Why Your Mobile App Company Needs Email

How can your mobile first company leverage email for a variety of use cases?

Inside the Episode

As companies face growing expectations to execute flawless omnichannel communications and serve users a seamless and sticky user experience, email is a channel that mobile apps need now more than ever. Mobile apps can use this channel to effectively message users across devices, throughout their daily routines, and to bring users back after first install.

Email’s high ROI, permanent message format, and space to communicate makes it an ideal channel for a variety of marketing and transactional use cases.

Special Guests

Kate Nowrouzi (VP of Email Deliverability & Product Strategy at Mailgun)


Sasha Langholz (Content Writer at OneSignal)

Podcast Transcript

Sasha: Welcome to the OneSignal podcast, where we aim to help companies build meaningful and lasting relationships with their clients with our industry-leading customer messaging solution. Today, we'll be discussing why and how you should be using email as a critical piece of your company's messaging strategy. Email is an incredible medium for messaging your users across their lifecycle because of its widespread use, high ROI, visibility, scalability, and more. I'm Sasha Langholz, a Content Creator here at OneSignal. Today, I'm delighted to welcome our special guest Kate Nowrouzi. Kate comes to us from Sinch, the parent company of Mailgun, Mailjet, and Email on Acid, which empowers companies like DHL, Wikipedia toast, Lyft, and Microsoft to reach their customers through email throughout their lifecycle with its powerful email API, reliable cloud-native infrastructure, local expertise, and smart solutions. Kate is the VP of Email Deliverability and Product Strategy at Mailgun. With over 22 years of experience in the messaging space, Kate has worked for major ISP’s and ESPs and as an active voice in deliverability, email marketing, and the anti-spam community. She's spoken at global conferences, hosted round tables, and published blog posts on the topic.

She's even the co-founder of Email Geeks SF, a community where email marketers, designers, and developers need to collaborate in the San Francisco bay area. Welcome Kate. To get started, why don't you tell me a bit about how you ended up working in email.

Kate: Hi, Sasha. Thank you so much for having me. It’s actually a very interesting question.

My journey coming to the email world was an interesting one. it was early 2000. I came to the US in the late nineties and, the only way that I could communicate with my family and friends across the globe was by writing actual mail, going to the post office and each day as I was coming back from school, I would go check the mailbox to see if there was a letter from my mom or my friends. Then email came along.I sent my first email in 1998. My first email address was a Hotmail email and to me, it was so amazing that with a click of a button, you could share news. You could share pictures with people across the globe in a matter of seconds, whereas with traditional mail, you had to wait four weeks in order to hear from your loved ones. Although I had an email address, I did not have an access to a computer. I couldn't use email on a daily basis until later in the nineties. In the beginning of the 2000s, I was so fascinated by a company called America Online AOL. They were a big name, the major ISP back in the early 2000s and the biggest provider for emails, personal emails. The majority, or 90 percent of personal emails were hosted on the AOL network. I then started working at the AOL anti-spam operation as a data analyst, working to stop spammers from coming to our network at AOL. Since then, I have been in love with this fascinating protocol that can excite people around the globe in the matter of seconds.

Sasha: That's awesome. I'm so inspired by your passion for email as a channel and your years of experience. I'm super excited to get into it with you today. A lot of our customers are mobile-first and I'm just really curious to know from your years of experience in this space, why would you recommend that mobile first companies adopt email? What advantages can it provide?

Kate: I am a huge believer in multichannel. So for any successful brand, you need to utilize one of the communication channels one way or another. For some brands, it makes sense to utilize more, but I cannot think of a brand that can survive in only one communication channel — only with email, only with mobile. It's a combination of all different channels that also feeds back to the brand itself. You can see how consumers are coming and going and interacting with your brand through different channels to understand which channel brings the most ROI to your business. I am a huge advocate for a multichannel approach. In a marketing, email compared to the other mediums brings the highest ROI. For every dollar spent, the return of investment on email is $40.

I cannot think of any other channel that has the highest ROI. Email compared to the other mediums is, is reasonably priced. It is a crucial channel for transactional traffic. For example, if you buy your, flight ticket online on United mobile, the first thing you do is what? Go to your email and see if you can see the confirmation email. You can see your seat assignment, even though you’re sure you have completed the purchase online. I believe all brands should utilize different communication channels or one way or another. Again, they may give more focus to one channel, but, it's a combination.

Sasha: Great.Thank you. Another thing, that I was thinking about and that we talk about sometimes at OneSignal is the space factor. Among other channels, email just gives you so much more space for creativity and to write an extended message. So, would you agree with that?

Kate: Yes, absolutely. The amount of time that people spend on, let's say social, is very limited, but on email, usually people may spend more time. You can put more information and you can always refer back to it. Imagine you are browsing stuff on your phone, on your Facebook or Instagram app, things disappear. They go. But if you have something in email, if some information has caught your attention, you can always go back to it. You can go to your Gmail and look for it. And there it is, you can go back to it. This is something that may not be a possibility with other channels.

Sasha: I think the travel example is a really key one. As a consumer, it just really sticks with you because I just have so many memories of being in line and just anxiously checking for that boarding pass or that confirmation, thinking I hope I'm in the right place. I have the barcode. So, we kind of just touched the tip of the iceberg around what role email can play among other channels in the mix.What would you say are the main differences between email let's say SMS or push?

Kate: The timing and the content make a huge difference on what and when to use which one. Imagine that your flight is delayed. This actually happened to me. I was delayed in the Seattle Airport for many hours. After four or five hours, I was logging into my laptop. I was checking email and I kept getting push notifications about the flight delay. The airline was sending me push notifications saying the flight is now 20 minutes more delayed or incoming updates regarding the incoming flights.

