Article

Email Marketing & Apple Watch

Alex Williams

Email predates the web browser by decades, yet email marketing and the modern web were born together.

Email’s 30 year reign as a key part of every marketing plan is due to the fact that the web and email grew up together. Everyone understands the basic concepts: Send/reply to email address … type URL to go to website. From a marketing perspective, they are tied together by a common element — the link.

Emails are measured by how many times links are clicked. Websites are measured by page views. In tandem, they are measured by how much revenue they generate. They can blame each other, or share the blame. Either way, they are linked. (Pun intended!)

As I process the Watch, I’m thinking not about how our designs will look miniaturized, but about our link — our shared lifeblood that we’re measured by.

After going through the demo and documentation multiple times, one thing is obviously missing. A web browser.

I see many ways a link may be delivered to the Watch — Email, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, etc. — but I don’t see how they plan to deal with clicked links.

It’s common for new email apps to only showcase screenshots of emails from Mom/Dad/Grandma with vacation pictures. All of us know that most emails are airline confirmations, bank statements, newsletters, friends sharing the latest funny link or video, etc.

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There doesn’t seem to be a Safari app here. So what will Apple do about links on the Watch? A few guesses …
Links are clickable, but open on your iPhone or get added to your Reading List

A big feature of iOS and OSX Yosemite was Continuity: “Handoff lets you pick up right where you left off.” Maybe clicking a link will simply open it in Safari on your iPhone/Mac, or add the link to your Reading List. (The latter seems suspect for us; I have 500+ links in my Read Later apps yet to be read).

Links are Stripped

I can’t imagine this scenario. I have received plenty of emails, texts, FB Messages, and Twitter DM’s that are only links. If it is just a link, does it come in blank? This doesn’t feel like an Apple-like UX option.

Only Deep Links are Supported

Deep links are great for email and apps. We explain how to download iOS apps here. The challenge here for email marketers is that we are helpless — it requires tight integration between web and app teams. All we do is get people to click the link (a challenge by itself). After that we’re helpless. On the watch we’re even more helpless. We can’t pass to the web and route to the right place. The app is either on the Watch or it’s not. Is there an app store we could default to? Not sure.

Back to the Future

So, we might be back to the beginning of email’s origin. Simply delivering a message with no links. I’m not old enough to remember that era, but I’m close. According to Tim Cook, there are 200MM iOS devices that will work with this new device. Our existing paradigm isn’t going away any time soon, but it raises the question “Can Email Marketing exist without links?”

We can figure out how to make an email display at the size of a postage stamp.

But without links? Hmmm … Interesting times ahead.

About the Author(s)

Alex Williams

SVP, Principal, Solutions & Strategy. Portland, OR. Follow Alex on Twitter

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