June 7, 2010

How to Create a Mobile Customer Newsletter


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

Newsletters are a great way of providing value to your clients, while also making them aware of your company’s products and services. They’ve been used successfully via the Internet channel for many years, but a new challenge is emerging for newsletter content providers, namely how to create newsletters that will work for those accessing them via mobile devices.

Why mobile is important:

A significant proportion of Web site browsing is now happening from mobile devices, with smart phones such as iPhones and BlackBerries contributing for the bulk of this activity. These customers are typically of above-average affluence and don’t mind spending money on playthings, making them a juicy target for marketing activity!

However, there’s an inherent problem. Web sites and newsletters that are configured to be viewed on a computer screen typically render really poorly onto a phone-sized screen, making the user experience very substandard.

Focus effort on smart phones market:

To get value from your newsletter spend, it’s clearly important to create content that will render well onto mobile devices. There’s a fundamental problem, however, caused by the small size of mobile screens. Smart phones have bigger screens than some of the cheaper Java phones on the market and typically account for the bulk of mobile Web browsing. Therefore, in line with the 80:20 rule, companies should focus effort on configuring content for smart phones.

Creating content for the mobile Internet:

In the mid nineties, companies had to get used to the difference between creating paper newsletters and creating online newsletters. The better companies soon realized that people view content in a different way on the Internet. First, they scan pages for headings and keywords to determine whether to read on. They also have shorter attention spans so content should be shorter.

When looking at mobile device usage, it’s clear that short and sweet is the way to go with content. Users resent having to scroll through bulky text, so work on conveying your key points concisely. Phones also have a built-in call-to-action capability, as users can immediately phone you to inquire about products or services. Make sure, therefore, that you include this capability and be aware that mobile users may be less likely to go through an online application form.

Mobile applications as an alternative to Web browsing

We’ve focused so far on instances where newsletters are delivered as part of a mobile browsing experience. You’ve sent a text or email to customers that enables them to find Web content and browse it.

Of course, the phenomenal success of the iPhone has opened another way through which mobile users consume content, namely applications. Another option for consideration therefore is whether you deliver your newsletter through a custom built application that can be accessed on mobile stores such as Apple and Android.

There will be an upfront cost associated with building a mobile application, especially if you have to outsource the technical work. However, an advantage is that your newsletter application may become visible to very large numbers of people.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as mobile delivery manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and has extensive experience across ecommerce and mcommerce including the launch and promotion of Web sites.

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