Mobile-Targeted Design: Next Step After Mobile-Friendly

On the sliding scale of mobile-friendliness, most brands are just getting a firm grasp on mobile-optimized email design. As much talk as there is about responsive design, adoption is relatively low in most industries (although next year will be an entirely different story). But as brands plot their jump from mobile-optimized to responsive design, they should keep in mind the next notch in the scale beyond that: mobile-targeted design.

Being mobile-targeted means your email content not only looks different on mobile devices than it does on desktops, the content itself is different.

Some brands have matched the message to the viewing platform in the past, but only using one-off, single-version emails, most notably those promoting a brand’s mobile app. For instance, Dell sent a Nov. 10, 2011 email that was skinny -- 320-pixels wide -- had no navigation bar, was composed with big text and included a big call-to-action button to get its app. Similarly, in a Mar. 22, 2012 email, Walgreens used a 480-pixel-wide design with well-spaced buttons to promote its mobile app. In both cases, the retailers reverted to their usual desktop-friendly email templates after sending these particular emails.



What’s different now is that brands aren’t limited to sending a single email design. Media queries, live content and other responsive design techniques allow a brand to send two (or more) versions, which can be different -- potentially radically different -- from each other.

There’s already evidence of brands doing this. For instance, an Apr. 12 email from Tom’s Shoes used responsive design to create email versions that were friendly for both narrow-screen and wide-screen viewing. However, there was a noticeable content difference between the two versions: The smartphone-friendly version used an animated gif for the hero image, while the desktop-friendly version used a static image.

The reasons for the difference were probably pragmatic. While support for animated gifs is very good across platforms, it’s even better on mobile email clients. Plus, including a large animated gif for the desktop version would have slowed load times. But regardless of the reason, desktop and mobile readers had slightly different experiences.

A June 27 email from AT&T used responsive design to provide a more intentionally different experience for desktop and smartphone readers. Besides rejiggering the content into a nice single column for mobile readers, AT&T changed the calls-to-action to “Tap to learn more” and “Tap to call” buttons from the desktop version’s “Learn more” button and “call 855.894.3650” text.

That’s just a glimmer of what mobile-targeted design will look like in the years ahead. For example, mobile readers of a retailer’s email may get an in-store coupon, while desktop and tablet readers get an online coupon. Mobile readers could see a mobile app update or download as their primary call-to-action, while desktop readers see it as a secondary or not at all. Marry up mobile-targeted design with data on past interactions, time of day information, and geo-location, and messaging could get very sophisticated.

How would you use mobile-targeted design?

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