I've had the recent opportunity to tell the story that Mobile Email Does Matter as a guest columnist to Mobile Marketer Daily and also in an interview by Internet Retailer. I'm pleased to see that many others share my excitement regarding the unique opportunities of mobile email -- and we've only just started to tap its potential.
My only hope is that marketers don't get distracted by obsessing over how an email should look in a mobile device and actually spend their time thinking of mobile email strategy: unique experiences that take advantage of the mobile context which cannot be duplicated on the desktop.
And Speaking of Unique Experiences
I'd like to introduce you to a start up company that it's been my good pleasure to speak with their founder, Vivek Sharma. His company, MovableInk, specializes in what they call "real-time content for email." They have a number of offerings in their portfolio, and the one that I like the most - from a mobile marketer's perspective - is their real-time Local Maps.
Local Maps shows points of interest on a Google Maps mashup in real-time based on where the email recipient is at the time he opens his email. Since the map is rendered in real time, the POIs that the email recipient sees within the very same email will vary depending upon where he is at the time he opens his email.
The desktop experience of Local Maps doesn't exactly excite me especially when one's desktop connection to the Internet is managed via a proxy server as many business and as some commercial ISPs do. For example, I work in Oregon and my office connection to the Internet is managed by my employer who is in Minnesota. Therefore Amazon.com, Google, and others (including Local Maps) show me information relevant to The Land of a Thousand Lakes which is no where close to where I am.
The real Match Made in Heaven is between Local Maps and Mobile Email. Mobile HTML uses the IP address of the cell tower that is handling the communication with the mobile handset. This means that regardless of who your ISP is, you'll always get a true local map on your mobile handset when you read your email whereas you may or may not on your desktop.
To be specific, look below at two screen shots of the same email. The email is from a brand that I follow, showing the places within a few miles of me that serve a particular ... ahem ... beverage that I like (more on that later).
Here's what I see when I read my email at work:
Here's what I see when I read that same email on my mobile device:
Local Search vs. MovableInk Local Maps
So let's talk mobile email strategy now. Any brand having local outlets should consider Local Maps in their mobile email programs. Local search is one of the most widely used features on mobile handsets. MovableInk's Local Maps takes the experience to a level that local search can never go. The web search experience is restricted because it cannot provide the same personalized experience that only email can. Only Local Maps can provide personalized "insider information" on points of interest that local search has no way of knowing.
Local Maps is the perfect tool to capitalize on instant gratification which is the unique advantage of the mobile opportunity. Brands having retail outlets, restaurants, and fast food outlets are the ones that typically come to mind. Being denizens of an industrialized society, we don't plan our meals ahead of time any more. We eat when we're hungry no matter where we happen to be at the moment. Most food service brands have customer loyalty programs. Marketers should send mobile emails out sometime just before the time of day our stomachs start growling. The emails should contain loyalty reward offers that can be immediately redeemed. To top it off, the mobile email should include a Local Map that shows all the nearby places the person can go to immediately redeem his loyalty reward.
CPG Brands Can Benefit Too ...
Consumer Packaged Goods brands can benefit from Local Maps by displaying local outlets that carry a particular product. For example, I'm a fan of a particular brand of vodka (NOTE: this is *not* an endorsement for the consumption of alcoholic beverages) and I like it enough to subscribe to their email newsletters. It's a hard-to-find brand of vodka so it's important enough to me that all other things being equal, the establishments serving this brand have priority of those that don't. This is where mobile email and Local Maps are the perfect solution. Local search just doesn't work - believe me, I've tried it; neither Google, Bing, nor Yahoo! can show me which local dining establishment carries this particular brand. The mobile email from this brand should contain two keys items: a two-for-one drink offer (since martinis always seem to come in pairs) and a Local Maps showing all the dining establishments near me - no matter where I happen to be at that moment - where I can redeem this offer.
... As Can Consumer Electronics ...
Consumer electronics brands have some of the most rabid group of fans, rivaling those of rock stars. Who else can get people to stand outside a store in the freezing rain just so that they can be among the first to own a game, game console, or tablet computer? Product exclusivity implies product scarcity. So here's an idea to consider. Do a special new product rollout exclusively for your most loyal customers. If your product is sold all across the nation, limit availability of the new product to fewer locations than your normal distribution places. Finally, don't automatically assume that 100% of these customers are all at home or that they all know where the exclusive distribution locations are. Do the product announcement using a mobile email and include a MovableInk Local Maps showing the "secret places" where the exclusive product is available. This will drive your rabid fans even wilder!
So there you have it. The mobile opportunity is so much beyond getting an email to look nice in a mobile device. MovableInk's Local Maps is another great way to offer instant gratification for your mobile email program.