Email Optimization

Email in Motion: How Mobile is Leading the Email Revolution

Posted by Tom Sather on

I am pleased to announce our latest mobile study “Email in Motion: Mobile is Leading the Email Revolution” We decided to have a little more fun with the data this time and release the findings within an infographic rather than a full research paper.  Nothing was too surprising to me, except the fact that so many marketers still aren’t tracking how many emails are read on mobile devices, and have no mobile strategy whatsoever.  Below is a breakdown of the major findings.

Emails by Platform

The biggest finding in our data as that mobile is on track to surpass both webmail and email desktop clients for the platform of choice to view emails.  I was being conservative in my wording in the infographic by saying that mobile views will surpass webmail by end of year as the trend line indicates that it will happen as soon as the end of June.  The implications for this are huge for email marketers. For those that aren’t tracking which device their subscribers are reading their emails on, or if they’re not optimizing their emails or websites for mobile devices, they stand to lose out.  A poor user experience could mean no response, no action, or plainly put, no ROI.

Emails by Mobile Platform
Apple devices (iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches) accounted for 85% of all opens and Android mobile phones accounted for another 14% of all opens on mobile devices.  To be fair, the numbers are skewed in Apple’s favor since images in emails are displayed by default, whereas they’re not in most other mobile platforms.  Still, there’s something to be said of the fact of how many of one’s subscribers are actually viewing emails the way they are intended, and to measure if Apple users tend to respond more as a result.

Emails Read on Desktop Email Clients
Again, no surprises here and I suspect this number will change very little until a worthy competitor to Microsoft Outlook comes along or until cloud-hosted enterprise email becomes more popular.  The Microsoft Outlook family of products took the biggest piece of the pie accounting for nearly 68% of all email opens on desktop email clients.  Apple came in at a very distant second with nearly 29% of opens.  The popular open source email client, Thunderbird, only accounted for 2.6% of opens.

Emails Read in Webmail
People reading emails in webmail is slowly dying thanks to mobile.  With more people spending less time in front of their laptops or desktops and instead in front of their tablets and smartphones, webmail saw a year-over-year decline of 28% compared to an 82.4% increase in mobile views.  We are seeing a fundamental shift in how people consume email and it will be interesting to see how webmail providers respond as this means less revenue from this freemium service they provide.

iPad vs. iPhone
Something we didn’t include in the infographic this time around, but we will spend more time analyzing for our next study, is how iPad email usage is affecting iPhone usage.  While both are growing extremely quickly, it appears that more people are choosing to read emails on their iPads.  In the past 6 months, when looking at the relative readership amongst Apple devices, iPad readership grew by 5% and iPhone readership shrank by the same amount.  If this trend continues, by the end of next year.

Time of Day
When people read emails hasn’t changed too much either.  People are still checking email on email desktop clients during the working week, and moving to mobile and webmail during the weekend.

If you haven’t already, you can view the infographic here.  Were these results surprising to anyone?  How has the rise of mobile shifted your email marketing strategy?  Please share your thoughts!

About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

Read more from this author

  • Nick Weaver

    Your infographic show desktop email growing and mobile email declining from February to March. Is that right? If so, that doesn't seem to support the conlusion that mobile is set to surpass webmail and desktop by the end of June. Am I misreading something?

  • Tom Sather

    The mobile percentage was actually unchanged, although the graph is a bit misleading and showing a decline.  I pulled the numbers from April and compared against March to see if there a change, and mobile readership increased nearly 2%, and is now slightly higher than desktop views.