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Mobile Email Click-Thru Growth: A Glass Half Full


The desktop vs. mobile email divide has been plaguing email marketing since PDAs made it possible to read email on the go. On the one hand, every year sees increasing mobile opens with many marketers now reporting 50+% of all emails regularly opened on a mobile device – check your stats!

On the other hand, desktop CTOR, the click-thru rate after the email is opened, has stubbornly outperformed mobile CTOR by a wide margin.  For marketers paying attention to this dynamic, it means working harder to increase click-thru on devices that are either less suited by design or for which its users are less inclined to take action.

As is often the case with email, this may be another “that was then, this is now”.  A recent study by Yesmail* indicates that mobile CTOR is making strides in catching up to desktop with Q2 2015 sitting at 19.2% for desktop vs 14.2% for mobile. The study goes onto report that over the past 2 years CTOR on desktop has declined by 18% and increased 30% on mobile. While desktop is still ahead in the click-thru battle, it’s clear this is changing.

Why is mobile CTOR increasing?

Theories abound as to why this is happening. Here’s my take:

  • The smartphone with its integrated email app interface has won. It is the preferred phone used by more than 2/3rd# of Americans.
  • The smartphone is also the Swiss Army Knife of connectivity and increasingly serves as the primary (or only) online connection portal - as evidenced by declining desktop and flat tablet sales.
  • Longer battery life and more Wi-Fi outlets have decreased the fear of running out of juice and cost of data.
  • Targeted Marketing – as CRM and Marketing Automation platforms become more commonplace, marketers, especially retailers, are doing a better job of sending emails that are more likely to be of interest to the recipient.    
  • Responsive Design has removed a barrier. 50+%* emails are formatted for easy reading on a mobile device making the overall UX of email simpler and more enjoyable.
  • Acceptance – more email users are simply willing to open and manage their email from their phones/tablets.
  • Efficiency – hand-in-hand with acceptance, users are less inclined to open emails on multiple devices and are more willing to make decisions about how to handle an email from within their mobile device – which includes clicking-thru to the landing page and deleting, if not of interest.

This all sounds like good news. However, there are both opportunities and challenges that email marketers need to navigate as the next phase of email takes hold.

In this corner – Half Full

Here’s the good news – relationships are rewarded.

  • If you’re a trusted content provider, email users willingness to “open & click” means more web page views to your site.
  • If you’re an online retailer who provides “one-click” ordering for your existing customers, they are more likely to take you up on it in a mobile environment. The aforementioned Yesmail study* reports that more than a quarter of all email-driven orders came in from a mobile device with orders from smartphones comprising 54% of the mobile order volume in 2015.
  • If you have made investments in knowing the interests and habits of your customers/prospects via CRM and Marketing Automation you are likely to see better open and click-thru rates. Read my blog here on better email marketing results.
  • Mobile first marketers will see increasingly better results from their email marketing efforts.

In this corner – Half Empty


Here’s the bad news – you have to work harder or at least smarter to be rewarded.

  • If you’re a content provider, more mobile users mean less page views and time spent on your site, as mobile users are less inclined than desktop users to go beyond the article they were led to.  How do you encourage exploration without being annoying?
  • Selling to new customers remains difficult. Installing something like “Checkout with PayPal, Google Wallet or Apple Pay” will help cut down on data entry and feel more secure to users.
  • You’re less likely to have multiple chances to get the recipient to take action. Whereas in the past, a recipient might scan it quickly and check it out again later on the desktop, that is becoming less the case.
  • Poorly formatted emails are more likely to be discarded.  If your email is responsive, but your website or order page is not, you are likely to lose the user at those junctures.
  • Mobile hasn’t replaced desktop yet, you still have to take into account the needs/habits of your desktop users.

Is the cup half full or half empty?

It’s clearly half-full, and here’s why. Smartphones, and most likely wearable devices like Apple Watch, will continue to become increasingly entrenched among consumer and business users.  Users are increasingly willing to open and act on mobile email bodes well for marketers.

However, you do need to make sure your email marketing house is in order. Ask yourself these five questions.

1. Are your emails really designed with “mobile first” in mind? Not just responsive, do they encourage someone to take action who is NOT at a desktop computer?

2. How hard is it for a NEW customer and EXISTING customers to place an order? And how long does it take for them to complete it on their desktop, tablet, phone– 1 minute or more? Have someone actually do it and report back.

3. Do you accept checkout / payments from PayPal or other simplified ordering/payment processers? If not, why not? Read my blog here on payment options.

4. Are you making it clear in our emails that the order process is designed so that mobile ordering is easy to do and safe?

5. Finally, is your creative and technical team structured to be nimble and responsive to changing user needs?