Despite the plethora of channels being opened up by new, mobile technologies - email has continued to hold its own, both as a favoured tool for digital correspondence and as an effective B2B marketing platform. However, these latest developments - and particularly the migration away from the traditional desktop PC setup - have served to change the way people interact with their email.
Instant messaging programs have been around for decades and despite their ever-growing popularity, have yet to pose a threat to the dominance of email as a communication medium. Indeed, it appears major players like Google and Microsoft view their instant messaging tools as complimentary to their email service - as demonstrated by both Google Chat and Windows Live Messenger.
Technology-savvy consumers are leading an exodus away from static computers and are increasingly connected outside of the office or home environment. NPD DisplaySearch's Tablet Quarterly report from earlier in the year showed that demand was strong for such mobile computing devices in 2011 and predicted that growth would increase to 383.3 million units by 2017.
Tablets offer great functionality for web browsing and according to a recent Adobe report, such devices generate as many website visits as four smartphones. eConsultancy highlighted the trend as a potentially lucrative opportunity for marketers, quoting eBay statistics that suggest tablet users spend 50 per cent more than those accessing the web on traditional PCs.
As well as being a favoured medium for online shopping, eConsultancy also highlighted figures from Google, which show email as being one of the most popular activities on devices like these, alongside informational browsing and playing games.
Adobe claims that tablets offer PC-like levels of engagement, with the added advantage of being mobile. So how can marketers best take advantage of these new platforms and ensure their email communications are optimised for mobile devices?
The first issue to address has to be one of usability. Optimising content for smartphone users will improve their experience and has the potential to improve click-through rates. Some key points to consider in this area are offering text-only and HTML versions of correspondence, as well as taking the varying size of screens into account when making layout decisions.
Tablets enjoy greater functionality than mobile phones, but there are a number of areas that can be tweaked to ensure optimum performance for email on this range of devices. Touchscreen interaction is less accurate than the traditional mouse-based interface, so it could pay dividends to try out smaller font sizes and different spacing - between both text and links - when putting together email marketing materials.
Speaking at the recent TFM&A (Technology for Marketing and Advertising) event in Manchester, Windahl Finnigan, head of user experience at Capgemini, claimed that user experience will play an increasingly important role in the marketing arena.
She suggested that companies will move away from a divided view of IT, content and social media and take a more holistic approach to service - particularly given the growing influence of mobile platforms. Ms Finnigan went on to insinuate that everything in the online world now has some social aspect to it - a view that is certainly backed up by recent figures on the medium's uptake gathered by Eloqua.
Tackling the issue of social marketing from a B2B perspective was recently discussed by Marina Lumley, an independent marketing consultant, who offered tips on the topic at TFM&A. Speaking about building effective strategies for digital B2B marketing on behalf of target360, she suggested that a majority of business people are actively engaging with some form of social activity while working.
Ms Lumley went on to promote the role of content in attracting prospects, but warned that this must be interesting to the target audience and cannot be too self-promotional. She offered a range of tips on this aspect of marketing and suggested that as well as original content on a subject or field, companies can also act as curators of interesting materials from their sector.
Marketers risk ignoring the growing role of the social elements in email marketing and the new technologies that make these possible at their own risk. However, these developments can be a double-edged sword and if handled incorrectly, have the potential to put off prospective customers or even damage a company's reputation.