Developing emails for mobile devices is a different animal than developing emails for computer screens. Learn how to tame the beast!
The industry refers to this as responsive design. I like to call it responsible design. You’ve got to design your emails where they’re being read. According to a recent Email Analytics report by Litmus, more email is read mobile than on a desktop email client or via webmail.
In a previous post, I mentioned email design best practices. We’ll take a closer look at this, but before we do, we’ve got to discuss “media queries”. If you code media queries into your email properly, you can avoid many of the mobile design “don’ts” below.
Media queries can be super specific, beyond just width/height. It’s easy to get carried away. They can guide design for portrait and landscape orientations, pixel ratios (image pixel widths vs. display width). A good rule of thumb (for all those thumb-specific mobile tasks) is to set up a media query applying a percentage – instead of fixed width – of width to elements.
Think beyond Androids and iPhones when setting up your queries. And think of media queries as a css stylesheet within a css stylesheet. Note: You’ll have to develop some workarounds for Gmail, which strips out this information.
OK, now for some examples of mobile email designs that could have benefited from media queries….
Give it up
You’You’ve got to let go of certain features that may not translate well to mobile. In this Bed Bath & Beyond email, the free shipping line scrolled across the email in my inbox… but not in the mobile version.
While smartphones and tablet screens are smaller than those on desktops, you need to think big when it comes to mobile design. That is, think bigger elements, bigger fonts (18 pt.), but fewer words.
That’s especially true for subject lines. Case in point:
The subject line is all you see. Turns out this Fab mobile email isn’t so “fab” after all.
I’m all thumbs
Those viewing your emails on smartphones will mostly likely navigate with their thumbs. That means you need larger call-to-action buttons (44 x 44 pixels). Otherwise, your subscribers will get frustrated when they think they’re clicking on one thing, accidentally click on a different link, and end up in the wrong place.
When designing the email, ditch the “click” mentality altogether. Think more about how people use their mobile devices; design for taps and swipes instead.
Give me some space
In addition to making buttons larger, you need to add more space around them. Again, this is to avoid having your subscribers click on links they didn’t intend to.
The need for speed
While mobile devices are convenient, download times can be slower. So it’s important to reduce image file sizes. You don’t have to sacrifice image quality when optimizing images. JPEGmini and Smush.it are two web-based applications that optimize images for you.
To scroll or not to scroll, that is the question
Best practices dictate that you use a vertical, single-column layout (320-480 pixels) for mobile emails. Don’t force your subscriber to scroll way down to get to the “good stuff.” Put your main message and call to action at the top of your email, so you don’t lose click-throughs.
When you fail to adjust for the width using media queries, you risk compromising your design, as seen in the top nav of this Overstock.com email:
After the fact
Best practices don’t stop once the email is designed, developed and deployed. When subscribers click on a link in a mobile email, where are they directed? If they end up on your traditional site, you’ve done them a disservice. Redirect them to a mobile version of your site so their user experience is not diminished.
The key takeaway
You don’t have to design for every single mobile device out there. Design for the devices the majority of your subscribers are using.
Designing mobile-friendly emails isn’t rocket science, but it does take some serious know-how. You can’t ignore mobile, so you might as well learn to adapt – and adapt your email setup in the process.
We hear a lot about “big data” these days. It can be a bit overwhelming. For everyday marketers, those without in-house data scientists, I suggest they use the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) theory, and focus on the numbers that are sure to make a difference in driving revenue.
Let’s start with the email list
With lists, size doesn’t always matter. What matters is quality. You could have a 6- or 7-figure list, but if it’s made up of disengaged readers, prospects, or customers then what good is it? Aside from quality, most important is your list growth rate.
Clearly size plays a big role. After all, marketing is a numbers game. If your list or segment is extremely small, however, it could pose a problem when you’re conducting A/B tests. You’ll want a test group large enough to obtain statistically valid results.
