The 3 Rules of Effective Mobile Email Marketing

Use the right tools to turn mobile emails into sales-ready leads

Four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop, according to ComScore, Inc. If there’s one thing this data tells us, it’s that dealerships can’t afford to ignore mobile marketing. It’s vital to your multichannel campaign, and without it, your dealership could be missing out on hundreds of potential customers.

Often, the most powerful and poorly executed tool is mobile email marketing. When used correctly, mobile email marketing engages customers, moves leads through their buying journey, and drives sales. Unfortunately, most emails from auto dealers are less than successful in these efforts. They typically end up lost in spam folders or sent to the trash.

So how can your dealership utilize email and mobile marketing to sell more cars? Just follow these three basic rules:

  1. Design for mobile first.
  2. Say what you mean.
  3. Send highly relevant information.

1. Design for mobile first

One of the most common mistakes people make when developing emails is ignoring how they’ll be viewed by their customers. Because designers work on desktops, the emails they design typically are meant to be viewed on a desktop.

But Litmus—an email tracking software company—recorded the opens of more than 1 billion emails between 2014 and 2016. Its research found that 54% of emails were opened on mobile devices. Meanwhile, desktops accounted for only 19%.

By optimizing emails for mobile first, you can ensure your marketing message is being received the way you intended. And by using responsive design, you can be sure your desktop users will still be able to view your email easily.

Responsive design, to put it simply, automatically adjusts the email depending on the size of the screen it’s being viewed on. This provides optimal performance across device types.

2. Say what you mean

There’s nothing worse than an email that promises one thing in the subject line, but delivers something totally different once you open it. But that hasn’t stopped some dealerships from using such tactics to increase their email open rates.

The problem with this strategy is that you’ll find your opt-out rate rising more than your bottom line.

Instead, be clear and direct in your messaging. Also, keep in mind that brevity is the magic word when it comes to mobile emails.

All too often, eager marketers go on and on in an attempt to persuade the reader into scheduling a test drive or contacting the dealership. The truth of the matter is that any email that goes past two or three scrolls probably won’t see the light of day.

In order to keep your emails short, tight, and direct, provide recipients with the exact information they need to make the decision or take the action you’d like them to. The key here is to add value, not ask for it.

For example, adding a link to your car loan calculator could be useful. Another option is to provide a free test drive checklist that shoppers can print out and bring to the dealership.

3. Send highly relevant information

Image that you’re shopping for a new car. You see a model you think might fit your needs, but there’s no price listed on the dealership’s website. You then fill out a form and submit your information to request a quote.

Instead of receiving a quote, your inbox is bombarded with email after email asking you to trade in your current vehicle today, schedule a test drive now, apply for credit, visit the dealership, stop everything you’re doing, and buy buy buy! But all you really wanted was a quote.

This kind of haphazard communication overload is a key factor in why so many dealerships can’t gain traction with their mobile marketing campaigns. If you want to maintain a positive relationship with your customers, it’s essential that you send them information that’s relevant to them.

That doesn’t mean you can’t send out an email announcing a new sale or promoting a new vehicle that just arrived. The key is to make sure that you’re sending those emails to the right people at the right time.

One way to ensure you’re most effectively targeting your emails is by segmenting your contacts into lists. Creating lists allows you to target specific customer groups based on certain characteristics.

For instance, you could make a list of contacts who haven’t bought a car in more than three years, and then send them an email about your upcoming sale.

Today, there’s a ton of opportunity to use your mobile emails to help convert the visitors to your website into sales-ready leads. You just have to use the right tools effectively.

If you follow the three rules discussed here, you can make sure that your emails land safely in your customers’ inboxes. That way, you’ll earn the open and click-through rates that will ultimately help you move more metal off your lot.

Stream Sept part 1

The good, the bad & the ugly

In order to give you a better idea of what to do and what not to do when designing your next email, let’s take a look at three examples:

Example A (right) is an email response to a quote request. Right off the bat, you can see that there’s a lot going on here. So much that it’s confusing and counterproductive.

Nothing here is clearly guiding the reader to the quote and the next step. Instead, there’s a little over 10 conversion points all battling for the reader’s attention. Not only that, but this email does not render correctly on mobile devices.

Example B (below) is short and sweet, but it fails to reference the reader’s initial request. A complete lack of context can make your emails seem dry, impersonal, and very vague.

The reader is also left to wonder who the Internet Sales Team is. How exactly are they going to solve the problem or answer the question? At the end of the day, this email offers absolutely no value, and instead asks for value in the way of the reader providing a phone number for the ambiguous Internet Sales Team to undoubtedly start calling three times a day.

Stream Sept part 2







Stream Sept part 3



Example C (left) shows an email that is simple and direct both in terms of design and messaging. It delivers the exact information customers need to take the next step without overloading them with irrelevant offers and conversion points.

The email also adds value instead of asking for it by sharing the dealership’s trade-in value estimator and a free trade-in checklist. It’s safe to say this email probably experienced a high response rate.

Christopher Wirth is the inbound marketing team lead at Stream Companies—a fully integrated advertising agency based outside of Philadelphia. His work focuses on challenging the status quo when it comes to digital marketing, and forcing marketers to explore new and innovative ways to reach their audiences.

Christopher Wirth


  1. Avatar
    Leila Mozaffarian September 16, 2016

    Hi Christopher,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I work for a company called Zipwhip where we provide text messaging for landline and toll-free numbers, and I think that it is incredible how much emphasis we try to put for dealerships to realize the value in contacting people. Especially, through text messaging and of course as emails as well.

    I noticed you said “54% of emails were opened on mobile devices.” Well, in general 98% of consumer text messages are read, while only 10% of emails are opened in general.

    Not only that, but 80% of consumers prefer to be contacted by a business via texting over a call.

    I could not agree more with your 3 steps of:
    “1. Design for mobile first.
    2. Say what you mean.
    3.Send highly relevant information.”

    This was a really good read. Thanks for sharing!


Leave reply