With consumer adoption of smartphones continuing to grow at an unprecedented speed, by now most email marketers will agree that optimizing campaigns for mobile devices is a key priority. But what is the best way to do this? Here are pros and cons of the emerging approaches to mobile email optimization: prefab content, responsive design, and live content.
Option 1: Prefab Email Content
Prefab email content relies on reporting from email tracking vendors to ascertain recipients’ device usage. If the reporting shows that a user opened a marketer’s last email on an iPhone, the marketer will send that user iPhone-optimized content in subsequent sends. Likewise, if the last email was opened on a desktop, future messages will be tailored for desktop viewing.
Pros: Marketers can send users content designed for specific devices. Setting up tracking is easy, and usually involves adding an invisible pixel to email templates prior to sending.
Cons: Pre-send content selection doesn’t take into account the phenomenon of “email triage,” where consumers interact with messages across multiple devices and screen sizes. There is always the possibility that a person who opened a marketer’s last email on an iPhone will open its next email on a desktop, and vise versa – with the result being that, inevitably, some recipients will end up receiving device-inappropriate emails.
Option 2: Responsive Email Design
There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about applying responsive design techniques to email. By coding media queries into email templates, marketers’ emails can be designed to dynamically adapt to fit the screen sizes of recipient devices upon open. A common example is that emails originally designed with a two-column layout for desktops can be set to display in one column, with one above the other, when viewed on a handheld.
Pros: Marketers can create a single email template, and have it optimally render in real-time across a variety of screen sizes.
Cons: The effort required to code an email for responsive design can be intensive, and support for media queries is spotty -- many marketers complain of breakage when their designs are viewed in unsupported email clients and web browsers. Lastly, responsive design only takes into account a recipient’s screen size, and isn’t able to adapt to the contextual and experiential differences between desktop and mobile email usage.
Option 3: Live Email Content
With the newest approach to mobile email optimization -- live content -- marketers can create device-specific versions of email templates and render them on the fly based on which devices recipients are using when they open email. Images and links within templates become highly dynamic, and can automatically redirect to launch installed mobile apps instead of opening web browsers.
Pros: Using live content decisioning technology means that marketers don’t need to worry about sending smartphone-specific content to desktops, and vice versa. Email triage is fully accounted for, and recipients always receive the right content for their devices – content that is optimally designed for mobile screen size, context, and experience.
Cons: Some marketers might not have the resources or bandwidth to create device-specific content or designs.
Prefab design is currently the most widely used tactic, but it completely misses the mark when it comes to today’s platform-shuffling consumers, and has quickly been rendered archaic by more advanced, real-time technologies.
Responsive design is a great leap forward from pre-send design, but the amount of time and resources required to code templates combined with inconsistent receiver-side support for media queries makes the tactic suboptimal.
Live content is the most elegant and effective approach, as long as marketers have the ability to create different content for different devices, and are concerned with creating the most engaging multiplatform email experiences for recipients.
Regardless of what you decide for your own email program, one thing is certain: Consumers are going mobile, and if you want to remain relevant across all of their inboxes, you have no choice but to evolve with them. Go mobile, or go home.