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Mobile raises a number of challenges for email marketers. 

They have to consider the usability for people who click on links within the email, the clarity for readers who are prioritising their messages, and the fact that you never truly know when a recipient will use mobile.

But it’s too big an opportunity to simply ignore it. Research shows that around 15% to 20% of email is opened on a mobile device, and 41% of European smartphone owners would either close or delete an email not optimised for mobile.

To see whether brands are responding to this trend, dotMailer reviewed the emails of 19 retailers including M&S, Tesco, Homebase, Amazon and ASOS.

It evaluated various design, usability and technical criteria on emails opened on iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices. 

Top-level findings

The average score across all 19 email programs was 53%, which seems to be quite low.

Apple’s operating system appears to be the easiest for marketers to get to grips with, as iPhone emails scored above 64% across all criteria.

In general, the report found that brands have also cracked rendering, readability and clickability on Android, but are struggling across the board on Blackberry.

This will be worrying for RIM, as one of Blackberry’s main selling points is its email function.

Rendering

Nearly all 19 of the mobile emails rendered correctly on iPhone, giving it a score of 94%.

Android wasn’t far behind (89%), but Blackberry scored just 31%. Ironically, the only email to render effectively on Blackberry came from Apple.

Common issues identified included images not displaying properly, incorrect alignment of elements and text or images overlapping.

Is it easy to read?

Travel firm Thomson scored top marks for readability on all platforms, particularly on Android. However, common issues included messages either being too large or the text being too small.

iPhone was again the top performer in this category (81%), followed by Android (64%) and Blackberry (41%).

Zooming and scrolling

While iPhone scored well in this category, with half of the retailers getting full marks, Android and Blackberry scored just 17% and 5% respectively.

Only the sender details and headline were typically visible on Blackberry and templates designed for PCs did not render ‘gracefully’ on either device.

Limiting the amount of scrolling and zooming is important when designing a mobile email, as users don’t have much patience.

Brands need to identify who they think will be reading their emails and on what device, and write concise copy to limit the need for scrolling.

Calls-to-action

Buttons on mobile emails, as with other mobile calls to action, need to be large and obvious so users can easily click on them.

DotMailer’s report shows that brands commonly use CTAs that fall below the fold, are not finger-friendly, or use images that don’t work on Blackberry.

Even so, this is one of the areas where Blackberry achieved a respectable score (63%), and Android (91%) scored higher than iPhone (78%).

Get the landing page right

A common issue with mobile email is that brands link users to desktops sites. Brands are also guilty of the same mistake in mobile search.

The report found that ASOS regularly has clear and easy to read landing pages, but more often than not brands linked to non-mobile optimised sites that that took a long time to load.

Conclusion

Marketers seem to be getting to grips with mobile email for Android and iPhone, but Blackberry is still proving to be a difficult operating system.

As the two most common operating systems there is probably a business case for focusing on Android and iOS, but there are still millions of people reading email on Blackberry so the opportunity for sales should be too big to ignore.

To find out how brands can ensure a good user experience, we recently asked several industry experts about mobile email best practice, and blogged six tips for building a campaign that works.

These are:

  1. Subject and sender name matter. Space is tight, so use a recognisable name or brand in the ‘From’ field. Keep the subject line under 30 characters and phrase it as a promise of what can be found when the recipient opens the email.
  2. Simple beats pretty. Graphics often don’t work on mobile email or take up too much space, so consider sending plain text emails. 
  3. Be brief. Keep copy short, crisp and active, and get your message as high up in the email as possible even if it means forgoing fancy graphics.
  4. Early birds catch worms. Mobile email is often checked early in the morning, so send your emails overnight or first thing.
  5. Create a sense of urgency. If you’re selling something, tell them time is running out and quantity is low.
  6. Optimise the site behind the email. Brands should expect their emails to be opened more frequently on mobile devices. Taking the right steps to make your emails and website mobile friendly will ensure success with this vital touch point.
David Moth

Published 17 July, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1684 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Grant Sidwell, Experian CheetahMail

This article raises some interesting points, particularly around the statistics showing that Blackberry seems to be struggling when compared to other platforms such as Android and iOS. However, given the handset’s continued popularity, email marketers should not give up the Blackberry platform.

Solutions exist that allow brands to cater for and deliver rich brand experiences across mobile devices, including Blackberry. While mobile platforms require additional resources, it is easier than most clients realise, and numbers concerning the prevalence of the mobile as a means of communication speak for themselves, further stressing the importance of the device.

about 4 years ago

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Chuck Blake

David, great article! I was interested to learn that Blackberry's platform isn't being embraced by email marketers more. It would be interesting to see how these results change for B2B marketers vs. retailers.

about 4 years ago

Seema Kumari

Seema Kumari, Head of Digital Marketing at Hearst Magazines

Great post David! Not sure I entirely agree with the early bird tip. As a consumer, the emails i receive early morning are the ones i delete and it’s the one i receive in the evening i actually read!

about 4 years ago

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