Mobile-First Marketing, for Email
Email marketing is a highly-effective, tried-and-true tactic for building and maintaining relationships between brands and consumers. No other tool allows brand marketers to so quickly and economically deliver valuable, interactive, and personalized content at scale. But why optimize email for mobile? What’s the big deal?
Well, for a start, Litmus.com reports that over half of all emails last year were opened on a mobile device, and all indications are that this rising trend will continue. Unlike your desktop audience, your mobile email audience may be pressed for time, multitasking, or otherwise distracted. It’s critical that your email is properly thought-out -- both in terms of layout and content -- to ensure a positive mobile experience.
But don’t think of mobile-optimized email as a limitation. Sure, there’s less screen real-estate to play with, but the capabilities for engagement and interactivity are unlike anything you can achieve with desktop-only newsletters or marketing emails. You just have to bring a mobile-first mindset into play.
Here is an overview of each part of a mobile-optimized email message, including tips that will help drive the desired behavior from your mobile customers:
1. Engaging Mobile Content. It's easy to think of email as a static, one-sided marketing channel. Text & images, and nothing more. But that's old-fashioned thinking. As with all things digital, make sure you don't overlook email's potential as a vector for publishing engaging and interactive experiences to the consumer. You don't need to drive an app download to give your users something fun to do, either. Thanks to HTML5, lightweight mobile-optimized content elements like games, quizzes, interactive recipes, video galleries, and more can be easily plugged into any email blast.
In addition to driving higher engagement from your mobile audience, these integrated experiences give you additional events to track per user -- and thus more powerful segmentation criteria for future marketing touches.
2. Sender Name. The first thing people notice when a new message arrives is who it’s from. It’s such a simple piece of the process, many brands overlook the sender name as a consideration when A/B testing email performance. Does your audience prefer something playful or professional? Would they rather open emails from an entity (i.e. “The FunMobility Team”) or a person (i.e. “John Smith”)?
As with every marketing discipline, it all comes down to testing, optimizing, and personalizing your approach. Test a few different options with different sample segments, and then scale up based on who’s responding to what.
3. Subject Line. The second thing a person sees is the subject line. Most mobile devices can only fit 25-30 characters in the subject line, so keep it succinct. In fact, a recent study by MailChimp found that short, descriptive subject lines tended to have the highest open rates. There’s a lot of theories about what the tone of a good marketing subject line should be; it’s always a good idea to experiment and learn what works best with your type of customers.
If you want to engage mobile users, remember to fashion subject lines designed to grab attention in the “mobile mindset.” In other words, what is going to interest your customer when they are out and about, checking their phones in brief, goal-oriented sessions? The subject line should convey that the content within is easily digestible (“snackable”) and provides instant value to the reader.
4. Preheader Text. The third thing a person sees is the preheader. This is the text following the subject line when an email is previewed. Often undervalued by marketers, the preheader has a tremendous influence on the open rate. Typically, mobile devices will show 100-150 characters in the preheader, depending on the length of the subject line; the longer the subject line, the less room there is for preheader text.
A strong preheader should include a call-to-action, a brief summary of the email, and a link to a landing page. It’s wise to put the call-to-action first because, if the user’s screen can only show a piece of the preheader, you want to be sure they see what’s most important. Avoid wasting valuable space with boring, irrelevant preheaders, such as “to view this email in a browser, click here.”
5. The Meat and Potatoes. The subscriber opened your message, now quickly get to the point and be clear about what you’d like them to do. Want them to visit your website? Buy now? Sign up for an event? Enter a contest? Say so, with minimal text and mobile-friendly imagery.
Make the process of converting as effortless as possible: your call-to-action should be prominent and low-friction. Place buttons/links near the top of the message, avoid drop-down menus that can be difficult to use, and make sure your content is zoom-free. All text should be large enough and well-contrasted over the background to be read at a glance.
Remember, mobile users aren’t necessarily reading your email in optimal conditions – they might be outside in direct sun, with glare on the screen. Creative should be easy to view in any context.
6. Images. A picture is worth a thousand words, but if the image doesn’t load properly or lags, it could jeopardize your whole message. Use white space around calls-to-action, buttons and links to draw attention and make them easier to tap and interact with.
And remember: some devices do not load email images at all, making the message appear jumbled if you don’t take precautions. Be sure to include Alt Text (image descriptions), so if an image isn’t displaying, users can read the description of what’s supposed to be there, instead of seeing a blank, floating box.
7. The Unsubscribe. Don’t be afraid of letting people unsubscribe! Everybody wants a big database to reach out to, but the goal isn’t to maximize sends, it’s to maximize conversions. If someone doesn’t wish to receive your content, don’t continue poking them and risk being marked as spam.
If enough users report spam, then email providers may begin automatically filtering all of your messages directly to junk boxes. That’s bad news for everyone, marketers and customers alike.
Make it easy to opt-out; include clear unsubscribe buttons in your message, and then don’t make people jump through hoops with a lengthy questionnaire. If they want to unsubscribe, let them. Limit the process to a few clicks. If anything, just consider asking if they’d like to reduce the frequency or type of emails they receive, instead of opting out completely.