Optimizing Mobile Email

Mobile is having a profound impact on how we  use email marketing.   We are truly in a new world of the three-screen, soon to be four-screen, integrated experiences. With the shift from desktop to laptop to tablet to smartphone, it is becoming more and more important to understand the unique user experience, track and optimize it.

Knowing that 39% of your email list opened on a mobile device, is interesting, but not actionable.  Knowing that of the 39%, 40% were on a tablet device, is interesting, but not actionable.  These trends offer nice stats for presentation sound bites, but what do they really mean?    As Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”  I feel most in the industry are reading more than they are applying.  Here are a few keys to success with mobile in 2013.

1.      Track and target individual device usage.  As the email experience shifts from device to desktop to the tablet, the only way to understand key trends by key segments is to track at the individual level.  This offers you very rich targeting opportunities and is the foundation of your testing strategy.    As commerce behaviors are shifting, optimizing to the experiences is going to be critical -- and you can’t do that unless you track at the individual level.

2.     Adaptive design.  There has been a lot of talk about adaptive design for web and email.   Some say it’s overkill.  Some say it’s not prudent for email.   I disagree.  Our teams use it, yet it does require you to rethink design and templates and make a commitment to new modes of production.  You will never render the perfect “email” on every device, and adaptive design will not solve all your problems, but it makes for a much better email experience. We are seeing dramatic improvements in response metrics based on new designs.   The day and age of coding email five years behind web design standards is gone. 

3.      Preference centers need to be optimized for mobile and adaptive design.   While I’ve been a bit conservative on the value of preference centers in the past, I now believe consumers need a central site to organize how they interact with a brand. But we need to go farther than this.   Developing adaptive design for preference centers is going to be a key initiative for most in 2013.  

 

Tags: email, mobile
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4 comments about "Optimizing Mobile Email".
  1. Steve Mintz from Great Wolf Resorts , January 21, 2013 at 11:09 a.m.
    Thanks David. Sound advice. However, if customers are still in migration mode (and with proliferation of devices and large spread in adoption rate of various), will I not lose effectiveness if I notice usage pattern today and target to that device with optimized creative/offer, and then miss out when you change devices, and then end up serving a less than optimized experience? Yes, adaptive design covers me, but your #1 and #2 seem to be in some conflict. Thoughts?
  2. Greg Alvarez from iMeil , January 21, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
    Excuse me... when major free email service providers allowed you to put anything you want in email headers? AFAIK, Yahoo! Mail, GMail and Outlook.com (previously Hotmail) remove everything you put in headers section: scripts and CSS styles. Before trying to implement anything "responsive" in email coding, we need all email providers allows this feature. Now, I am sorry if you have to get to major companies using Notes as their email reader... notes is well known by "killing" anything inside email headers.
  3. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , January 22, 2013 at 5:37 a.m.
    Wrong, wrong, wrong: "The day and age of coding email five years behind web design standards is gone"??? No major ESP supports Javascript; a lot are very limited in CSS support (Linked stylesheets? I think not!); and Outlook still uses MS Word as its rendering engine. http://litmus.com/blog/outlook-2013-still-powered-by-word-now-available-for-email-testing!
  4. Ryan Phelan from Acxiom Digital Impact , January 22, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.
    David is absolutely right. The point I think he is getting at is that the device should be the focus and the information that it provides about the behavior of the consumer. Sure, we need to make sure that the email we serve looks good to the consumer (an astounding number of people delete emails if they look bad), but that is only part of the challenge here. Marketers need to look at the bigger picture of actively segmenting based on the device and the type of consumer that we have in play. Where do you link, App, mobile website, website. What message do you serve to the user and how do you recognize that differently? The goal is not just an optimized experience...any coder with a white paper can do that. The focus has always got to be on the consumer and the strategy behind the goal. How are you speaking to the customer in a different way if they are on an iPad or a droid. Do you identify me as "always an iPad user" just because they opened once? Nope. We know that users open on multiple devices. It's your job to ensure that you know which one and have a strategy behind the message on each. If you do the research, you may find that your users have a longer experience on their iPad than they do on the phone. Now what do you do? just make sure the email looks pretty? David is (as always) spot on. Device should be a strategy, not an optimized experience. This is less about tactics,and more about strategy. Think 50,000 feet.