There are skeptics and there are fanatics, but one thing is certain: Email marketers will be jumping at the chance to capitalize on Apple’s iPad. The real question is whether these marketers will fall flat on their faces. Marketers will contend with a host of challenges as they eagerly delve into this uncharted territory, and how they respond will make or break their chances of adding yet another one-to-one marketing channel to their collections.
For this reason, I've provided a list of some of the potential opportunities and challenges email marketers will need to acknowledge if they want a chance at taming and harnessing the iPad.
1. It’s a shiny new object, but don’t treat it like one.
Like everything else that Apple puts on its shelves, the iPad has the “cool factor.” If you turn the iPad sideways, for example, email messages shift to a landscape view. Or, you can embed an image that responds to your pokes and prods. The iPad opens the door to an exciting new world of email opportunities. But should we enter it?
Maybe not. Even though the iPad can do all sorts of cool things we can't do on our laptops or smartphones, it doesn't necessarily mean we should do them. Marketers need to stick to the basics and listen to what their audiences want. A gimmicky email might captivate audiences temporarily, but the novelty will wear off. Make sure your emails are constructed with the recipient in mind and with the goal of eliciting some kind of action or response. Otherwise, your email will just entertain — right up until it's deleted.
2. Catch your audience when it's on the move.
The iPad competes with the Kindle for a reason. Apple’s marketing campaigns have made it clear we should consider the iPad a reading device. That said, it assumes the role of a more leisurely device than some of its sister technologies. It's not as "hustle and bustle" as the smartphone or as business-oriented as the laptop. So marketers aiming to have an email read on an iPad would be wise to avoid sending it during hours when the recipients are likely too busy to open it, commuting to work or grinding out work at their desks.
When it comes to email marketing on the iPad, “knowing your audience” requires you have a good idea of when it might be reading, watching TV or browsing the web, because that's when your message will have the best shot of being read.
3. Take advantage of its strengths.
The iPad’s screen is nearly 10 inches and can play videos in all of their high-def glory. Embedding videos in email, however, has been like traversing a minefield for some marketers as they contend with things like platform incompatibility. But if you know your audience is opening your emails on an iPad, why not take advantage of the big screen and high resolution to convey your message?
I know some of you might be thinking that videos fall into the same category as some of the gimmicks that I mentioned above, but I disagree. Rather, videos fulfill a very different role than text or pictures. If you're marketing your new brand of skis, for example, would you rather read a block of text accompanied by a photo of the skis, or would you rather watch a high-definition video of a downhill skier who used your skis during the Olympics? Taking advantage of the iPad’s “cool factor” is very different than exploiting its every tech bit just because you can.
The success of the iPad still hangs in the air, and with it hangs marketers’ hopes for another channel of communication. Nevertheless, you can bet that marketers will be racing to stake their claim as the undisputed masters of iPad email. What will be important for marketers is that they don't become so enamored with the device that the basics of email marketing fall by the wayside. Technology is quick to change, but the factors that govern consumers’ awareness, attitudes and behaviors will always remain fundamentally the same.
Joel Book is director of eMarketing education for ExactTarget, an Indianapolis-based provider of on-demand software for permission-based email and mobile marketing. Reach Joel at email@example.com.