Two weeks ago I contributed an article here examining the pros and cons of three emerging approaches to
mobile email optimization: prefab content, responsive design, and live content. But I omitted a fourth, important approach that’s worthy of its own discussion: mobile-first email.
With mobile-first email, marketers create a single email template to send to their entire lists that are optimally designed for small screens. The template will contain fewer calls-to-action (often
only one, actually); large, fat-fingers-friendly buttons to take said action(s) with; and big pretty pictures to take up the length and width of the screen in a single, neatly laid out
For those who argue in favor of taking a mobile-first approach, the logic is simple: your email will look nice on a smartphone screen, and big buttons on a small screen will be
even bigger on a large one, so everybody wins! Right?
The mobile-first approach to email design puts desktops -- and the majority of your customers -- last. Here’s why
brands should give the strategy another look before making it their new email marketing mantra:
- Desktops still rule. As much as smartphone adoption
continues to surge, two-thirds of email opens today are still taking place on good, old-fashioned
desktops and laptops. There’s a long way to go before desktops disappear from the face of the earth -- a technological extinction event that is unlikely to ever happen.
- Larger screens allow for more selling opportunities. Dynamic wireframe templates rose to popularity over the last decade for a reason: They work. And
showcasing multiple relevant products and offers can turn what would otherwise have been a losing email campaign into a winner. Case in point: a leading retailer we work with had been sending emails
to its list with one large static image showcasing its “featured product of the day.” It decided to test the one-product-only email head-to-head against a multi-offer template featuring
live deals taking place on its website. Over the course of ten sends, the multi-offer, live email generated 10 times the revenue of the static, single-offer mailings.
- Mobile-first isn’t even optimal for mobile devices. Last, but not least, mobile-first design is static design: marketers create one template and let it fly. But the email is
frozen in time once the marketer hits send. It can’t tell whether it’s being opened on an Android-based device, an iPhone, or an iPad -- let alone a desktop. It can’t direct you to
the right app store, and it can’t tell whether your company’s mobile app has already been downloaded and is ready to be launched. Mobile-first email is just one big, clumsy image, one
column, and one offer. It may be designed to fit into the small screen, but not into the consumer’s holistic mobile experience.
Mobile optimization is a critical priority, but it
must take place within the context of multiplatform optimization, and marketers shouldn’t sacrifice one platform for the sake of another. The rise of our new multiplatform
world of desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets has moved our cheese, and we have no choice but to adapt and move with it.