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The latest tips for mobile-friendly email

The latest tips for mobile-friendly email Michael Estrin
Sponsored editorial: This article is part of a series, sponsored by Silverpop, that takes a look at the latest developments in the email marketing landscape, including new social and mobile integration opportunities.

If you haven't adapted your email marketing to the mobile revolution, you may be in serious trouble. The U.S. mobile email market grew by 20 million users in the last year alone, according to data from comScore, which put the total audience at just under 90 million. More importantly, data from the same three-month comScore study show that a majority (64 percent) of the growing number of U.S. smartphone users check email via mobile almost every day.

When you take into account that mobile email open rates are approaching 40 percent while desktop open rates have been struggling, it's clear that email marketers need to get into the mobile mindset or risk losing their coveted place in the consumer's inbox.

Here are some tips to help you take your email into the mobile future.

It's a small screen after all

Emails designed for the desktop are often too wide for mobile screens. And while the average size of a mobile screen is increasing, experts say it's best to craft mobile emails that are no wider than 600 pixels. Anything wider and you risk making your message hard to read on some devices because a message viewed on a smartphone often scales down to half the size it would be on a desktop.  

While it may take a little more coding work, the best advice for optimizing for the small screen is to employ responsive design, which will keep users from having to "pinch" and "zoom" your message so that they can read it on their screen.

Short, sweet subject lines

With less space on the mobile screen, subject lines are shrinking. If you go too long, you run the risk of having your subject line cut off mid-sentence. But it's not enough to keep it short. You also need to make sure that the subject flows seamlessly into the...


Mobile devices give users a sneak preview of the email's body copy just below the subject line. That preview is referred to as the pre-header, and the more inviting it is, the better because that text can often drive the consumer to open the email. In addition to coming up with something eye-catching, some experts say that you may also want to include a link to a plain-text version of the email because some phones may not support HTML.

Test on multiple devices

To some extent, email has always been about testing for different environments. But mobile provides a new wrinkle. In addition to testing on multiple email clients (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.), it's also important to test on multiple devices. But don't just prioritize that testing based on the overall smartphone market. Because while it's true that Apple and Android dominate the market, the fact of the matter is that you need to know which phones are most common among your users.

Do your users have the bandwidth?

Although the number of mobile broadband subscribers is projected to reach 295 million in the U.S. and Canada by 2014, smartphone users know that not all cellular networks are created equally. So while it may be tempting to include graphic-heavy emails, it's important for marketers to remember that right now there's no guarantee that the consumer will have enough bandwidth to download a bulky email. By the same token, some consumers may always be wary of bulky emails as some carriers balk at all-you-can-eat data plans. So when it comes to mobile emails, it's important for marketers to think lite.

Know when your audience is reading

Traditionally, email marketing has been about reaching the consumer when they're likely to be on their computer. The same is true for mobile, but some data suggest that the evening hours -- when people are more likely to be using their mobile devices on the couch or in bed -- may be a more effective time, particularly for retail marketers.

App the landing

Landing pages have always been essential to a good email marketing campaign. But when a consumer clicks on a link from their mobile device, marketers have two choices -- direct them to an internet landing page or send the consumer to a branded app. Increasingly, many marketers are turning to branded apps for landing pages because they provide a better experience and make it easier for users to enter information into forms specifically designed for mobile.

Looks matter

Whether you opt for pictures, a background color, or a long, skinny column of text, mobile has brought email aesthetics to the next level. Recent research shows that 70 percent of consumers delete a bad-looking mobile email and 18 percent unsubscribe.

Keep it short

There's no hard and fast rule about how short your email message should be. But as we get more email and check that email via mobile, there are some who say anything longer than 50 words is too much. That might be overkill, but there's certainly no arguing that digital has forced us all to say it quick and say it well if we want to be heard.

Michael Estrin is a freelance writer.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Girl with phone" image via Shutterstock.

Michael Estrin is freelance writer. He contributes regularly to iMedia, Bankrate.com, and California Lawyer Magazine. But you can also find his byline across the Web (and sometimes in print) at Digiday, Fast...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Andy Cheng

2013, April 29

@Tim Brown,

I agree with you 100%! Our emails clients are so far behind the technology (I'm looking at you Outlook/Notes/Entourage) that they barely display HTML email correctly, let along responsive design. The best way is to keep the email message clean and simple, large call-to-action button, make sure the email isn't image based, and include a link to view an online version.

Commenter: Tim Brown

2013, April 29

There is no such thing as responsive email design. Email programs are years behind the level of sophistication required to make this work in any email reader. Optimize for mobile is the only way to go right now.