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It seems like every few months there is some new technological development that sends email marketers into a tizzy, wondering what’s going to happen to their marketing strategy and their returns. Luckily, once you’ve been in the industry for a little bit, you learn not to panic with every shift.

However, changes often do affect your efforts and require you to adapt. Especially when it comes to the changes made to email clients. Remember when the introduction of the promotion tab had people questioning what would happen to email marketing? But—no surprise here—email marketing is just as lucrative as ever. Marketers just had to learn how to pivot, something we’re good at.

Recently, Google just announced that Gmail has hit yet another milestone by reaching 1.5 billion users, making it the new standard when designing your emails. Luckily, this is a pretty simple change that might even make designing your next email marketing campaign simpler.

But what about all the other times the popularity of email clients has shifted?

The top email clients: By the numbers

Most popular email clients

In looking through the data from 2013 through 2018, it’s easy to see that the top five email clients remained relatively stable:

  • Apple iPhone
  • Gmail
  • Apple iPad
  • Outlook
  • Apple Mail

While the overall ranking of email clients has remained relatively stable, the 2017 numbers show an interesting trend in email client age groups: Younger users (14 to 18 years) prefer Gmail over other email clients, possibly due to the increase in mobile usage for keeping track of emails.

Thus, if you’re targeting younger users in your email marketing campaign, ensuring your emails are Gmail-optimized will also ensure that they’re easily accessible to your target audience.

As you probably expected, older email users still prefer some of the original email services like Outlook, Yahoo and Windows, so it’s important to understand your audience and build emails that work for them. For instance, more intuitive email designs for can make your message clearer and your email campaign more effective.

Rise of mobile

Analytics firm Flurry released a report in 2017 detailing the shifting landscape of mobile usage, a marker of change that also affects email clients as well as email marketers.

Here’s why: By the end of 2016, people used mobile devices such as smartphones five hours daily on average. And 92% of that usage was spent on apps. Since the most popular email clients like Gmail have mobile apps for convenience, today’s top email providers are making it even easier for their clients—your subscribers—to check their email via mobile.

Results bear this out, as Adobe’s report shows that 81% of people regularly use their smartphones to check email, while 21% use a tablet.

secrets of the top email clientsSource: Adobe

And Relevancy Group’s data confirms that 40% of consumers use their mobile phone as their primary way to check emails and 93% of all ages of consumers check email multiple times a day, refuting the idea that millennials are less likely to be heavy email users.

Of email clients, Gmail has the users most dedicated to checking email from a mobile platform. Techcrunch reported that 75% of all Gmail’s many users access their accounts via mobile.

Mobile continues to grow

And as we move forward through the years, smartphones continue to outpace other devices for all kinds of retail email marketing. In fact, Movable Ink’s 2017 report showed that email opens by smartphones increased 7% from 2016 for finance-related emails and the travel and hospitality industry had the highest iPhone read lengths.

That’s a lot of information covering five years of trends in email usage. What does this mean for email marketers?

3 ways the top email clients are changing the landscape of email marketing

Consumer behavior and technology are not the only factors that impact how email marketers design and deploy their campaigns.

The top email clients, their reactions to market trends, and their adoption of new operating systems and guidelines also determine new directions for the businesses that rely on the high ROI of email marketing.

Let’s look at the three of the top ways email client activities can influence your email marketing strategy.

1. Optimizing for mobile becomes critical

Today, fine-tuning your emails to be easily consumed on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet is crucial for getting your audience to act on your message.

Since 81% of the population regularly uses their smartphones to check emails, so as a savvy email marketer, it’s your job to ensure those emails can be read easily on a mobile device. A design that’s mobile-optimized gets a 15% boost in unique clicks from mobile users who are happy to avoid pinching and zooming to get the information they’re looking for.

It’s also crucial to make sure your email looks great on the most popular email clients, Apple Mail and, of course, Gmail.

2. Changes in Gmail affect email marketers

In the past, Gmail has been notoriously hard to work with if you use CSS coding for responsive emails, but in order to keep their spot in the top email client list, the megalithic company had to hearken to their users’ wishes for responsive emails.

In 2017, Gmail released expanded CSS support to help email designers in their quest for beautiful, responsive emails. At that point, Gmail finally included support for embedded classes and styles as well as media queries. While they remain slow on providing assistance for animations and video—marketing techniques that increase open rates—Gmail is on the right track in making responsivity a top priority.

Gmail debuted a new version of itself in 2018, which was mostly good news for the email marketing community.

The update featured a native unsubscribe feature that frightened some email marketers; however, Gmail emphasized they wouldn’t apply the unsubscribe option using only inactivity. The new update also fixes a bug that consistently broke email displays, making it easier for designers to produce a stable final product.

Ultimately, the initial hype passed and email marketers continue to use Gmail to send thoughtful content to their audience.

3. Take advantage of new, bigger smartphone screens and outstanding visual capacities.

Don’t forget that Apple products dominate the list of devices your subscribers use to access their emails, winning three out of the top five spots. With 28% of emails read on an iPhone, getting familiar with Apple products and their operating system is critical for email marketers.

New smartphone products like the large Apple X, XS, XS Max, and XR range from 5.8-inch screens (iPhone X and XS) to  6.1 and 6.5 inches (XS Max and XR). New iPhone technologies also boast better resolutions and pixel densities than their predecessors, making it easy for email marketers to optimize emails for high-DPI screens.

Apple has HTML5 video support in the new iOS12, reducing the confusion the company’s operating systems have caused for email marketers over the years as Apple subsequently included, then revoked, support for this feature.

Having a beautiful visual to catch your subscriber’s eye can make or break the effectiveness of your email campaign. Gorgeous images and striking graphics can increase click-through rates, sometimes by up to 127%.

Larger and more advanced screens allow you to fully tap into the potential of video to engage your subscribers.

Wrap up

With more people than ever using smartphones and other mobile devices to access email on a regular basis, the email marketing landscape continues to grow and expand. Smart email marketers would do well to keep up with the latest trends not only in user behavior but in changes in email client operating systems.

New technologies like streaming video, animations, and straight-from-the-email purchases allow for a better user experience for your customers but only if they’re supported by the email clients.

Your email marketing campaign should be optimized for distribution by the top email clients to ensure the best experience for recipients and the best results for your ROI.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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