Some retailers prioritize mobile shoppers when designing holiday emails

February 2, 2016 10:00 AM

Shoppers are spending more time on mobile devices, and to better reach them more retailers took a mobile-first approach to designing their holiday email campaigns in 2015.

Data from the Adobe Digital Index shows that from Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving) through Sunday, Nov. 29, 53% of all online shopping visits came from shoppers on mobile devices.

“Mobile has in many ways breathed extra life into email marketing,” says Ross Kramer, CEO of email marketing firm Listrak LLC. “Every smartphone has got email on it. We’re seeing mobile engagement now well across the 50% mark.” That means, according to Listrak client data, that consumers are opening more than half of retailer emails on mobile devices.

Retailers took notice.

“We started with mobile on all of our creative and all of our looks,” says Natalie Malaszenko, senior vice president of marketing at Inc. “We always started the creative with ‘what is the mobile view?’ and we created the desktop from there.”

“This was the most mobile holiday season yet, with the most important development being that mobile conversion rates and sales increased significantly,” says email marketing expert Chad White, research director at email services firm Litmus. “There’s been a pervasive myth that consumers don’t want to buy on small screens, and that myth has kept some brands from investing in responsive websites and responsive email design,” he says. Responsive design is a technique that allows retailers to design their emails and web pages so they adapt to the size of the screen the consumer is using to view them.

Data from web measurement firm comScore Inc. shows mobile devices accounted for $838 million in sales on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, up 52.9% from $548 million on the same day in 2014. That $838 million figure represents an estimated 27% of all digital sales on that day in 2015.

Retailers say shoppers not only are spending more on their mobile devices, they’re also checking their email on mobile more frequently. And that forced retailers to make adjustments heading into the holiday season.

“A little north of 70% of our emails were first opened on mobile,” says Matt Watson, co-founder of men’s and women’s e-retailer Country Club Prep. “By the end of the year it was staggering to me that it wasn’t higher.”

“Over 60% of all email is now read on smartphones, and usage is not the only thing changing,” adds Kelsey Vendetti, email marketing manager for footwear manufacturer Crocs Inc. “Last year was the key year where we started to see conversion on mobile and desktop increase as a result of people having email at their fingertips.” Data from e-commerce technology provider MarketLive Inc. shows both conversion rates and average order value on smartphones grew during the 2015 holiday season compared to 2014. Average order value on smartphones grew 9.0% year-over-year, going from $129.06 during the 2014 holiday season to $140.63 in 2015. Likewise, a conversion rate on smartphones of 1.3% in 2015 was 8.3% higher than the 1.2% conversion rate in 2014.

Vendetti says Crocs has implemented a dynamic design template focused on better capturing mobile shoppers which adjusts the email based on the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.

Prioritizing how emails looked on mobile devices helped Crocs, No. 240 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, drive more revenue through the channel. Conversions from email messaging accounted for 25% of all online sales during the 2015 holiday season, up 10% year over year.

The time and date of messages played a role in Crocs’ email success in 2015, but timing may not matter as much this year and beyond, she says.

“With the rise in popularity of mobile devices and people having them anywhere they go, I’m wondering if the time of day and day of the week will have any kind of impact because they can check their email 24/7, anywhere they go,” she says.

Prioritizing mobile devices helped Overstock (No. 31 in the 2015 Top 500) keep its email marketing messages streamlined and to the point, Malaszenko says. Overstock’s emails are responsive so that they adapt to the screen on which they’re being viewed.

“Mobile, you can only consume so much information before you get really irritated,” Malaszenko says. “It helped us to be very concise in our messaging which helped with the desktop [messaging].”

Erika Jolly Brookes, chief marketing officer with e-commerce marketing platform Springbot, says retailers should focus on developing specific types of content ahead of the 2016 holiday season—attention-grabbing content that shoppers will want to engage with on mobile.

“From a delivery perspective, what I think will be interesting will be the use of video,” she says. “The ability to create good video is easier; it’s similar to high-quality photos. Consumers are consuming more and more video on a mobile device, so the devices themselves make it a much more comfortable consumer experience. When you put those two things together you’ve got a great opportunity from a trend perspective in 2016.”

With so much at stake during one of the busiest times of the year, retailers say they’ll be ready.

“When so many emails are sent by so many retailers (during the holidays), if you don’t get them right then, it gets buried on page two or three (of a shopper’s inbox), so you have to capture them on mobile,” Watson says.

For more on what retailers did to improve email open and conversion rates during the 2015 holiday shopping season, check out the February issue of Internet Retailer magazine.




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