Retailers must embrace what will become the mobile majority, Knotice says.

The percentage of marketing e-mails opened on smartphones and tablets continues to grow rapidly, mobile marketing firm Knotice finds in a study of millions of e-mails stemming from 11 industries, including retail. 41% of marketing e-mails were opened on a mobile device in the second half of 2012, Knotice says. That’s up from 36% in the first half of 2012, 27% in the second half of 2011, 20% in the first half of 2011 and 13% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Retailers must adopt a mobile-first mindset, Knotice advises.

“If retailers are using e-mail to engage customers, each campaign needs to be great on mobile devices,” says Patti Renner, director of marketing at Knotice. “That includes the links throughout as well—each destination needs to both work well and look great on phones, tablets and desktops to make sure the best brand experience is maintained. Frankly, if you’re a mobile user and that’s how you typically check your e-mails, when a retailer’s e-mail just doesn’t render well, or if you have to slide and swipe the image just to view the e-mail’s content, it makes a person feel like the brand just doesn’t care about them.”

During the second half of 2012, 28.98% of marketing e-mails were opened on a smartphone, 12.10% on a tablet, and 58.92% on a desktop or laptop PC, Knotice finds. Among smartphones, 21.53% of all e-mail opens occurred on an iPhone and 6.00% occurred on an Android phone, the study says. The remaining 1.45% occurred on other smartphones. Among tablets, 11.46% of all e-mail opens occurred on an iPad while 0.56% occurred on an Android tablet. The remaining 0.08% occurred on other tablets.

That means 32.99% of all marketing e-mails were opened on an Apple Inc. device during the second half of last year, while 6.56% were opened on a device running Google Inc.’s Android mobile operating system. While retailers have shown that consumers with Apple devices are more engaged and more valuable than consumers with Android devices, Knotice likely is underreporting Android data. This is because of how an e-mail open is recorded as mobile, which is based on downloading e-mail images, Knotice explains.


Image download (i.e., “Show Images”) is not a default setting for every device or mobile e-mail software, including some Android devices. This means the reported number of opens may be lower than the actual number of users viewing or reading the e-mail, so the percentage of opens on mobile devices could be significantly higher than 41%. Data collected over time allow for benchmarks for comparison, Knotice explains.

“Apple consumers certainly have high expectations for mobile experiences,” Renner says. “If your data tells you enough about a person and you know with a reasonable amount of certainty that the person is an iPhone user for e-mail, it’s best to deliver a device-specific e-mail experience—one that makes the best use of the technology and its features. The same goes for Android. If you know that your responsive design still looks bad on Android devices, perhaps consider a hybrid approach of responsive for all except Android, then send an Android-specific version to those users. Consistently matching up customers with their unique device types will be increasingly important.”

Responsive design is a technique that formats web site or e-mail content to best fit the size of the screen on a device.

38.70% of all retail marketing e-mails in the second half of 2012 were opened on a mobile device, Knotice says. 22.62% were opened on a smartphone: 19.57% on an iPhone, 2.95% on an Android phone, and 0.10% on other smartphones. 16.08% were opened on a tablet: 15.36% on an iPad, 0.63% on an Android tablet, and 0.09% on other tablets.

Knotice also measured click activity after an e-mail is opened. The mobile click rate Knotice includes in its second half of 2012 report is a measurement of post-open e-mail clicks occurring on mobile devices compared to the e-mail opens occurring on mobile devices—this equates to the click-to-open rate, Knotice says.


The click-to-open rate for retail marketing messages on smartphones was 6.92% during the second half of 2012, Knotice says. It was 7.72% for tablets and 15.55% for laptops and desktops.

The top smartphones ranked by percent of smartphone e-mail opens are the Apple iPhone at 74.82%, the Apple iPod Touch at 3.35%, the HTC PC36100 at 1.65%, the Samsung SPH-D710 at 1.16%, and the Motorola Droid Razr at 1.03%, Knotice says. Knotice says though the iPod Touch is not a phone, it includes the device with smartphones because the device shares so many attributes with smartphones.

The top tablets ranked by percent of tablet e-mail opens are the Apple iPad at 94.64%, the Kindle Fire from Inc. at 1.95%, the HP TouchPad at 0.34%, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at 0.24%, and the Samsung Galaxy 7.0 at 0.24%, Knotice says. Figures for mobile devices running Android could be higher because Knotice measures e-mail opens based on images being displayed and some Android devices come with the setting for displaying images in e-mail turned off. Apple’s default setting is for images to be displayed.