The Email Marketing Council of the UK’s Direct Marketing Association has a handy chart that will help you determine the appropriate list size for what you’re testing. In the chart below, if your normal click rate is 10% and you want to measure if it changes by 20% (to 12% or more), you’d need a sample size of 2000 for each test cell. That way, any click rate change of 20% or more would be a statistically significant result and not chalked up to randomness.
Obviously, this metric is key. If your emails aren’t reaching the inbox, they can’t be opened or clicked through. The best way to ensure deliverability is to have a clean list. Follow best practices and use opt in (never opt out) to build your list organically. No matter how tempting, don’t buy a list; the risks are too great.
Of course, you’ve got to follow other best practices to ensure your email ends up in the inbox, not the spam filter. Know your own “traps” and avoid them.
There are opens and then there are unique opens. Total opens don’t give you the total picture; it’s the unique open rate that reveals the pulse of your campaign.
Click-through rate (CTR)
The CTR isn’t just the number of clicks an email generates. It’s the number of times a link is clicked in an email, divided by the number of delivered messages. Your CTR is an important metric because it’s a gauge of how engaged your subscribers are with which content.
Opens are okay, clicks are nice, but to determine whether your campaigns are producing results, you’ve got to monitor the conversion rate. Remember, the conversion rate isn’t always about selling. It’s about prompting your subscribers and leads to take action – whether it’s to download an article, post on a social-sharing site, write a review, or whatever.
Bounces, unsubs and spam complaints
These metrics tie back to your list health. Just because we listed them last, that doesn’t negate their importance. It’s crucial you keep tabs on these stats, as a high bounce rate can damage your sender reputation with email clients and Internet service providers (ISPs).
There are two types of bounces – hard and soft – that you need to monitor. A hard bounce means an email address on your list is incorrect has expired. A soft bounce occurs when a subscriber’s email inbox is full, or when an ISP or email client rejects your message as spam. That’s why it’s important to regularly purge your list of bad email addresses.
Likewise, if you see a lot of unsubscribes you need to make sure your content is relevant. Be prepared to refine your segmentation. You also may need to reduce email frequency or give subscribers frequency options.
Lastly, you need to take spam complaints seriously. Spam complaints can lead to your company being blacklisted from the major ISPs.
The key takeaway
Focus on the metrics that mean the most in your email marketing efforts. Put your time, effort and money where it counts, and you’ll easily reap big rewards with small data.
Email design best practices are recommended for a reason: They help engage your readers, convey your message, and (hopefully) convert your subscribers beyond clicks.
Let’s see how design can help increase your email conversions.
Create brand awareness
When I think of effective branding, I think of Tiffany & Co. It’s iconic little blue box says it all. In its email designs, Tiffany uses that blue color to build upon its brand equity.
But it’s about balance, too. Tiffany doesn’t have to shout its brand name. “Tiffany & Co.” is tastefully placed at the top of the email. It doesn’t overpower the product, which certainly takes center stage.
Branding builds recognition and trust with your audience. That leads to sales. You’ve got to earn that trust, however. It doesn’t happen overnight. Over time, consistent messaging – coupled with exemplary products and/or services – will create a level of comfort and trust.
Pay attention to the preview pane
Because many email service providers have preview panes, it’s crucial that your most important message appears in the top left of your email. You’ve basically got 250×250 pixels to work with. It’s challenging. Deal with it.
A picture’s worth a thousand words…
OK, it’s a cliche, but let’s face it. In email marketing, you’ve got to get your point across quickly. Readers spend only seconds on your precious email, so you’ve got to make every aspect count. According to a study by the Nielsen Norman Group, “Email Newsletter Design to Increase Conversion and Loyalty”, 69% of email newsletters are skimmed.
So (sorry, copywriters) you need strong images to catch your readers’ attention. This email from MAC is an example of an eye-catching (pun intended) graphic. It proves that you don’t always need color to be compelling.
… but …
You’ve got to design your emails expecting images to be blocked. That means, for one thing, that you must include alt tags. If you don’t, your email could look like this:
It will be hard to convert a subscriber who has no clue what your email’s about. Alt tags give your subscribers a reason to download the images in your email…click on the email…and make a purchase (or other action).
