Email Tech Trends

How Mobile Devices Are Changing Email Marketing

Email marketing has proven itself as a solid marketing channel with enviable conversion rates. Sexier platforms like video and social media have not been able to duplicate the power of email to build relationships and drive sales.

However, now many people access their email via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Retailers are responding accordingly. According to Return Path, in the last three months of 2012 mobile surged ahead as the dominant platform among the top 100 Internet retail companies.

Evaluate Analytics

Marketers should take specific steps to follow their customers and prospects on mobile devices. They should seek to identify exactly which platforms they use.  For example, if they read their email on mobile more than desktop computers, programmers and designers should modify the email presentation for mobile first.

The timing of email is also changing. Many companies have traditionally sent email marketing messages Tuesday through Thursday. However, with their mobile devices always in hand, consumers are checking for deals when they are shopping on Friday as well. Smart retailers will monitor their sales patterns and modify their email marketing to align with mobile access and availability.

Time of Day

Along with evaluating the day of the week, marketers should seek to identify the best time of day to send emails.  At home while relaxing, consumers may be more interested in background product information. Daytime messages can showcase sales and discounts.

To make email work better for mobile, marketers can:

  • Evaluate analytics to find mobile usage trends and statistics unique to their company.
  • Determine the devices used by their customers, and revise email design for those platforms.
  • Research whether text or HTML is preferred by clients. HTML can be overwhelming on a small screen, yet surveys may reveal customers prefer it over plain text.
  • Use responsive design techniques that allow each email message to be easily read on multiple devices.

The rise of mobile is driving many changes in email. For example, Google recently revised Gmail to give users more control on multiple devices. On the desktop, categories are shown as tabs. Users select the categories they want, and can instantly click the right tab. In a mobile environment, the tabs are equally user friendly, featuring color designation and quick access to additional tabs.

High Conversions

Email marketing offers an intimacy and personal touch that other channels cannot provide. That is one of the major reasons marketers work so hard to collect email addresses from prospective customers. They know they have a much better chance of making a sale to someone on their list than a random visitor to their site.

The change to a mobile world only makes this connection stronger because mobile consumers check their email multiple times every day. By making a close evaluation of their current analytics, and adjusting email design to match customer behavior, marketers can look forward to benefitting from mobile for years to come.

AJAX Email

Gmail Whoas

Gmail and Talk have been having some trouble again. It’s been slow more often than not and I captured a few more *error modes*. Today I saw Gmail chat recover Google Talk - We're Back! with this little gem. Hey at least they recognized they are back. Seems I’m not the only one who has had trouble with gmail recently.

Gmail greeted me with this screen for a couple hours today.
Gmail Server Error

Seems now that the day is over things are back to normal and Gmail is happy. Well tomorrow is another day… we’ll see how the big G holds up.

AJAX Email JavaScript

Gmail chat problems

I’ve noticed a few errors in gmail’s new chat interface. The gmail quick contacts are not always up-to-date. Just yesterday I got this this error message:


It’s a new service, so not too surprised that chat is seeing a few bumps. In fact it’s expected. I remember the first few versions of meebo(a web based chat interface for Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Jabber), and the problems they ran into. One positive aspect of the chat problems are that gmail is unaffected. Email continues to work and is performing well. They’ve integrated it in such a way that quick contacts can fail or be unavailable (like above) but fail gracefully. Many popular web apps, even recent web 2.0 and AJAX apps don’t seem to be designed this way. They fail and fail completely. Designing AJAX apps that can handle partial failures is hard. Many of these app have deep callback stack to get the JavaScript to perform and work seamlessly. There are parallel asynchronous java script calls that need to be requested and handled in whatever order the server responds. So each piece of functionally needs to be carefully crafted to be independent and self sufficient. You need to think about how your app will act if it fails, or worse partially fails. Can it continue to work if it misses a server response or two? Can it error gracefully and continue to work when only a partial set of server functionality is available? This is especially important for companies building desktop replacement applications in which users will rely on for their day to day or even hour to hour work. So take a note from gmail and talk, build apps that are robust to temporary failures. If partial server functionality is available continue to process work and user interaction on the rest of the app. Gracefully poll the server checking for when the full functionality is returned. The error above recovered on it’s own without a reload or restart of the webapp. Impressive to say the least.

On a side note, Gmail itself has been rock solid for me ever since I started using it in June 2004. The spam filters are pretty good, but not perfect (more on that later), and it’s hard to beat the speed of the interface. It’s not the most feature rich mail or collaboration implementation out there but for a small mail volume it does a good job. Works perfect for my personal mail (40-50/day), but I’d have a hard time using it as my primary webmail client for work(200-300/day). I just get too much mail each day for gmail to be useful. It’s missing a few key features to manage extremely large daily mail volume. Saved searches and IMAP support being the first two that come to mind. I need a way to quick search on the same data multiple times a day. Labels work well to automatically categorize and simulate folders but can’t replace a rich search with the option to save. IMAP is a must have for off-line access. POP just doesn’t cut it when you want the server to be your *master* mail store.