Your Subscribers Are Mobilizing -- Is Your Email Program Ready?

Mobile adoption among businesses and consumers has skyrocketed over the past few years, and it's only going to continue to rise as smartphones deliver increasingly stellar experiences. Morgan Stanley Research predicts that smartphones will begin to outsell computers by next year, and 33% of consumers in the U.S. and U.K. already access email on their mobile devices. What does this mean for email design?

We were lucky enough to have a long talk with Rocky Thomas, an awesome designer who also happens to be an expert on email-mobile cross-channel integration. With mobile usage on the rise across subscriber demographics, the imperative for email marketers to keep up with the times continues to grow, and Rocky gave us the scoop on how we can create email campaigns worthy of on-the-go reading:

Email for Mobile Design: Three Solutions

While building email programs that can deliver a rich mobile email experience requires thought and hard work, the long-term rewards of allowing subscribers to connect with your brand anytime, anyplace will be well worth it. Here are three ways it can be done:    



1. Text-only versions. At the most basic level, text-only email versions ensure that your subscribers can access your messages when they want to. The experience isn't dazzling, and readability can sometimes be an issue, but this is a worthwhile first step if you haven't yet offered anything to mobile users.

2. HTML Light versions. HTML Light is a format that strips out most graphically rich elements, leaving just a masthead, sometimes a small hero element, and the email text. It can be thought of as a step between plain text and graphically rich email versions, and it can be linked to in the preheader.  

3. "Mobilized" email - where you want to be heading!  Designing your email campaigns to be mobile-friendly is the best way to stay on track with the direction email is headed. Rather than "minimizing" your mobile subscribers' email experience, make intentional choices to "mobilize" it. Here's how:

  •        Optimize your email and landing page widths to be more mobile-friendly.While the newest smartphones can zoom out on wider emails to give users an overview, mobile-friendly widths have been shown to increase a user's interaction and click through rate. Held in vertical orientation, most smartphones have screens between 320 and 480 pixels wide, so aim to keep all your mobile-relevant emails narrow. Think of 640 pixels as a maximum width. At 640 pixels, an email can be seen on a mobile device zoomed out 25%-50%, so a subscriber can get a somewhat legible look at it. 


  • Watch your weight. Mobile Internet speeds are slower than desktop connections, so try to keep your emails light. Some mobile email clients will require an additional button press to download the rest of the email when file weight is too big. The optimal email weight for mobile is 20kb or less, and while that may not be a realistic goal for most marketers, the more you can slim down the file weight, the better.  

  • Increase the size and padding of text link and button CTAs. When pressed against a screen, a finger covers 45 pixels. During a light precise tap, it can target a 30 pixel area accurately, but most mobile email readers are on the go as they read - they aren't always going for precision. Make sure that your CTAs are padded at least 10-15 pixels to avoid frustrating tap errors- your subscribers who are checking email as they walk down the street or step onto a bus will be grateful for the wiggle room. Also, remember that for touch screen users, there is no hover-state for links; if they touch, they click.


  • Cut copy lengths in subject lines, email and landing pages.Avoid using long subject lines, which will push the email even farther down an already-small mobile screen. Keep email and landing page copy brief; save the more expansive details for another page, deeper on your site. Mobile users who need to get the full scoop will visit when they get back to a computer screen.


  •  Promote your mobile app. If you have a mobile app, send an email encouraging mobile users to download it right away. Don't have a mobile app yet?  This is probably a good time to get kicking on it.


  •  Don't stop at the inbox.Mobilized emails need mobilized landing pages...and the more mobile-friendly your website is, the more likely subscribers are to click through again. 


  • Remove Flash landing pages.Replace them with HTML5, CSS3 or Javascript. iPhone and iPod Touch, which still represent the largest portion of mobile web traffic, don't support Flash yet, and neither does the still-prevalent BlackBerry. (Flash is supported for webpages on Android.)  

    Ready to dive into email campaign mobilization? It might be good to find out more about your subscribers' habits first. Survey them to find out what they use to read their email, or check with your ESP to see if you can get a breakdown. The more you know about your subscribers' needs, the better you'll be able to respond to them.           

    As you peruse the guidelines above, keep in mind that the move toward mobile doesn't have to signal the death of feature-rich emails (at least not yet). Creating mobilized email versions is really a balancing act, where your longer message should be comfortably consumable on a small screen if a user wants to see them while out and about...and possibly even hop into the store right after reading. Longer messages can be saved for when subscribers get home. That said, mobile users will remember which brands consistently deliver solid experiences... and that's a list your brand wants to be on.

  • 1 comment about "Your Subscribers Are Mobilizing -- Is Your Email Program Ready? ".
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    1. Andrew Koven from Steve Madden, February 15, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.

      Good and timely read - thanks for posting.


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