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Email and Smartphones: Tips for Closing the Conversion Gap

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
11 September 2014

The 2014 holiday shopping season is just around the corner. Who will be this year's digital winners? Marketers who figure out how to make email and mobile work together to win customers, drive sales and bring them back after the season ends.

Email can help you narrow the gap between browsing and buying on smartphones. In turn, smartphones can bring you new email subscribers and widen your email messaging program beyond the traditional inbox.

Below are some statistics and tactics you can test and employ now, before holiday shopping swings into high gear. The focus is primarily on smartphones rather than tablets because the tablet experience is much closer to the desktop. The smartphone conversion gap is wider and thus represents a greater opportunity for marketers.

Close the Conversion Gap with Smart Site Design and Email

Smartphone users tend to be browsers rather than buyers. IBM's “2013 Digital Analytics Holiday Benchmark Reports” found that smartphones drove 21.9 percent of all retailers’ holiday traffic that year, but only 5.4 percent of online sales.

Adding smartphone-friendly capabilities to your websites and your email program can help you remove more hurdles on your customers' conversion paths.

1. Make your email messages and Web pages as mobile-friendly as possible.

It all starts here. If your customers struggle to view pages, add items to carts or check out, they'll flee. These four tactics help take the friction out of browsing and buying via smartphones:

  • Use responsive design techniques that simplify your email with fewer offers, bigger icons and call-to-action buttons, larger images and fonts, and sizzling copy.
  • Offer social sign-in allowing customers to log in via their Facebook or Twitter accounts or to create an account instead of filling out multiple data fields.
  • Introduce an alternative payment option, such as PayPal. Allow customers to choose a stored credit card instead of typing in card numbers, expiration dates and security codes each time (also reduces security risks).
  • Add a "Remind me later" button that asks for the shopper's email address and triggers an email with product information and a link back to the product page. Send a soft, service-oriented reminder email to those who haven't clicked or converted in a set time.

2. Add smartphone-related content to your email program.

These messages can get your email customers ready to buy when they browse your pages, no matter which device they're using at the time and bring them to your site more reliably if they aren't ready.

  • Add an email message to your onboarding program asking new customers to register accounts and/or payment information. This makes shopping by smartphone as close to a one-click experience as possible. Add any other content that can simplify the mobile shopping experience.
  • Create an education-based browse remarketing email for mobile browsers who don't buy or otherwise convert within a set time.
  • Resend an email to those who opened and clicked on a message on mobile devices but did not convert within a short time (12 hours or fewer). Revise it (different subject line or supporting copy) so the email doesn't look like a duplicate.
  • Make your emails more memorable. Your emails must be engaging messages that consumers will want to retain in their inboxes until they're ready to act. Give them a reason to come back, click and convert.
  • Remind customers to download, install and use your mobile app. Send the reminder as a "white space" email to all subscribers and add to your onboarding program for new subscribers. Link directly to the download page, and specify technical requirements (which platforms it requires, how much space it takes up, etc.).
  • Remind app downloaders to install the app and accept push notifications. Both are crucial to your app marketing program. Include some trouble-shooting advice and links, and explain why users should allow push notifications.

Add Email to SMS and App Marketing

Email and mobile don't have to compete against each other. Instead, they can help each other grow and prosper.

1) Add email subscriber acquisition to your SMS texting program.

Begin with a simplified opt-in tailored to small screens and distracted environments. Then, broaden engagement and gather data via email follow-ups.

Below are some best practices for acquisition via SMS:

  • Keep it visible, in the top half of the message
  • Be clear about what you want users to do.
  • Make your opt-in pitch short and easy to remember.
  • Consider using capital letters for keywords.

2) Use your smartphone app to acquire subscribers and expand email exposure.

Your mobile customers are prime candidates for email as well.  So, your mobile app could include email-focused activities such as the following:

  • Subscribe to your email program. Add a prominent subscribe button that opens a simplified version of your opt-in or preference page.
  • View your current email. This links to a mobile-friendly or responsive version of your email.
  • Send push notifications. These alert customers to new email content on your app and can integrate with your ecommerce program to trigger messages such as shipping status, cart or browse reminders, supply or price changes, etc.
  • Repurpose stand-alone holiday content into a special button on your app. This can include special store or customer-service hours, free-shipping deadlines, gift card promotions or return policies.

3) Make your app as valuable as possible to your users.

Always deep-link promotions directly to a mobile-friendly landing page, never to your homepage or other default location.

Related Resources:

1) Blog: “How Email Can Help Increase Mobile App Engagement

2) White Paper: “How to Turn Cart and Browse Abandonment Scenarios into Revenue

3) Blog: “Mobile Apps, Meet Marketing Automation


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