A word about color
Depending on your audience, color can impact how they respond to your email offer. Kissmetrics has studied how colors can affect conversions. Are you targeting women? Go with blues, purples and greens; avoid orange, brown and gray. Targeting men? Go with blue, green or black; stay away from brown, orange and purple.
Take this Sony email, for example. It’s designed to grab your attention:
Colors are associated with various qualities, so you might want to think about this when incorporating color into your emails. Here are a few to start with, courtesy of Color Wheel Pro, but keep in mind that if you have a global audience, colors take on different significance in other countries.
- Red – Energy, danger, strength, power, passion, desire, love
- Orange - success, encouragement, happiness, creativity, joy
- Yellow - joy, happiness, energy, intellect (avoid dull yellows)
- Green - growth, freshness, fertility, harmony, safety, money (dark green)
- Blue - trust, loyalty, confidence, faith, truth, tranquility (light), power (dark)
- Purple - royalty, nobility, luxury, wealth, creativity, mystery, magic
- White – Safety, purity, perfection, goodness, innocence
- Black – power, formality, elegance, death, evil, mystery
You’ve got to close the sale. In emails, that means you need a prominent call to action. It can’t hurt to be clever, too, as illustrated by this Christmas email. Even the colors are a softer version of the typical red and green. That’s one way to stand out from all the clutter in the inbox – especially at holiday time.
The key takeaway
You won’t have the Email Design Police coming after you if you fail to follow all the rules all the time. In fact, I’d encourage you to break test the rules occasionally. But if you fail to follow the solid practices most of the time, you won’t get the best results from your email campaigns.
The entire mobile marketing landscape, well, almost.
In order to navigate the world of mobile email marketing, you need chart your course by paying attention to these compass points:
- Mobile ads, mobile search
- Mobile websites and landing pages
- Mobile commerce, mobile payments
- So-Lo-Mo (social + local + mobile)
- QR codes (they’re not going away just yet, but almost)
- Mobile apps, app ads
- Mobile emails
This post focuses on mobile email marketing, with the caveat that all your marketing programs must be integrated for consistency.
Why is mobile email marketing such a big deal?
Mobile is a must for today’s email marketers and, like any new territory; it has both a tempting and terrifying allure of the unknown. The best way to demystify mobile email marketing is to understand its components.
You’ll find that mobile devices run the gamut from feature phones, with limited functionality, to portable gaming and MP3 players. Email marketers, however, should focus on smartphones and tablets, with accessibility to the web. While these two categories of devices seem quite manageable, keep in mind that you’ve got to account for various devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows.
If you still doubt the importance of mobile email marketing, here’s a statistic for you: According to Forrester research, 78% of U.S. email users will also access their emails via mobile by 2017. And don’t assume that smartphone use is limited to the younger generation. Emarketer predicts that this year mobile web and smartphone penetration for baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) will pass 50%.
Here are a few mobile email marketing tips.
Smartphones offer 24/7 accessibility and instant gratification, known as “snacking,” for users. So it’s helpful to think “bite size” in terms of mobile email marketing.
Adaptive and responsive are two types of design for mobile-friendly emails. Adaptive design triggers content changes and reformatting to optimize for typical screen sizes for smartphones, tablets and desktops. In responsive design, the design format and content dynamically changes based on the screen size. Here are a few best practices:
- Use a vertical, single-column layout (350 pixels max)
- Keep subject lines to under 75 characters (shoot for under 35)
- Make your text larger, preferably 16-pixel, since most mobile email applications automatically resize smaller text
- Embedded links are more difficult to click than large buttons (44 x 44 pixels)
Consumers have high expectations regarding mobile. Strangeloop Networks reports that 85% of mobile users expect sites to load as fast or faster than on their desktops. In reality, however, median load time for 3G smartphones is 40% slower than on desktop. It’s not enough to build mobile-friendly emails. You’ve got to build mobile-friendly landing pages and sites, too.
The mobile email takeaway?