A lesson learned for marketers was during the whole thing,I received an email from this airline, regarding, a promotional email for the trip to Hawaii. I was already frustrated with the many hours that we were sitting. The last thing I wanted to do to book another trip with my family, with this specific airline with the delays. It is very important to be aware, that is the biggest value is in paying attention to the end user's behavior on different channels. If there's a flight delay, you should not be sending promotional emails, at that time, or no one wants promotional emails via text, via SMS —unless, there is a huge price drop. For example, I was looking for a really nice jacket on the Bloomingdales website and it was too expensive. I kept going to see if it was on sale or not. And when the price dropped during Black Friday, I received a text that something that it is in your cart, shopping cart is now 40%.

I loved that. I was so happy. This was not communicated to me by email or by text because there were a limited number of, let's say size two. I quickly jumped on my laptop to purchase that jacket that I wanted. So again, it really depends on what message you are trying to deliver. People usually do not want to receive text messages for non-important matters because it is disruptive.

You are in a meeting and your phone lights up, or it beeps. You are expecting something important. If you look at it and it says 20% off of something, you already create a distraction. It will play a negative role in how the brand is being recognized by the end user. So it’s extremely important to understand how to use each channel and for what message.

Sasha: The customer journey seems like it should be at the forefront of everyone's thoughts in designing these multichannel flows. So we have covered some of the key benefits that email can provide. We have a high ROI. We have more space for communication. are there any other benefits that mobile first companies can expect from email?

Kate: Right. So a good example could be a password. If you are, let's say in a different country, let's say you are in Germany. You want to get an Uber. You have a new IP, new region to lag my laptop two hours. You want to reset it? They keep saying, we have sent you a reset password. Where would they send a notification to reset your password? Your email. For password resets for a lot of, financial matters, I do not do any online banking on my phone. Given I have an anti-spam background, I just don't trust accessing anything regarding my bank accounts on my phone app. It is very, important to receive all of my bank statements or anything that has sensitive financial information or personal information via email rather than having it over my phone. If someone is using my credit cards in a state that I have never visited, my bank sends me an SMS notification. Are you currently in Ohio? Because we saw a transaction six hours ago from you in a different location. And now it just to confirm, I would love to receive that SMS because someone was using my credit card information in a different state and my bank locked it, but do I want my bank to send monthly statements by text message? No, definitely email is more secure and something that I can go back and take a look my stuff when I need it.

Sasha: That totally makes sense. It's almost irreplaceable in that sense. For you any kind of really serious, medical or financial, record, there's really no other channel you would want to receive that information on. I definitely don't want to push notification with my lab results. That that would kind of be scary. Are there any other use cases that you think really exemplify email for mobile apps other than the financial services and travel industry examples?

Kate: Different shops such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, all of these brands can, and they are utilizing all different channels. At the same time they are even using social. For example, Nordstrom is doing a fantastic job with their social advertisements. It is the combination of different channels, SMS, social, email. I don't know if you have paid attention during the last couple of weeks during Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Black Friday this year we have seen the most traffic volume for email compared to the previous years, because a lot of people, stayed home and did online shopping. The entire pandemic changed people lives in a way that a lot of things are happening online, like grocery shopping. For example, grocery shopping is not something that I look forward to on a Sunday. During the pandemic, I started doing online grocery shopping. It's more convenient just to stay home and with a click of a button, have your groceries, even fresh produce, be delivered to your home. So moving forward it seems that the new normal is different than what was. A lot of things are happening more online, like, we are ordering food. Before the pandemic, I had no food delivery. I was not using Uber eats or DoorDash or Postmates, but now I'm using all of them.

I have all of those apps. It's convenient. It is faster. and it is a new world now that we are all adopting and moving forward. So brands need to recognize how to be successful in this new world, utilizing SMS, utilizing email. The CPM rates are coming down significantly. The more you send, this less CPM that you are paying for email. It is just important to find the right frequency and to not over message.

Again, one of the most, common mistakes that I am seeing from different brands is when they see we are using email and it is our sales are doubling or three. They get overexcited and over message the user and that can backfire. So my only, advice is that yes, email is great. Definitely use it alongside your mobile and social strategy, but be mindful. There is a person sitting behind the email address and given the outward radius, spending so many extra hours compared to before by our computers, more is less. Do not over message. Be very personalized, customize your emails, personalize them. You know how people are interacting with your brand. You know based on their previous history what size they were and what color they prefer, or which routes they travel more. You can customize your marketing emails based on their preferences to have a successful marketing strategy.

Sasha: Those are all very good points. Going back to what you said about the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday, just the whole holiday shopping ecosystem this year. Consumers are expecting a more and more customized, seamless, efficient, and to end experience with these brands. And it's, it's really a lot, to measure up to, especially with big players in the space like Amazon and these really, granular food apps with these highly customized experiences.

I just, I think it's definitely important for smaller companies to start thinking about these things and being able to deliver that type of experience. Is there anything else, you would add, parting notes or thoughts?

Kate: I would like to, emphasize that finding the right time to send the right message is really critical. So there are so many different markets and strategies such as send time optimization or, making sure that you pay attention to user engagement. If you' you think about those and pay attention to those signals that you are receiving from the end user, you can establish a very successful marketing campaign. It could be email marketing, it could be online marketing. The opportunities are absolutely endless.

Sasha: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for all of your thoughts. I'm excited to see what's coming in the future of email as we move into this new calendar year.

Kate: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed chatting with you and I look forward to having more collaboration and more podcasts with you.

Sasha: Likewise!

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Special Guests & Host


Kate Nowrouzi (VP of Email Deliverability & Product Strategy at Mailgun)


Sasha Langholz (Content Writer at OneSignal)