American Marketer


Creating mobile opportunities within email marketing

August 3, 2011

Manny Ju is director of product management for Digital River's BlueHornet Networks


By Manny Ju

We are in the midst of a revolutionary transformation in how people are accessing the Internet. Morgan Stanley, Gartner Research and other firms are predicting that within the next four years mobile devices will be the No. 1 access point to the Internet worldwide.

For the past 15 years, the commercial side of the Internet has been all about the desktop experience. Today, however, with more people subscribing to mobile services, consumers are starting to demand a mobile experience.

Tops desks

A study by Merkle confirmed that reading personal emails remains the No. 1 activity on Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Additionally, Return Path’s recent study showed that mobile email consumption is rising at an amazing trajectory.

But mobile email is not just about formatting to display properly on mobile devices such as a feature phone, smartphone or tablet. Mobile email is about opportunity.

Mobile devices enable instant gratification. They offer a context that cannot be duplicated on the desktop.

Using my mobile device, I can communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime I want.

I can consume any type of media – music, video, and print. I can find out where I am and where I need to be going. I can search for any information on any subject, and I can accomplish all of this and more from a single device.

Here are three ways that marketers can create mobile opportunities within their email marketing programs.

Offer text-to-opt-in

The best time to elicit a response to a call-to-action from your target audience is when they are engaged with your brand.

Opting in to the email marketing program via a text message is an absolute must-have for any brand that offers an in-venue experience. This includes retail outlets, restaurants and fast food outlets, conventions, amusement parks, hotels, concerts, or other places where customers are interacting with the brand at a physical location.

Do not wait until people have gone home or to their hotel rooms to turn on their computers to sign up.

Get people to use their mobile phones to sign up while they are on the show floor, at the conference, in the store, at the restaurant, or at any other in-venue experience.

Since not all mobile phones have Internet access but can send text messages, texting in an email address is considered a best practice.

Once people have signed up for your email marketing program by texting in their email address, they should immediately receive a mobile-optimized welcome email with a thank-you reward that they can redeem immediately within the same physical context of where they are at that moment.

Take advantage of mobile app promotions

For brands that offer mobile applications, mobile email provides the perfect opportunity to increase email engagement as well as app downloads.

Keeping the consumer within the same device optimizes the context for both experiences. Emails should be formatted for the mobile device – not for the desktop. They should always link to the app store.

Send in-context vacation messaging

Because travel and hospitality brands already know when and where their customers are travelling, they are in a unique position to tap the mobile email opportunity.

Travelers may not always bring their computers with them, but rest assured they have their mobile devices. Capitalize on this by sending mobile email offers and promotions to vacation spots while travelers are on vacation.

For brands with social sites, send vacationers a mobile email inviting them to upload their in-the-moment vacation pictures to that site.

THE WAY consumers access the Internet is changing. Brands that offer their customers a mobile experience have the advantage of staying relevant and continuing a lasting relationship.

Brands that do not offer a mobile experience are in danger of losing their customers to those that do.

Manny Ju is the director of product management for BlueHornet Networks, a business unit of Digital River Inc., San Diego. Reach him at