Going Mobile: Email marketing in the age of smartphones

As the way users read email changes, so must our marketing strategies

Are you reading this article on a computer? Just a few years ago, the vast majority of readers would respond with an emphatic yes, but the rise of smartphone and tablet usage in our society has made today’s answer less clear. More and more of us are using mobile devices to access the internet for all of our needs, from reading a blog on a medical marketing website to updating our statuses on Facebook and, of course, checking email.

In fact, the rates of emails opened on mobile devices are growing much faster than expected, with an overall 82.4 percent increase between March 2011 and March 2012. By the end of the year, mobile email open rates are expected to surpass the rates of webmail clients like Yahoo! and Hotmail and desktop email clients like Outlook, becoming the most common venue for consumers to check, read and respond to email.

What does this mean for your medical practice’s marketing strategy?

The mobile revolution has complicated the world of email marketing and forced us to rethink how best to market to consumers who have access to their email anytime, anywhere. More research and data on email subscribers is needed to effectively market to their individual inboxes, but keeping up with the mobile revolution will be well worth it. Mobile email opens are more likely to prompt reader action, leading 69 percent of users who read email on mobile phones to act on it in some way (42 percent click through to the website, 30 percent make a purchase).

To better target potential patients you need to appeal to mobile viewers. Everything from when we send to what we send needs to take smartphone users into consideration.

Here are some of the changes that the mobile revolution will require of email marketers:


Though the perfect time to send an email has long been a topic of heated debate amongst marketers, the most obvious strategy has been to get an email to readers just as they arrived at work, ensuring its placement near the top of the inbox.

Though this makes sense in yesterday’s world, many people don’t wait until they get to work to check their email nowadays. With mobile devices, we’re capable of flipping through our email as soon as we roll out of bed, or even before. People check their email while in transit, lounging on the couch, using the restroom, standing in line, sitting down to meals—the list goes on ad nauseam.

With people checking email at so many different times, the question emerges of which times email marketing will most effectively reach them. Marketers must now look at when consumers are more likely to make purchases or click through to a website and even vary the times they send email based on the individual behaviors of each subscriber.

Mobile consumers also view themselves as more connected to real-time information, meaning that marketers need to make further attempts to make their messages more relevant to the here and now.


Consumer complaints abound with protestations about too much scrolling in mobile emails or layouts that don’t work well on a mobile phone. More complex emails are preferential when displayed on large computer screens, but with most of today’s consumers reading email on devices not much bigger than a deck of cards, things need to be simplified.

Content should be kept short and organized clearly by the level of importance, with fewer subheads, links and images. Calls to action should be more obvious, using buttons instead of links. Clickable areas need to be large enough to be easily tapped by a fingertip.

Marketers may also need to figure out how to optimize email marketing for each device and determine which clients to send which email by observing their usage of different devices. Though some subscribers may be reading on multiple devices, many stick to a singular environment for their email—separating these different groups will help marketers to better determine appropriate formats for each consumer.

The Takeaway

Though the move toward mobile means that marketing tactics must evolve, its implications are exciting. People are using smartphones and tablets to enrich their lives in new ways each and every day and their popularity is skyrocketing—an estimated 116 million Americans will use a smartphone at least once per month by the end of the year. We as a society are still adapting to the impact of mobile devices and marketers must do the same, but connecting with consumers through mobile devices offers tons of new marketing opportunities that the era of computer-centric email lacked. We just need to take advantage of those opportunities.

Going Mobile: Email marketing in the age of smartphones

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