Today, we’re announcing the results of a survey on mobile messaging in the enterprise that Message Systems commissioned Harris Poll to conduct. The survey has a focus on who is embracing mobile messaging, how they are using it, and what they are spending on it – presently and in the future. We moved forward with the assumption that most business were aware of the marketplace changes being driven by mobile, and that most were already adapting their marketing, engagement and customer service practices to address the new messaging environment. But to what extent? That is what we endeavored to find out in our mobile survey, and we’ve outlined five key takeaways from our survey below.


Survey Finding #1

At least eight in ten customer messaging decision-makers report that their company currently has or plans to adopt the following in the next year:

  • SMS text: 89 percent
  • Mobile-optimized email (responsive design): 89 percent
  • Mobile apps: 86 percent
  • MMS text: 86 percent
  • IM chat: 83 percent
  • Push notifications: 80 percent

Key takeaway: The move towards mobile

In our view, sizable majorities of marketers realize that the communication landscape is rapidly changing toward mobile channels, and they are acting accordingly to accommodate their mobile customers. Not surprisingly, text and mobile email – the longest established messaging types – are leading the way as channels for reaching mobile customers. At nearly 80% adoption, push notifications are not that far behind, however. We were a little surprised to see 89% of customer messaging decision-makers say their companies have adopted or are planning to adopt mobile optimized / responsive design for email. Our very unscientific personal experience is that the vast majority of commercial email today is still produced in standard HTML. But it’s great to see such a high number of these companies understanding that mobile optimization is a concern to be addressed. 



Survey Finding #2

Ninety-one percent of customer messaging decision-makers report that their company currently supports, or plans to support in the next 12 months, time-sensitive reminders and notifications through mobile channels.

Key takeaway: Time-sensitive messaging (reminders and notifications) will be a key mobile tactic

In our view, we see this widespread intention to adopt time-sensitive notifications as a realization that mobile is a more time-sensitive environment than the desktop web. More so than with TV or the PC / laptop experience, timeliness and immediacy are key to the mobile experience. Marketers understand that getting information in front of customers at the most opportune time is critical, and they are embracing mobile messaging as the ideal channel through which to do so.


Survey Finding #3

Seventy-two percent of customer messaging decision-makers say that their company currently uses location-based mobile strategies or plans to use them in the next 12 months.

Key takeaway: Location, location, location

As with timeliness, our belief is that marketers understand that location adds an important dimension to communicating with customers on the go. Fewer customer messaging decision-makers say their companies are embracing location-based strategies than those embracing timely reminders and notifications, but the percent is still a strong majority. It should be noted that these customer messaging decision-makers were from a very wide range of customer-focused industries. Based on how it’s usually depicted in the media and analyst reports, location-based messaging would seem to always revolve around retail scenarios or service-oriented interactions, such as with banking. But even while the survey found variable and not necessarily large percentages from each industry (but rather collectively a large number) it’s clear nonetheless that customer messaging decision-makers from various industries such as publishing, media, telecommunications and e-businesses also perceive location-based messaging as potentially valuable for their businesses. 


Survey Finding #4

Large percentages of these marketers say their companies either are now or are planning to send messages to customers based on each of the following types of information:

  • Preferences (e.g., a customer has indicated, through a preference center, that she would like to receive snowfall prediction alerts from the local ski facility, but on weekends only. When snow is predicted for Saturday, send her a message on Friday.) – 78% currently plan to deploy; 50% currently do
  • Context (e.g., a repeat shopper could be offered a discount, or if inclement weather is predicted a store could promote umbrellas and raincoats) – 7% currently plan to deploy; 48% currently do
  • Location (e.g., when a shopper walks by a store location, send them a coupon for a limited-time offer available at that particular store only) – 73% currently plan to deploy; 47% currently do
  • Behavior (e.g., a shopper who abandons an online shopping cart could be sent an incentive offer) – 73% currently plan to deploy; 39% currently do

Key takeaway: New options for relevance

The marketers surveyed understand that they have many new techniques and possibilities for reaching customers, whether in retail situations, service situations or conditional situations, e.g., weather.

2014 Mobile Survey Finding 4


Survey Finding #5

Eighty percent of customer messaging decision-makers consider it a critical/high priority for their company’s mobility and engagement strategy to support a wider variety of mobile devices and platforms over the next 12 months, with 31% calling it a critical priority.

Key takeaway: Device compatibility is a major concern

Our takeaway is that the rapid pace of change in mobile is generating a high level of concern among these marketers that they could get left behind the curve, and potentially not be able to reach their customers as freely as they can today. Device vendors, OS platforms and messaging infrastructure providers would be wise to ensure that the mobile Internet continues to evolve as a standards-based environment. Vendors that can remove complexity from the mobile equation are likely to be at an advantage.

What’s Next?

