Optimizing For Mobile? You're Doing It Wrong!

"Mobile" is a misnomer in email marketing.

Marketers have been inundated with pleas to optimize their emails for mobile. It's good advice, given that B2C mobile readership is well above 50% and creeping north of 35% for B2B.

But the issue isn’t just "mobile versus desktop" but also "smartphone versus tablet versus desktop."

Smartphone users view and act on emails and websites differently from tablet users, and both of them are different from desktop users. Also, these users can be the same people, interacting with the same email on more than one device.

Here's how to understand and plan for all the variables that go into optimizing for smartphones, tablets and desktops:

1. Screen size. The iPhone 5S has a 4-inch screen, while the phablet Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is 5.7 inches. The popular iPad Mini is 768 x 1024 pixels, half the size of the regular iPad (3 and 4). Laptops and desktop screens are two to five times larger.

Implications: Increase font, button and image sizes on smartphone screens. It's not as much of an issue on larger tablets and desktops. On smaller screens, eliminate unnecessary content to let readers focus on the most important elements in the message.

2. Touchscreen. The touchscreen is the most obvious difference between smartphones/tablets and desktop devices. Email readers use their fingers, not a mouse, to navigate your emails and click to a website or mobile app.

Implications: Finger-friendly buttons, calls to action and white space between hyperlinks are must-haves. Also, design your email in sections or chunks so that when a reader scrolls through your email, each scroll stop lines up easily for a fat-finger click.

3. Subject line/Preheader text. The Gmail inbox on my iPhone 6S in portrait view shows about eight to 10 more characters on the subject line and in preheader text than the landscape view of my iPad Mini's inbox. But the Mini's landscape view previews the email itself next to the inbox.

Implications: In a tablet inbox, a user can preview the corresponding email to see the full subject line, preheader text and message. When designing with a responsive template, consider testing the desktop version for tablet users.

4. “Lean-in" versus “lean-back.” Smartphones and tablets are mobile devices, but we use them differently. We lean back when we sit back on the couch, second-screening with the TV, or when reading in bed or at the coffee shop. Long-form content consumption is easier: shopping, reading articles, watching videos and browsing sites.

“Lean-in" smartphone users often are standing around or in transit and coping with slower, less-reliable cell networks.

They spend money differently, too: A CreditCard.com survey of U.S. shoppers found only 6% said they made impulse purchases on their smartphones, compared with 13% on desktops and 81% in stores.

Implications: Emails must focus content and offer fewer CTAs to capture smartphone users' attention.

5. Purchase or conversion process. In the office on a desktop or at home on a tablet, consumers will register accounts and complete multi-step online purchase forms. Not so on the bus or idling at a stoplight with their smartphones.

Implications: Provide a friction-free checkout process that accepts alternative payment options like PayPal. Short cuts — pre-registration, wish lists and “email my cart” — encourage customers to start a purchase on one device and finish it on another.

6. Inbox triage. All users triage their email inboxes (scan, delete, unsubscribe, forward), but smartphone users spend less time and use inbox clues to make snappier judgments.

Implications: Clear sender names are vital. Frontload subject lines with key information. Use preheader text to supplement a truncated subject line.

7. Cross-device and cross-channel. Desktop sessions are usually self-contained, but smartphone sessions often continue on desktop or tablets. Users also might receive SMS or push notifications and access your content via your mobile app.

Implications: If you have a mobile app, have your email links open content in the app where appropriate. Make sure your site redirects to your mobile or responsive website. Use coordinated reminders and remarketing messages via SMS and push notifications based on behavior.

Until next time, take it up a notch.

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