Mobile Marketer has re-launched! Click here to learn more!

How the biggest email marketing service providers are tackling mobile

Mobile email open rates continue to skyrocket and consumers are consistently using their mobile devices as the go-to place to read their email. But with the new changes, what are email marketing vendors doing to optimize their strategy for mobile?

With email and mobile marketing becoming ingrained, email marketing companies are altering their services to be more optimized for mobile devices, which includes things such as an optimized format for each device and linking to mobile Web sites. Similar to other marketing campaigns, experts say one of the key parts of developing an email system for mobile is testing.

?Marketers need to test their campaigns on a range of devices to be sure the experience is what they want for their customers,? said Tami Forman, director of corporate communications at Return Path, New York.

?Also, they need to analyze all the data they have available to be sure they understand where and when subscribers are accessing their content ? knowledge is power in the 21st century marketing world,? she said.

Here is a look at how seven large-scale email vendors are tackling mobile in no particular order.

Return Path
Return Path offers a product called Campaign Insight that lets its clients see exactly where their email campaigns are being opened, which helps business understand how much of its email subscribers are using mobile devices.

Additionally, Return Path?s clients can view a preview of how their email will read on mobile devices so they can make changes accordingly.

However, mobile email marketing runs deeper than just being optimized for smartphone and tablet screens, and must be included into an entire mobile strategy.

?If a company is employing a broader mobile strategy that includes SMS, apps and the mobile Web then they need to be thinking in terms of an overall integrated strategy,? Ms. Forman said.

?Email needs to drive people into mobile options where it makes sense, and similarly, mobile campaigns need to tie in email options,? she said.

For email vendor ExactTarget, the secret sauce to understanding email mobile marketing is knowing exactly what an email program?s open rates are.

Per an executive, if an email renders more than 20 percent rate for mobile devices, companies need to figure out how to adapt their email strategy.

?The mantra for direct marketing has always been to connect with consumers at the right time, with the right message and in the right place,? said R.J. Taylor, director of product marketing at ExactTarget, Indianapolis, IN.

?But today?s marketer is targeting on-the-go consumers with multiple channels ? making the right place accessible just about everywhere,? he said.

?Since consumers are integrating experiences across multiple channels with a few swipes and taps on their mobile device, marketers need a way to manage all of these channels in a single place to ultimately, drive conversion.?

Additionally, it is better to start a mobile email marketing program slowly with a couple email templates that typically have high mobile engagements, which include in-app purchases, receipts from in-store purchases or event emails.

Email vendor Lyris offers a mobile app for clients to manage their email campaigns while on the go after seeing an increased need for brands to quickly keep track of their marketing.

Additionally, the company offers a platform that lets companies tie their email marketing with mobile, social, search and analytics, showing the switch mobile email has made to being integrated into a full digital strategy.

Creating a stronger tie between mobile and social and applying it to email marketing is a critical step for companies wanting to launch a mobile email campaign.

?Investing in mobile-friendly campaigns is not just nice to have ? in today?s mobile market, it is a necessity and will pay dividends through higher open rates, click-through-rates and response rates,? said Nello Franco, senior vice president for customer success at Lyris, Emeryville, CA.

VerticalResponse has also tapped mobile to create an app that lets clients manage their campaign?s email stats that tie in with social media sites, showing the ever-growing tie between social and mobile.

?With more people checking their emails on mobile phones, businesses large and small now have more opportunities to get in front of their audience,? said Connie Sung Moyle, public relations manager at VerticalResponse, San Francisco.

According to Ms. Moyle, the key to creating an effective mobile email campaign is to pack a punch with a short, simple email subject.

Although big buttons and features are helpful for smartphone users, companies also have to remember to send out text-only versions for feature phone users.

Similarly, the most important part of the message should be readable in text form because pictures take longer to load on screens.

At Epsilon, the company encourages companies to tie a mobile database with email marketing with the goal of triggering user engagement.

Depending on what the company is trying to do with their email marketing, companies can benefit from testing how email capture works in multiple mobile channels, including apps, mobile Web, loyalty programs and SMS.

?We believe that mobile is an important part of every email marketing campaign as more emails are being viewed on mobile devices,? said Doug Yokoyama, vice president of mobile and emerging technologies at Epsilon, Dallas.

?With industry estimates of between 25 ? 35 percent of emails viewed on a mobile device, marketers must design and optimize email for mobile to effectively reach their intended target audience,? he said.

Mail Chimp
Apps are also a key part of Mail Chimp?s strategy to let its clients understand mobile and include it into its business.

For example, the company?s Gmonkeys app alerts Mail Chimp users know when certain subscribers interact with an email.

Additionally, the company has developed QR code reader apps that let merchants include mobile bar codes into their stores, and tablet apps that help small business get organized at conferences.

?To us, email marketing is an opportunity to get personal with your customers, and if your email marketing is not personal and human enough, your customers will not allow it in their way-too-overcrowded mobile inbox,? said Ben Chestnut, CEO of Mail Chimp, Atlanta.

Constant Contact
Integrating email as part of a full marketing strategy is key for Constant Contact?s clients.

?One of the main objectives for email marketing is to stay in touch with your customers, members, donors, volunteers and prospects,? said Ellen DePasquale, regional development director for Constant Contact, New York.

?Now, instead of reaching people only when they are at their computers and have time to read their email, they can be reached anytime, anywhere,? she said.

Similar to other email vendors, Constant Contact also offers apps for its clients that serve to help manage email accounts.

Additionally, short and sweet messages are prime for mobile where users have a smaller attention span and are more likely to only open emails with quick, clear calls-to-action.

Companies also need to take advantage of their mobile CRM and opt-in programs to bolster email sign-ups.

Listrak takes a somewhat different stance to mobile by offering clients a MMS platform that they can use to leverage their email marketing with mobile offers, promotions and information that is aimed at helping companies better understand their email subscribers.

Additionally, merchants and retailers need to use in-store interactions such as QR codes and apps to get consumers signed up for their email marketing plan.

?Having a sound cross-channel strategy is imperative, and the more channels you have your audience engaged with the better the chances of getting them to convert and stay loyal to the brand,? said Heather Bonura, director of brand strategy at Listrak, Lititz, PA.

?Most of the best practices for regular email design still apply," she said.

"Keep the copy to a minimum, use images wisely, balance images with plain text, use alt text, and always include a plain-text version."

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York