It’s another reminder why businesses have to stay close to their customers and watch consumer habits as they are changing. According to Comscore, via the center for media research, Email is moving along with it’s users to mobile platforms. There are implications to this, including the type and length of emails that will be sent, the timeliness of them and the ability to monetize email. Email moves closer to the world of SMS as more people consumer more email on portable platforms. Even when sending necessarily long emails, consumers will likely begin to “layer” their emails with short summaries or lists of points on top, allowing the mobile email reader to get a quick idea of the content without having to read too much.
The number of users going to web-based email sites declined 6% over the past year, while the number accessing email on portable devices jumped 36%. This isn’t an unexpected development, with so much other content going mobile and with the timeliness often mattering on email, it’s not a surprise that people would like access to email wherever they are and whatever they are doing. Increasingly new portable devices are giving them that access in improved ways.
Marketers will have to think through email campaigns and make adjustments that reflect the new ways email is being consumed. The data behind this shift involves use of web-based email, which includes pages like Gmail, yahoo mail and AOL mail, but not application-based email like Outlook. Since web-based email is the only type of email that has significant display advertising (other than the emails themselves as ads), the first implications are that services like GMail, Yahoo, AOL and MSN are going to have a harder time monetizing email service, which is provided to the customer for free. We have already seen larger display ads starting to surface on Gmail in recent weeks.
So one implication of this may be that the Email services start to charge for what they are providing. They have already begun to charge for larger storage or enhanced services, but that trend may accelerate.
Another possible effect is that we might more aggressive revenue-generating behavior on some or all mobile platforms, particularly the tablets. It becomes very difficult to monetize any content with advertising on smart phones, but it may be inevitable. Email is used by 70% of the American public every month, so it remains to be seen how long advertisers can go without figuring out how to make money on it.
But the message to be taken from this is that we are still in a significant period of change, and consumer behavior will continue to be impacted by technological change. As more devices are created that will allow consumers to access information wherever and however they want to, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they will do just that. The most successful new technology is the kind that enables people to do what they want to do, as opposed to technology that trying to get people to change a habit they aren’t inclined to change.
We are likely to see more and more technology responding to consumer demand over the next few years, and we can therefore expect, once again, that advertisers need to go through a period of understanding how consumer behavior will change and what that means to an advertiser trying to reach and engage those consumers. It will take time to learn the new forms of storytelling that will be needed to do so.