Clearly, the changes to the customer communication landscape being driven by mobile technologies are top-of-mind for a healthy majority of the customer messaging decision-makers participating in the survey. It’s worth repeating some key finding from the Meeker Report we mentioned in the previous post on this survey: 25 percent of all global Internet traffic is now traveling over mobile devices, and most emails are now opened and read on mobile devices also. The odds are strong that these figures will continue to grow in the years ahead. The marketers we surveyed, in large part, indicate that they are adopting or plan to adopt the mobile messaging strategies that they will need to get out in front of these changes.  Overall, it’s Message Systems position that companies that don’t already have a mobile messaging plan in place today are likely find themselves playing catch-up at a later date.


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Message Systems between April 23 to May 19, 2014 among 208 US full-time employees of companies with an annual revenue of $100M or more, who are employed at the director level or higher in key departments (administrative/executive, customer service, e-business/e-commerce, production/operations, IT, marketing, communications, or advertising), and have at least a major influence in decisions regarding their company’s mobile messaging efforts. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact [email protected].

Start leveraging on mobile technologies to executive more effective marketing campaigns. Here’s quick start guide:

10 Steps To Mobile Messaging

I wrote a post like this (with more cursing) to help explain why everyone’s emails look different to my non-HTML-knowing colleagues. Some of them found it informative and some merely found my pain entertaining. Either way, the value must be shared! The challenges of coding responsive email templates are being felt by more developers every day. Recently we decided to completely overhaul our email templates to ensure that they were optimized for viewing on mobile devices. That decision was fueled by several key statistics that were brought to light by recent studies:

  • 47% of all email is opened on mobile devices
  • Emails that aren’t optimized for mobile have an 80% higher chance of being deleted

The horror of having our emails immediately deleted after all the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating them was too terrible for our marketing team to stomach. Thus, my foray into coding responsive email templates began…

Quick Aside: Marketo

Marketo email templates are awesome. They make it so that we don’t have to write every single individual email we send out in HTML code, which means I only have to code them once! This is a vast improvement over the old days. Because we use Marketo, you may see some code you wouldn’t normally see on non-Marketo templates. None of this code is affecting the styling or any of the stuff I’m going to complain about shortly.

How Browsers Show It

Below is what the coded template looks like in Chrome and in the Marketo preview. These are environments where the code is rendered accurately and consistently. Browsers are updated all the time to allow newer, cooler, more powerful coding practices over time.
Responsive Email Template in a Browser
Marketo does a good job telling you if you have certain tags or styles that don’t work well in emails (like floats, padding). It doesn’t magically know what your email is supposed to look like though, so spacing, alignment, colors, hover states, etc. can be WAY off in some email clients and Marketo wouldn’t know to tell you. You have to keep testing and decide on a happy medium in many cases. Here’s a sample of our code from one of the templates: (you can skip this section and look at the take-aways below if you can’t read HTML)

Take-aways for people who can’t read HTML:

  • The text formatting I’m using here includes headers (h1, h2, h3), paragraph tags (p), and Unordered Lists (ul, li). All of these tags are supported by Marketo’s email editor, and are standard HTML tags that have always existed in the language for 20+ years.
  • The in-line style tags you see here are the best way to FORCE those objects to be displayed a certain way. If these don’t work, nothing will. style=”font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 1.1rem; line-height: normal; [etc.]” is defining the characteristics of that block of text for example.
  • I’ve placed a couple ‘reminders’ (using the class “editor-notes”) within the template for email writers and editors. These reminders should be deleted before sending, but are hidden with CSS in case they forget.
  • Like all things, lorem ipsum is better with bacon.

Now, take a look at the email’s appearance, and its code after it’s gone into Outlook Web Access: responsive email templates On the visual side (the email preview pane in the middle) :

  • Most of the text has been reduced so small that it appears as dots.
  • All the images are at their maximum size and not aligned or spaced correctly.

On the code side (the code inspector on the right) :

  • All of my header and paragraph tags have been removed and replaced by generic DIVs.
  • Most of my highly specific inline style code has just been almost completely removed. The same is happening for the images (hence their huge size and lack of spacing).
  • Unwanted tags have been added (<span style=”font-size: xx-small;”> and <font-size=”1″> in particular) that are shrinking the text down to practically nothing. These tags are nowhere in my template.

So Outlook is effectively ignoring every attempt I make to steer the visuals of this message. Awesome.


If I double-click the message to open it in a new window… responsive email templates It looks mostly correct! My headers and paragraph tags are still intact! It didn’t strip out all my style code! This all seems great, but how often do you look at your emails fully opened in Outlook? I almost always only look at them in the preview pane.

This raises the questions:

  • Why does Outlook Web Access sterilize (and pretty much sabotage) my code in the preview window but not in the opened version?
  • How can I possibly optimize our emails to look right when the email client is ignoring and overriding my code?
  • Why does Outlook Web Access look completely different than the software version of Outlook?

Email clients are not standardized as well as browsers are (and browsers aren’t perfect either). Each one decides how to interpret the same code in its own ways. For example, Gmail is the only major email client that still doesn’t allow <style> tags. Outlook doesn’t allow CSS to define a background image for some reason. Major differences like these between high market share email clients are what cause the differences in output. When the ones lagging behind in each aspect finally decide to catch up, coding email templates will be a breeze. On top of all this, these emails can look different on each individual person’s screen. My Outlook is different from my co-workers’. Even my Marketo preview looks different from one of them (and we’re both using the same OS and browser). It can be infuriating!

