Integrating Email with Mobile Messaging

At Urban Airship, the majority of the brands we partner with have existing email marketing programs and wonder how best to integrate those programs with mobile messaging. In many cases, the team that currently manages email marketing programs inherits the responsibility of owning mobile messaging. This is a topic that deserves attention, as customers interact with their favorite brands on both mediums, and brands should consider what makes each medium unique and appropriate for certain types of communications.

Some considerations when integrating email with mobile messaging:

Active vs. Passive Audiences

While there is likely overlap between your email subscribers and mobile app users, the mobile audience is different. They are the cream of the crop —  your best prospects —  customers that have actively given your brand valuable megabytes on their phone. If they’ve also opted in to receive push notifications, they believe your mobile messaging will provide value and they are actively giving you permission to reach them directly with that information.

Email subscribers are a bit more passive than mobile app users. There’s no commitment to download an app, and the subscriber has the option to use a separate email address that they’ve set aside for marketing lists. In some cases, a user is unknowingly opted in to a list after making a purchase. Many ISPs (i.e. Gmail) automatically filter marketing emails into separate tabs or folders that are checked less frequently, such as spam or Gmail’s “Promotions” tab, making it even harder for brands to get noticed. Recipients can easily tune out emails that don’t provide value.

The Medium is the Message

At their best, push notifications provide true utility and focus on concise, actionable information and location awareness. Mobile messaging goes beyond push notifications, though. With the ability to reach all app users through message centers hosting HTML5 landing pages and in-app notifications, there are other options to reach app users on their own terms. Additionally, mobile wallet passes allow you to reach all mobile users, with or without an app, creating an easy, low barrier way to engage with your brand on their device.

Email tends to be a forum for the brand to communicate important information in a longer form and can often be perceived as “now or later” reading by the user.

Who’s Who?

An email address is often a preferred unique identifier, allowing a brand to tie an email subscriber’s preferences and behavior to a larger database of historical customer information. Mobile app users still have the ability to fly under the radar as an anonymous user, unless your brand requires the user to authenticate in order to access gated content and features.

Now that we have a general understanding of the differences between the two, we can talk about some specific ideas to allow email and mobile messaging to work well together. Customer expectations and preferences are continually evolving, and when it comes to how they prefer to be contacted by their brands, the channel can matter. By setting expectations about what types of communications they’ll receive from you on each medium, you’ll set up your brand for success.

Three Ideas to Integrate Mobile Messaging and Email

Share data across channels to learn about user preferences and behavior

  • In order to connect a mobile user with an existing customer database, provide the user with a reason to authenticate in your app, for example, accessing account information or receiving exclusive content and offers. Once you know who the mobile user is, observe their preferences and behaviors, then use that information to drive segmentation across all channels. You may find that one user does not open emails, but instead engages with your brand through your app. There’s an opportunity to focus on mobile messaging for those users and scale back on email deployments, to provide the most utility to both the user and your brand.

Cross promote

  • Use one channel to grow another. Send an email to your subscribers telling them about the special value of your app and enabling push notifications to encourage new app downloads.  
  • Email subscribers with a link to download a coupon, or their membership card, to their mobile wallet on their phone for a seamless user experience — people always have their phones on them. Physical gift cards or coupons? Not so much.

Use one channel to reinforce the other

  • Some brands will send an email first and then reinforce the message with a mobile message. For example, a daily deals provider might send a digest of all available deals via email, but only send a push notification for the one deal that is most relevant to the user. Further target the audience by segmenting only those that did not open the email version.

While mobile messaging and email can complement each other, and should be considered together to create a cohesive customer communication strategy, it’s important to differentiate between the two. To learn more about the differences between mobile messaging and email, check out our blog post “6 Reasons Why Mobile Messaging Is Not Like Email.”