Mobile email is big, and getting bigger. By 2015, more US internet users will access the web through mobile devices than through PCs. 

The mobile email numbers are even more indicative of a seismic shift in web behavior. comScore found that while web-based email declined significantly throughout 2010, mobile email surged 36% from the prior year.

As consumers are increasingly browsing, shopping, and interacting with brands on the go, mobile commerce presents a powerful opportunity.

Mobile consumers typically represent a desirable demographic for retailers and brands, as they have the latest technology, a pricey data plan, and can be more likely to spend a lot of money.

However, any new opportunity brings its own set of challenges. Mobile users have specific needs and biases that you have to consider in your email marketing.

Tiny text, graphics that won’t load, convoluted layouts that require mobile users to scroll left, down, up, and right… any of these problems can quickly derail your attempt to reach mobile users.

After helping a diverse group of brands boost their mobile presence, we’ve seen firsthand what works and doesn’t work when it comes to the mobile web. Here are some ways you can improve the success of your email campaigns in an increasingly mobile world:

1. Subject and sender name matter

Too often marketing teams labour over each word in the body of the email, only to leave the subject and sender fields as afterthoughts. Each element of the email is a small conversion opportunity!

Desktop and web-based email may treat the three elements of an email message (body, sender, subject) with equal weight, but not so in the mobile world. iPhones show the sender name most prominently, while most Android devices focus on the subject. In both cases, there is little to no preview pane to see the message body.

Consequently, you’ve got to use a recognisable name or brand in the From field. And use your subject line as effectively as possible. Keeping it under 30 characters (including spaces) is best and phrase your subject as a promise of what can be found when the recipient opens the email.

2. Simple beats pretty

As marketers, we want to make things pretty. And in email marketing, that usually means HTML email. But this practice will fall flat in many situations on mobile devices.

With limits and caps on mobile data plans, many users choose not to download images as a default setting or as a selection in each email. Graphics often can fail to load, leaving the recipient with an incomplete message or a hole in their email message.

Furthermore, graphics at the top of an email push the message out of sight, making it tough for people to get the point of your message, providing they can see your graphic in the first place. Standards are evolving in mobile email software but not settled yet in any comfortable, normalised way.

So consider sending plain text emails. In particular, consider plain text emails for system messages, such as account activations, password retrievals, alerts, or anything else that you need to be sure gets into people’s hands.

3. Be brief

Short wins. On mobile devices, displays are small so each line is precious real estate. Get your message as high up in the email as possible even if it means forgoing fancy graphics.

The same goes for sentences and paragraphs. Keep them short, crisp and active. The job of nearly every sentence in your email is to get the recipient to read the following sentence. So get out of their way with all the words.

4. Early birds catch worms

Email is often checked first thing in the morning, usually from a mobile device. I, for one, am guilty of responding to emails while still in bed. Sending your emails overnight or early in the morning can help you reach your audience before the day has started and they’re hit with countless distractions.

Emails are also often accessed on mobile while recipients are commuting, though hopefully not while driving. So take into account actions of the distracted commuter with a few minutes to kill: make it easy for people to follow up, forward emails on to themselves and others and save them for later.

5. Create a sense of urgency

Email often brings exclusive and time-sensitive promotions. We’ve found that mobile shoppers are typically focused on purchasing or researching a specific item. If something is on sale and limited in quantity, mobile consumers will want to take advantage and will want to share the opportunity with others.

6. Optimise the site behind the email.

At the heart of most email campaigns is a desire to drive some kind of user action: buy, register, request more information, etc.

When your email succeeds and the recipient clicks through with their mobile device, what do they find on your website? How easy is it for them to take those critical next steps while still on a mobile device?

As a marketer, you know you worked hard to get that first click. Now there’s no reason to lose the conversion on the second click by requiring the recipient to revisit your email at a later time from their computer because your website is not mobile optimised.

As data shows the rapid increase in mobile browsing and 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.

Igor Faletski

Published 24 November, 2011 by Igor Faletski

Igor Faletski is CEO of Mobify and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (2)


Bridie Pritchard, Senior Editor at Sticky Content

Don't forget that as well as being brief, you also need to make sure you use the right words, that encourage the user to take the next step, but also convey the brand tone of voice.

When you are in a situation of very few words those words really matter. Make them count.

over 6 years ago


Craig Sullivan


You should always test your emails with a system like Lyris, Returnpath or Litmus - they all offer ways of 'seeing' how your mobile email will render.

Litmus has been particularly handy for us on a recent project, to get the experience tuned right across multiple 'email viewing' platforms.

over 6 years ago

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