But I take solace…

Because our emails now look awesome on all our iPhones and Android devices. Responsive Email Templates for Mobile Now we’re really walking the walk of mobile customer engagement, and not just talking the talk!

5 Responsive Email Template Tips

Luckily, I’m not a pioneer in this venture. There are tons of developers writing articles about responsive design all over the ‘net already. Some of the tips they gave me that really helped out included:

  • Keep it simple. Complex layouts WILL die the moment they hit Gmail or Outlook. It’s better to keep things looking simple across the board and have them all look “good enough” on the more challenging browsers. The alternative is having your emails look amazing on one or two clients and be a massive failure elsewhere.
  • Consider your viewable area while designing and writing. You may have a few paragraphs in your email, but long blocks of flat <p> text get skipped or scanned if you don’t break them up. When you view the email on an iPhone 5 for example, you don’t want to scroll too far without something pretty. An image, a quote, a header, etc.
  • Don’t be too specific with your design specs. Emails in general are rarely going to end up pixel-perfect. Add in the multi-device functionality and the simplistic responsive breakpoints you’re using and nothing will ever line up perfectly. Focus on visual hierarchy and scale each element to their neighboring elements.
  • Have a clear sense of the minimum and maximum specs you want to support. We opted for the iPhone 4 as our minimum spec, and a 1024 width browser window for our max. You can go lower and higher, but just make sure you don’t start designing or coding until that decision has been made.
  • Use your thumb for usability testing. If your call to action is too small for your thumb to hit with precision and ease, then it needs to be bigger. The entire purpose of your email is that call to action, so if people can’t tap/click it you may lose that hit.

And that’s pretty much what you need to know when designing for responsive email templates.

Want to get started on your first mobile marketing campaign? Check out our Go-to Guide for Mobile Engagement, a webinar presented by Forrester Principal Analyst & VP, Julie Ask!


Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

It’s the weekend before Christmas, and we hope you’re just as excited as we are!

Big news this week with Instagram’s change to their terms of service and resultant uproar in the online sphere. Clearly, corporations need to be mindful of how protective people are of personal privacy as that continues to be an emotional trigger point for online users.  Instagram reverted back to their original terms days later with a blog post announcement by co-founder Kevin Systrom. Not to belabor the point, but here’s another privacy gaffe making the rounds.

FTC Complaint Says SpongeBob App Violates COPPA

Marketing and children. Replace “and” with a “to”, and that line is enough fuel to spark lively debates about the need to protect children’s data from being exploited. The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint that the popular Spongebob Diner Dash mobile app has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Its crime? Collecting the email addresses of users without first requiring parental consent. The Spongebob Diner Dash app has since been removed from the iTunes store.

Mobile marketing serves as an attractive option for marketers in generating new leads due to its prevalence and effectiveness, but caution is clearly needed. Mobile is one of the most private user experiences. While it exists as a unique opportunity to reach customers, it’s easy to cross the line and become too intrusive. When children are involved, things get even trickier.

Does your company overestimate the value of an email address?

More on the issue of privacy.

We all know how valuable email marketing is to companies. It’s been known as the best tool to nurture a lead, and reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Email guru, David Daniels stated in a recent webinar that social media does not replace email, but rather complements it. Obtaining a potential lead and building up one’s database for email marketing is necessary for marketers, but how this is done matters. Gaining personal data without customers filling up a form and requesting more information or making a purchase, strays too far into the nebulous ethical grey area. It’s like waving a red flag in the face of bulls.

Email Marketing: Factors that influence open rate

A/B testing continues to be one of my favourite reading topics. It’s fascinating to see how simple tweaks to colour and font can influence clickthrough rate.

Designers all over the world despair, but as Obama’s campaign staff discovered, a personal tone and gawdy design is sometimes the key to brand engagement. As far as I am concerned, if I’m getting conversions through ugly design, then I’ll stand behind ugly design!

Aside from design, here is a comprehensive list of elements that continue to affect open rates:

  • Event triggers
  • Sender recognition
  • Subject lines and relevance to content
  • Urgency
  • Word count
  • Forwarded emails
  • Time of day


The creation of personas allows for subsequent messages to be tailored to customers’ needs and this has seen to be more effective than normal emails in driving clicks.

Email Inspiration: Six Great Responsive Email Designs

Look how well the design below works when it is opened on a mobile phone.  Lyris has highlighted 6 brands that have created some great designs that work across multi-channels. Also check out this cool presentation on responsive design.


Email is most important channel for driving Christmas sales: infographic

And finally, to put everyone into a Christmas mood here’s a lovely infographic about driving Christmas sales. Email is seen to be the most effective at 43%, SEO and SEM tie at 33% and social media comes in fourth at 21%.


Capitalize on mobile to increase your open rate in your marketing campaigns with our 10 Steps To Mobile Messaging Guide!

10 Steps To Mobile Messaging