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Survey: More using mobile e-mail

How consumers access e-mail is changing, according to the latest survey results from comScore, Inc., a company that measures digital media use. The study found that in November 2010, the number of visitors to web-based e-mail sites declined 6% compared to the previous year, while e-mail engagement declined at an even greater rate. During the same time period, the number of users accessing e-mail via their mobile devices grew by 36% as an increasingly complex digital environment influenced consumers’ communication habits. (Web-based e-mail does not include mail applications such as Outlook.)

“Digital communication has evolved rapidly in the last few years with an ever-increasing number of ways for Internet users to communicate with one another,” said Mark Donovan, comScore senior vice president of mobile. “From PCs to mobile devices, whether its e-mail, social media, IM or texting, consumers have many ways to communicate and can do so at any time and in any place. The decline in web-based e-mail is a byproduct of these shifting dynamics and the increasing availability of on-demand communication options.”

An analysis of web-based e-mail trends revealed that fewer Americans visited web-based e-mail destinations and spent less time doing so versus last year. In November 2010, more than 153 million people visited web-based e-mail providers, decreasing 6% from the previous year. In terms of engagement, overall time spent in the e-mail category declined 9%, while total pages viewed dropped 15%. Despite such declines, however, it should be noted that e-mail remains one of the most popular activities on the web, reaching more than 70% of the U.S online population each month.

An analysis of e-mail users’ demographic characteristics revealed that young users, those between the ages of 12-17 showed the sharpest decline in usage during the past year. The number of visitors from this age segment declined 24%, while engagement fell by half as total minutes decreased 48% and total pages dropped 53%. Engagement also declined among users 18-54, as a general shift in e-mail behavior was evident across most segments.

In contrast, usage increased among those 55 and over. The number of 55-64 year olds accessing web-based e-mail increased 15% with similar gains in engagement, while those age 65+ experienced gains across all three metrics as well. When looking at e-mail usage among males and females, males displayed a more dramatic decline in usage than females, with total e-mail minutes falling 12% for males compared to 7% among females.

Mobile E-mail Now Mainstream

While web-based e-mail has witnessed a decline over the past year, e-mail usage via mobile devices has experienced significant growth, driven largely by increased smartphone adoption. In November 2010, 70.1 million mobile users (30% of all mobile subscribers) accessed e-mail on their mobile, an increase of 36% from the previous year. Daily usage of e-mail showed an even greater increase growing 40% as 43.5 million users turned to their mobile devices on a nearly daily basis for their e-mail communication needs.

Accessing mobile e-mail increased by double-digits across all age segments. Younger age groups showed a higher probability of accessing e-mail from their mobile devices compared to older segments. Persons age 25-34 were 60% more likely to access e-mail than an average mobile user, with those between the ages of 18-24 being 46% more likely to do so, representing the two age segments with the highest propensity. Overall, males were 14% more likely to be users of mobile e-mail.

Donovan said, “What we have seen in the smartphone era is the rapid acceleration of data consumption, which has helped drive mobile usage across multiple categories including e-mail. In a relatively short period of time, adoption of mobile e-mail has reached 78% of the smartphone population, which is very similar to the penetration of web-based e-mail among Internet users. These findings demonstrate just how quickly channel shifts can occur and why it’s now essential for media brands to have a strong presence in both arenas.”

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