I can almost guarantee, depending on sector and other broadcast factors, that right now anywhere between 10% and 30% of email subscribers are opening their messages on mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Androids.

This stat alone should prompt marketers into thinking about making sure their emails are displaying correctly and effectively on smaller screen sizes.

Fortunately, this is where mobile optimisation and responsive design come in.

First, here are some relevant stats to take into account:

Consumers are viewing email campaigns on their phones right now

  • Since the end of Feb 2012 over 50% of all mobile phone usage in the UK was carried out on smartphones.
  • With smartphone users now estimated to account for half of the UK population, there are potentially over 26m mobile email users.
  • 84% of those users are on the mobile web, browsing and checking email on a regular basis
  • Out of these, 40% are using their mobile for email almost every day

Users are not viewing email on multiple devices

  • Recent reports show that users tend to view emails on one device. This means, in general, marketers have one opportunity to grab the user's attention and get them to click through or save for later

Mobile usage is only increasing 

Before doing anything else brands should be testing their user base to determine mobile open rates. This is generally a feature provided by ESPs or can be purchased on an adhoc basis from email analytics providers like Litmus.

What do I mean by "Mobile Optimisation"?

One phrase that is doing the rounds in the context of website development is "Responsive Design".

Essentially this is a technique used to control the way content is displayed based on the size of the screen that displays it. For example, you could have a newsletter that currently sits at a nice 600px width and has been designed to look good on a desktop PC.

What happens when that same design is compressed to fit on a small hand held device such as a mobile phone or tablet?

In most cases the following issues will arise:

  • The images are too big.
  • I have too much copy.
  • I cannot click on my CTAs easily.
  • I have to zoom in and out to see content clearly.
  • Suddenly I need to scroll horizontally as well as vertically.

Responsive design for email can help solve these problems and improve the user experience on smaller screens by dynamically:

  • Hiding content.
  • Changing font styling such as emphasis, size and colour.
  • Setting the zoom level to perfectly fill the entire width thus removing horizontal scrolling.
  • Subtly changing content flow to support a single column layout.

What I love about responsive design is that it enables us to create one version of an email for both mobile and desktop. This means we only need to create and setup one template, test it once and input the content once.

As responsive design works on screen size and not on a per device basis there’s no need to create individual versions for iPhone, Android and Blackberry etc. All of this helps save time and money in implementation costs.

Finally, as an example of what mobile optimisation can look like, here’s one of Nissan GB's emails:

Nissan image

Within this you can see that the width of the email has reduced to fit a mobile screen, certain unrequired content has been hidden to free up space and that copy has shifted to a single column layout.

Ryan Hickling

Published 25 June, 2012 by Ryan Hickling

Ryan Hickling is Head of Email at Tullo Marshall Warren and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

1 more post from this author

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Comments (4)



Great article, thanks. Interesting stuff, and a huge frustration as a consumer and professionally, would be interested to hear from anyone with examples of performance differences between optimisied/non-optimised emails...equally, would be good to see how interactions on mobiles contribute to conversions through other topuchpoints.

about 6 years ago


Pete Austin

I would hate to get the second example on my iPad; it's too long and thin.

But I like how there's less lawyer-speak at the bottom. If it's not necessary there, WTF is it doing at the bottom of the other version?

about 6 years ago

Ryan Hickling

Ryan Hickling, Head of Email at Tullo Marshall Warren

Thank you for the comment Gav hope the post is useful.

Pete, with responsive design you could even go as far as creating a tablet specific version. I'd suggest tracking how many iPad opens you have vs iPhone and Android. You'll then be able to decide if it's worth the investment.

Generally I find defaulting back to the desktop version for anything wider than 480px (most tablets) works quite well.

about 6 years ago

Elliot Ross

Elliot Ross, Email marketing design at actionrocket.co

Good article - good too see clients having success with mobile focused emails.

Gav - I don't have any share-able stats but anecdotally we've seen better conversions from optimised emails

Pete - Re: iPads - you *could* use responsive design to add an extra layer of optimisation for tablets (eg. buttons big enough to touch etc) however as desktop emails are usually 600-700 px wide they tend to display ok on iPads anyway.

I think the one thing to mention with responsive design is that the CSS behind the cool stuff isn't supported in Android's Gmail app, or older phones (or prehistoric ones like Blackberries) - the best approach we've found is to design a desktop email that also works ok when viewed on mobile, then use responsive/CSS to add in an extra layer of optimisation where it's supported (iPhone, Android, W7 etc)

about 6 years ago

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