More than half of emails are now opened and read on mobile devices, according to a new report from Return Path.

The email solutions provider found that email opens on mobile devices have doubled over the past five years, meaning mobile is preferred nearly 2:1 over webmail. In fact, in 2012, just 29% of emails were opened on mobile devices. In contrast, opens on websites such as or has fallen by 26% in the last five years. And emails opened via desktop software like Outlook fell from 34% to 16%.

iOS continues to dominate Android. While email opens on both iPhone and iPad have fallen slightly over the past five years, iOS still maintains a huge advantage over Android. Combined, iOS accounts for an overwhelming 79% of mobile email opens, compared to 20% for Android. In 2012, just 14% of mobile emails were opened on Android, while 85% were opened on iOS.

Gmail has overtaken Yahoo in the webmail race. Webmail still holds a significant percentage of email opens, and Gmail has emerged as the clear leader in the webmail space. In 2012, just 6% of webmail opens occurred on Gmail; that figure jumped to 59% during the period analysed. Yahoo has experienced a precipitous decline over the same period, accounting for just 5% of webmail opens during the study period—down from 37% in 2012.

Not surprisingly, the greatest percentage of mobile email opens occur on the weekend—60% on both Saturday and Sunday, compared to a range of 51-55% from Monday to Friday. Accordingly, both webmail and desktop opens increase during the working week, when people tend to be in front of their computers. Webmail opens hold steady at 26% during the weekend and about 29% during the week, while desktop accounts for just 13% of opens at the weekend and 16-19% during the week.

“In just five years, we’ve seen dramatic shifts in the email space—and there’s no doubt that more changes are coming,” said Tom Sather, Return Path’s Sr. Director of Research.

“Marketers need to understand both the current state of the email ecosystem and how it’s likely to evolve in the future. Knowing how, when, and where your emails are being opened—and how those things have changed over time—can help to inform critical decisions about the direction of your email programme.”

You can find the full report here.


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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