The increasing number of users accessing their email on smartphones and other mobile devices is changing the game, making it imperative for email marketers to target mobile devices and master new techniques to achieve the best results.
Here are seven tips to help you succeed in your email marketing efforts targeted at a mobile audience:
1) Gather Intelligence. Knowing how many users are accessing your email on mobile devices, and on which devices, is important for formulating your mobile strategy. Tools like Google Analytics, Omniture, and WebTrends can help you obtain mobile user, device, and activity information. PercentMobile is a tool that can tell you how many smartphone users are reading your mobile emails and the percentage of touchscreen users. Tools like Litmus, MailboxIQ, and CampaignCog enable you to gauge how many people open your email on a mobile device and which email client they are using. There also are a number of tools that enable you to preview your emails on mobile devices. Mark Brownlow provides a good list of these on smartinsights.com.
2) Create Mobile-Specific Designs. Email designed for mobile devices is a different animal than email designed for PCs, which is why stylecampaign.com advises you to “design for mobile first, rather than trying to squeeze your desktop creative onto the small screen.” On the smaller screens of mobile devices, real estate is scarce, navigation differs, and users have different habits.
As Ed Melly notes, “Email is already an impulsive medium that benefits greatly from brevity and relevance; mobile just amplifies that fact.” In designing for mobile devices, experts advise using larger images and buttons, plenty of spacing, and less text. They also stress that your email should support the latest CSS standards and render in Outlook and the leading mobile clients, such as iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and webOS.
A common technique is to allow users to select a mobile version of an email via a link, however some marketers believe this approach demands more clicks, is unattractive, and limits the number of click-throughs.
3) Design for Touch. The latest generation of smart phones use touch navigation, which requires design techniques that differ from mouse navigation. As Becs on emailfail advises, it is good practice to give each link “breathing space” around it so users will not have difficulty selecting the correct link.
Stylecampaign, in a thorough two-part tutorial, also notes that many versions of mobile emails are not designed for touch, pointing out that, “Fonts are tiny and the lack of spacing makes it impossible to avoid a mishap.”
4) Use Media Queries. Media queries, which are part of the CSS 3 style sheet specification, allow you to set parameters that cause the presentation of your content to adjust to the mobile device without the content itself changing. For example, media queries allow you to specify how content will be presented at a particular height or width. A query also can detect whether a phone is in landscape or portrait mode and present content accordingly. As David Powers notes, “Media queries are an excellent way to deliver different styles to different devices, providing the best experience for each type of user.”
5) Optimize Linked Elements for Mobile Access. A user’s experience will be undermined if the elements to which you provide links (website, coupons, landing pages, calls to action, etc.) render poorly on the user’s mobile device. As Anne Thomas notes, nearly three-quarters of smart phone owners access emails and link to content via their devices, and many of them like to shop using their smart phones. Thomas cites Google stats that show that four out of five websites are not optimized for mobile consumption, and the bounce rates of such sites are typically more than 80%.
Likewise, campaigner.com reports that follow-through rates to websites or landing pages from mobile email still lags behind desktops “because many companies still don’t have a strategy in place for mobile email.”
6) Make It Past the Triage Filter. As is typical of many mobile users, Wendy Griffin describes how she performs a triage of her emails, deciding quickly whether an email is deleted or makes it through for a read on her laptop. “So making a good first impression is crucial,” she says.
The three key elements to get your email through this process, according to Jordie van Rijn, are the sender name, subject line, and pre-header, which, he explains, offers extra space for capturing attention. He cites a BlueHornet study that shows that if your email does not display correctly on a user’s mobile device, 69.7% of the recipients will delete it immediately.
To make your emails more engaging, Insidecampaigner advises injecting some fun and entertainment, such as amusing pictures, in-text comedy, funny blurbs, self-deprecating humor, and sarcastic comments on current events.
7) Keep Current. Mobile marketing is a fast-changing field that is rapidly evolving. New tools and techniques continue to be introduced, and the rendering capability of smart phones continues to improve. As Anna Yeaman relates, “I was recently chatting with a mobile UI designer, and we both agreed we’re all winging it. It’s such a new and changeable field, mobile design strategies from 6 months ago may not apply today.”