New report shows mobile way ahead as the preferred device for reading email

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 16 Aug, 2017
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A new report by ReturnPath has found that more emails are now opened on mobile than via webmail or desktop devices.

The report found that on average 55% of email opens take place on a mobile device such as a smartphone or laptop, compared with 28% opened on webmail and 16% opened on a desktop client.

The data, from May 2016 – April 2017, was pulled from an analysis of 27 billion email opens. It showed global monthly email opens remained fairly steady across all three options over these 12 months.

A comparison with data taken from their last study in 2012 showed that mobile had overtaken webmail and desktop as the preferred method of opening email, increasing by 26% in the last five years, with webmail and desktop declining by 9% and 18% respectively.

Mobile email opens

The report notes that while iOS and Android remain the two most dominant mobile operating systems, iOS is the significant leader, with 79% of mobile email opens occurring on an iPhone or iPad. Despite this, iPhone iOS has actually lost ground in the last five years, with a 4% decline on 2012 figures. While Android only accounts for 20% of mobile email opens, it has grown its market share by 6% in the period 2012-17.

Webmail email opens

A study of webmail email openings in 2012 versus 2017 shows a strong difference in user behavior. While Yahoo was top in 2012, Gmail is now the clear winner with 59% of opens.

Desktop email opens

While desktop is now the least preferred option for viewing emails, there have still been substantial changes in user preferences within this medium. Outlook, the most popular desktop email client in 2012, now comes in second behind Apple Mail. Consolidating its mobile market share with the iOS system, Apple Mail is also the preferred desktop email client, with half of the market share.

Which days of the week are emails read? 

The study found a strong correlation between the preferred method for opening email and the day of the week email was accessed. Desktop email was accessed most during the working week with peak usage on Mondays and Fridays, and dropped to just 13% at the weekend.

Webmail was stronger Monday to Thursday, but tapered off Friday – Sunday while mobile, easily the most popular method, peaked on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday but declined on a Monday.

How much time is spent reading email?

The study was also able to measure how much time subscribers spent reading email in the December-April period, with the majority of fully read email taking place on mobile devices.

Those accessing email on a desktop were most likely to abandon a message (30%), while just 15% of messages were abandoned by mobile users. The holiday period appeared to have an impact, with abandoned rates in December being 10% higher than the average.

What can you take away from this study?

The report findings give marketers a number of useful and actionable pointers. Key takeaways include:

  • It’s important to know how your subscribers prefer to read their email. Mobile emails have a much better chance of being read for example, so if you find your users prefer desktop email, you’ll need to keep them short and snappy to give them the best chance of being read fully.
  • The iOS system dominates mobile email opens so your responsive emails should always be tested on an iOS device, as this is what the majority of your subscribers are likely to use.
  • Mobile has grown hugely in popularity in the last five years. If mobile email is still a relatively new discipline to you, you’ll need to brush up on best practice and check your email design template is responsive and easy to use, with simple call to action buttons.

The full report is available to download here and our common email marketing mistakes to avoid can be checked here.

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