Reactions to our “Shock Study”: Mobile Opens & the Android Surge

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Earlier this week, a new study from Movable Ink was featured in The Magill Report, “Shock Study Reveals 69 Percent Email Opens on Mobile.” Here’s the link to the article, and here’s the link to our original study and infographics.

As we mentioned in our interview with The Magill Report – other companies have reported on mobile opens before, but our numbers reflect a special data given our enterprise B2C marketer focus (others’ reports haven’t necessarily broken out B2B vs. B2C or enterprise vs. SMB). We’d also characterize our dataset as heavily drawn from very well known and trusted retail and apparel brands, with consumer financial, travel, media, and telco brands included in the mix.

A lot of things stood out to us when looking at the numbers, but one thing that stood out the most which wasn’t a focus in the article was how high Android smartphones showed up: almost 24% of total opens. Recipients have to proactively enable images in most, if not all, Android smartphone email clients—as opposed to iOS, which loads images by default—which has historically resulted in Android opens being dwarfed by iOS, not under by the mere net 10% we found in our March 2013 study.

To get to the bottom of this, we asked some of the email marketing industry’s best and brightest minds to share their thoughts on why our Android smartphone numbers were so strong.  Below is a round up of what they said.

Manny Ju, Director of Product Management, BlueHornet

“I’ve never believed that the primary role of reading emails on smartphones was to triage them. How did people triage their emails before smartphones were invented? By reading the subject lines. Do people suddenly overnight change their email reading habits of the past ten years just because they bought a smartphone? No; people triage their emails the way they always have been even before smartphones. People do use their smartphones to read emails and use it as their primary email reading device. Glad to see that more studies such as those from Knotice, ReturnPath and now Movable Ink are dispelling that urban myth.”

Anna Yeaman, Creative Director, StyleCampaign:

“I’d planned to email you to get your take on the Android numbers. I don’t doubt them or the ~70% findings especially for enterprise B2C, we’ve many clients over 50% and I just did some work for a client with 71% mobile. 

Are users more likely to enable images from enterprise retailers – giving you more accurate Droid stats – as there’s so little HTML text so it’s enable or get nothing? Also the dynamic nature of the content might play a small role, in that designers made a bigger effort to get users to enable images or users have come to anticipate the dynamic content.

As you mentioned Galaxy S3 is going head to head with the iPhone (as is the HTC One X amongst my dev friends) so this brings more affluent – possibly female – shoppers to Android (not just techies and people looking for a cheap phone).”

Jay Jhun, Vice President of Strategic Services, BrightWave Marketing:

“With so many people reading email on smartphones, I’m wondering whether people using Gmail for Android are finally getting tired of tapping the ‘Show Pictures’ or ‘Display Images’ for every email that they open.  Each tap is becoming more valuable as people spend more time using their smartphones.

There’s also a select few retailers who’ve included a snippet of dynamic content for their gmail domain audience where recipients are encouraged to ‘star’ the email whereby the images come on by default.”

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George DiGuido, Head of Email Marketing, Airbnb:

George asked, “Are these international mailers or primarily US domestic? I can tell you that our numbers vary pretty drastically when comparing countries against one another.”

George made a great point – and we would expect that smartphone vs. tablet vs. desktop email breakdowns will vary based on geography.The dataset in our March 2013 study was mostly composed of US-based (and focused) companies, with a handful of big brands based in the UK and EMEA.

Tom Sather, Director of Professional Services, ReturnPath:

Tom chimed in to echo George’s perspective: “When we looked at opens by region, we saw great variances across countries. Brazil, for example, overwhelmingly opens email through webmail and desktop, but only 14% do so on mobile, see: http://www.returnpath.com/resource/email-mostly-mobile/.

“It also varies greatly by industry (which we have broken out in the above infographic). We actually found similar results to Movable Ink when it came to B2C, specifically retailers. Where over half of subscribers check email on mobile, and in our last report on the holiday period, we saw mobile opens at about 60% for the top 100 retailers: http://landing.returnpath.com/email-intelligence-report. It doesn’t surprise me that the number is higher now considering more people probably received iPad Minis and iPhone 5s under the tree for Christmas.”

Tim Watson, Founder, Zettasphere:

“The default images-on for iOS skews open figures higher. I did some analysis of clicks by mobile device to remove the default images on/off question with opens. Android was under-represented in terms of opens based on the click analysis.”

We don’t doubt Tim’s findings, but would be interested to learn more about the dataset that he analyzed and what his findings were in terms of how many users actually clicked through on messages when images weren’t loaded.

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