People Take More Time to Read Emails on Mobiles Than on Desktops

July 28, 2017

Some 55% of emails delivered through the first third of this year have been opened on mobile devices, almost double the share from 2012 (29%), reports Return Path [download page]. The study, which relied on an analysis of more than 27 billion email opens between May 2016 and April 2017, also reveals that emails opened on mobile devices are more likely to be fully read than those opened on desktops.

In examining emails sent from December 2016 through April 2017, Return Path found that 61% were fully read – meaning that they’re viewed for more than 7 seconds.

Notably, 64% of emails on mobile were fully read, compared to 45% on desktops and 61% on webmail.

Moreover, the abandonment rate (classified as the email being open for less than 2 seconds) was twice as large on desktops (30%) than on mobiles (15%) during that same time period.

The data is important as an indicator of engagement on mobile devices, particularly as click-to-open rates on mobiles have generally lagged those on desktops (although the gap has narrowed of late).

It’s interesting to see the Return Path results in comparison to a previous study (covering 2015) released by IBM Marketing Cloud, which similarly examined time taken to read emails.

The reports were generally aligned in finding that a majority are read for 8 seconds or more, with around one-fifth skimmed for 2-7 seconds and the remainder abandoned or only glanced at.

Meanwhile, brands should be aware that email engagement appears lower during the holiday period: analyzing the month of December only, Return Path found emails less likely to be fully read (54%) and more likely to be abandoned (27%). That’s potentially due to the increase in email volume making subscribers more exacting with their time.

Top Platforms

While an average of 55% of emails in 2017 were opened on mobile devices, there were significant disparities across countries. In Brazil, for example, only 48% of emails were opened on mobile, whereas that figure was much higher in the UK (76%), Singapore (73%), the US (71%), and Australia (71%).

On a global basis, iOS devices dominate mobile email opens, with iPhones (57%) and iPads (22%) combined accounting for 8 in 10 mobile opens this year.

As for webmail opens, Gmail has risen to the top over the past 5 years, upping its share of webmail email opens from 6% in 2012 to a majority 59% this year. By comparison, use of Yahoo Mail has tumbled, down from 37% share in 2012 to just 5% share this year.

Finally, a comparison of desktop email opens has found Apple Mail on top with exactly half of desktop opens, leading Outlook (41%, down from 68% in 2012).

Mobile Email Opens Pick Up Steam on the Weekend

As you’d expect, people are more reliant on their mobile devices for email opens on the weekend. In fact, 6 in 10 emails opened on Saturdays and Sundays through the first third of this year were opened on a mobile device, compared to a range of 51-55% on workdays.

That weekend surge is primarily at the expense of desktops, which represent only about 1 in 8 opens (13%) during the weekend, down from a range of 16-19% on weekdays.

About the Data: Return Path examined more than 27 billion email opens between May 2016 and April 2017 using its email tracking solution, Email Client Monitor. In addition to Email Client Monitor, Return Path analyzed data from its free tool, Geo Email Monitor, which offers access to client and geolocation information for up to six campaigns per month.


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