Email +Mobile: What Did You Change This Year?

Where did the year go?  Back in January I recommended that marketers, if they hadn’t already, get started on optimizing for mobile.  Well, now that it’s the end of the year, let’s take stock.  Here’s a short version of that list:

  • Learn what percentage of your subscribers is viewing your emails on a mobile device
  • Review how your emails currently look on various mobile devices
  • Look for differences in mobile viewership between campaign types to help prioritize
  • Be concise with content
  • Don’t put tap targets too close together
  • Narrow the width of your email to reduce horizontal scrolling
  • Optimize the subject line
  • Test, test, test
  • Keep an eye on the trends

How many of these did you address this year?  I’d like to add a few things to the list, but before I do, let’s dig in on that last item on the checklist: Keep an eye on the trends.  What has changed between then and now?  Return Path just released a new mobile infographic with some surprising new mobile stats.  Some key ones include:

  • Mobile open rates have increase 300% between Oct ’10-Oct ‘12
  • People are checking their email multiple times per day on both desktop and mobile
  • People are shopping more on their phones. Average order value was greater for phones than for tablets or desktop.
  • People make more purchases using their phone when they are at home than when they are on the go

The second bullet brings up an interesting point.  People are using both their phones and their desktop.  So your email needs to look good in both places.  Which means your emails, which were likely originally designed for desktop viewing, need to be mobile aware.  You don’t want to make changes to your email that make it too stripped down and unappealing on the desktop, but it still need to be functional for mobile.  The list above still stands, but here are a few more ideas to consider:

  • Optimize for bandwidth.  Be aware that people using their phones are using the cellular network which will be slower than Wi-Fi.  It may be tough for your design and marketing teams to swallow, but it may be time to give up some of those image heavy, legacy designs.  If your email exceeds a certain size, some receivers will “clip” it.  Subscribers will see a “Click here to download the full message” prompt.  Also, if still too large, some will replace it with the text version so make sure your text version is looking good.  If possible, aim for 100 kilobytes or less.
  • Optimize the pre-header.  In some mobile inboxes, you can see the subject line and pre-header before opening the message. It might have more impact to have offer information there as opposed to other text such as white-listing instructions.  
  • Simplify the design. Reduce the number of columns and stick with a max message width of 600 pixels.
  • Remember that the subscriber may be viewing the email in either portrait or landscape mode. You need to make sure your primary message and tap target can be seen and easily tapped in both. When testing, look at both views.
  • Add background colors behind images and use styled alt text to make the email attractive even with images off (the default for Android)
  • Use responsive design with caution.  While it can work well in certain situations, it is not supported by all email apps including Gmail.

I hope these ideas are helpful and best of luck optimizing for an increasingly mobile audience. 

This post originally appeared on the Magill Report.