediately or mark for action later. Consensus guess was that this is about 5-10% of inbound email.
  2. Delete the crap. In my small sample, (5 people), everyone deleted the crap after ‘grabbing the gold’. Crap is defined here as anything that isn’t immediately interesting – the daily newsletters that you subscribe to that you don’t want to unsubscribe to but you are not going to read today, blatant spam, stuff you have been CCed into, the trails of emails going backward and forward between two people you introduced who are now CCing you into every email they write as they try to arrange a meeting… Consensus guess was that this is about 80-90% of inbound email.
  3. Filter the rest. This generally gets people down to 5/10 emails that they need to think about. They better have a really good reason to open them – especially as they are also competing for the reader’s time with the emails from step one that actually need their attention. The general consensus here by the way, was that if you open one of these emails and you then have to wait as your reception is not great and the email is filled with images, it is deleted.
I think this changes the way that marketing people need to think about outbound marketing quite radically. In an attention starved-world, you need to make the point you want to make rapidly and without fluff. The challenge for most marketing people is to make sure that the offering they have is both immediately relevant to the recipient and the recipient can understand why the offering is immediately relevant in fractions of a second.
Hopefully, this means we should see less direct email using expressions like, ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’, ‘Register for limited time, limited availability, free webinar’, ‘Have you ever wondered why…’ (All taken from my inbox this morning. No idea what someone wanted to know what I had ever wondered why about – I deleted the email). Direct email that doesn’t respect my time by getting to the point without hyperbole is just not going to get read.
I’m going to try to put this knowledge into practice with everything that we do from now on. I think it shows we respect people’s time and I hope it will mean we get better response rates for us.

One response to “Mobile: 30% of opened marketing emails. What does this mean for marketing?”

  1. Marcin Zaba says:

    Another important point is to cut out as much HTML as possible from outbound mail. People really don’t care about pretty pictures, nor can their mobiles display it. I received a newsletter from a business publication I really enjoy reading today, but deleted it simply because I didn’t want to wade through the code.