If your marketing email engagement rates are down, it might be time to take a look at the format. Here are some useful tips for mobile-friendly emails.
Okay, we’re going to throw some statistics at you—but only three, and they’re useful:
- 81% of U.S. adults own a smartphone.
- 52% of U.S. adults own a tablet computer.
- 46% of email is opened on a mobile device.
- 35% of business professionals check their email on a mobile device (sorry; we had to sneak this one in because it’s so relevant).
It’s a safe bet that if your customers and prospects are U.S.-based adults, they’ll follow a similar pattern. So, it’s an equally safe bet that hard-to-read emails will end up in their smartphone or tablet’s trash at light speed.
With so many people using mobile devices to check email, it’s essential to create responsive emails that can be read across any device using responsive email design techniques. While the nuts and bolts of email design are outside the scope of this article, we do have a few important tips to keep in mind as you work with your web developer and designer to create a responsive email template.
Keep your subject lines short and snappy.
This is actually a good idea for any email, but it’s especially important with mobile: while a desktop computer can display up to 60 characters of a subject line, a mobile phone will show just 25-30 characters of your subject. To help you visualize the difference (and yes, we know using “w/” for “with” isn’t good practice, but work with us here for demonstration purposes):
- This is 60 characters w/spaces, which isn’t much room, but…
- THIS is 30 characters w/spaces
Yikes. As you can see, space is at a premium. But you’re not doomed to limit your subject lines to, “Hi! This is our great product!” Go ahead and craft your subject line as you normally would, but be sure to position the most important phrase at the front end, within those first 30 characters, so everyone gets a chance to see the good stuff.
Take advantage of your “second subject line,” aka your preview text.
Speaking of good, preview text is a great opportunity to give the recipient at-a-glance information about the contents of the email, as you can see in the inbox shown below. Preview text is usually the first line of your e-mail, displayed under the “From” name and subject line in your email inbox—another reason for positioning your most important information at the beginning of an email. Work with your developer to be sure you make use of this neat little piece of real estate.
Make your emails as visually pleasing as possible.
When you’re reading on a screen as small as four and a half inches, readability is everything. A subscriber shouldn’t have to squint, pinch, spread or tap to read your emails. Here are four pointers for giving your subscribers a more pleasant reading experience:
- Emails under 600 pixels wide translate well to any size computer screen.
- Large font sizes make for easier reading; 14pt minimum for the body text and 22pt for headlines is a good starting size. Keep in mind, too, that not all fonts are supported on mobile devices. That beautiful custom font you paid a fortune for may show up as Courier, Arial or other, more common fonts on a phone.
- Contrasting colors—dark text on a white or light background, or the opposite—make your email easier to read, since people may read your emails outdoors in the sunshine, or in dim light at bedtime.
- Use your white space, increase spacing between lines and use bullets for an airier appearance and a more scannable email. Think of how you read emails yourself—do you pore over every word? We don’t, either. We skim to see if we’re interested, then click if we are.
Don’t overload your emails with graphics.
Three or fewer images are a good balance. Not only can it be distracting to scroll past a dozen images in a single email, some mobile platforms have an “images off” default, so all your recipient will see is stretches of white space where the graphics would be—which is why it’s generally not the best idea to make your call to action (CTA) an image. And keep the images you do use at a resolution that won’t take forever to download for users with less bandwidth.
Make your email content as concise and readable as possible.
Of course, any email should be clear and concise. But mobile demands a “clear and concise” level all its own. Don’t make your subscribers scroll through paragraphs and paragraphs of text to try and determine your message. To see how other companies handle their text—and for some great design inspiration—check out these 13 examples of beautiful email design.
Make your CTA easy to find and click.
Multiple CTAs can be confusing. Aim for a single CTA near the top of your email that’s large enough to spot—and large enough to tap with a finger or thumb on a mobile screen. Your CTA should also make it clear exactly what you want your subscribers to do. There’s no ambiguity or confusion with simple, effective CTAs like, “Learn more,” “Subscribe” or “Get started.”
Stay away from elaborate navigation.
Detailed menus and navigation bars have their place—but that’s not in an email. Because mobile devices have such limited real estate, menu and navigation links usually end up too small for fingers to easily click. Keep your emails simple and save the fun stuff for the impressive landing page you’ll design for your readers to visit.
Stick with single-column emails.
On a mobile device screen, two or more columns will by necessity appear smaller, which means they’ll be harder to read and navigate. That’s another instance where squinting, pinching, spreading, tapping and turning come into play—and we don’t know about you, but we don’t have the patience for that. Your subscriber won’t, either. A single column will look similar on any device, will make design simpler and make your most important information easy to find.
Test your emails on multiple devices!
This is one of the most important practices we can think of. Test, test, and test again to be sure every kind of device renders your emails correctly. While you can send test emails to your own and co-workers’ phones or devices, Litmus and similar services will give you a platform to preview the appearance of your emails on various devices. Caveat: most of these services do charge a fee, but they usually offer a free trial.
The most successful campaigns are created by marketers who take the time to put themselves into their prospective customers’ shoes. The great thing about mobile-friendly emails? Unless you’re still on a flip phone—and 15% of us still do use non-smartphone cells—it’s easy to put ourselves into our subscribers’ shoes because most of us use smartphones for the same purposes.
We most likely don’t have the patience or the time to pick through a cluttered email on a tiny screen, so why would we expect our email recipients to do it? Especially when our customers and prospects are giving us the opportunity to catch their attention in so many ways, it’s up to us to run with it and give them the mobile-friendly experience they want.
Their eyes and patience will thank you—and so will your growing database of promising sales leads.
Are you ready to bring your email campaigns—and possibly other marketing functions—into the 21st century? Spry Ideas is ready to help. For more information, call Jeremy Sterling at 734-546-5434 or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.