Mobile isn’t going away. On the contrary, it’s here to stay – and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Email marketers who embrace this technology will be ahead of the curve – and ahead of their competitors.
In the summertime, people spend less time indoors, less time in front of their computers, and most likely less time reading your marketing emails. If you want to keep your email revenues up, here are a few ideas to try on for size:
1) Go mobile.
Savvy email marketers know that they must make their emails user-friendly for mobile devices in order to reach their subscribers whenever, wherever they are.Just because your subscribers aren’t planted at their desk at home or in the office, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not online. They’ve probably either got a smartphone in their pocket or a tablet close at hand.
2) Make it interactive.
Hold a contest or sweepstakes to encourage your subscribers to post their summer vacation photos or videos – and have all your subscribers vote on their favorites. A contest like this can easily go viral when you promote it via your social-sharing sites.Another spin on this concept is to have subscribers, while on vacation, pose with your product and share their photos online. This reinforces your brand in a very visual way. If yours is a service-related business, no problem. Encourage your subscribers to pose with a handwritten “I [insert company name]” or holding up their mobile device with your slogan visible. The possibilities are as endless as your (or your customers’) imagination. In fact, reward them for creativity!
3) Sell the sizzle.
Who doesn’t love a sale? Launch a summer sale campaign, but try to be original. Christmas in July sales have gotten about as stale as Aunt Martha’s fruitcake.Promote a sidewalk sale – either online or offline, and offer discounts designed to entice your subscribers. Have a virtual or real tent sale, yard sale, garage sale. Get creative with your promotions – offer (beach) buckets of savings… draw your offer in the sand and photograph it to use in your email campaigns… you get the idea.If it’s feasible, plan – and promote – a live event. In the summer months, folks want to enjoy the outdoors. If your business has retail locations, now’s the time to draw traffic to your brick-and-mortar stores.If your business is strictly e-commerce, have some fun and create a virtual event. Hold a virtual pool party, picnic in the park, backyard barbecue or other themed event. Depending on your product or service, you can tie in your offerings to the theme.
4) Put it in vacation mode.
Think like your subscribers. During the summer, many people go on vacation – and are more likely to fork over their hard-earned dollars for vacation-related items.Think of how you can promote your product or service to those planning summer vacations. Ideas can run the gamut: sunscreen, swimsuits, sunglasses… fishing/hunting/camping gear, boating accessories… picnic items… sandals, sundresses… insurance, automobile repair/service, GPS/accessories, car rental… financial services… summer reading… language instruction, out-of-country mobile plans, cameras, passport photos… air/hotel/travel deals, luggage… grills, pool equipment… travel-size toiletries… you name it.This email from solestruck is a step in the right direction:
5) Change your deployment days/times.
Not surprisingly, fewer people are online – and checking their emails – on weekends in the summer months. So mix up your email schedule. Similarly, you might want to send your emails earlier, as more people may check their emails before work than at the end of the day, when they still have plenty of daylight for outdoor activities. As with any change in your email campaigns, be sure to test for best results.During the summer, online shoppers are most likely to buy high-ticket items on Mondays, according to New York-based data analytics firm SumAll. The average summertime daily spend is $37.95, with a high of $41.13 on Mondays and a low of $34.74 on Fridays.
Don’t throw in the beach towel simply because it’s summer. Use the opportunity to come up with clever email campaigns. Add a little fun into your campaigns, and you’ll keep your customers engaged all summer long.
As email marketers, we’re always looking for ways to grow our lists. One answer is at your fingertips. Literally.
According to the Forrester Research Email Marketing Forecast, 2012 To 2017, 78% of U.S. email users will also access their emails via mobile devices by 2017.
A customer’s mobile phone number is seen by marketers as a prized commodity. But that same number becomes even more valuable when it’s attached to a customer’s email address. That’s when marketing opportunities are multiplied.
Here are a few mobile marketing tactics you can use to grow your email list.
Ask for it
Seek and ye shall find. If your mobile subscribers like what they’re getting via SMS, give them more of what they like. “For more news & great offers, text MORE and your email address to…”
Don’t expect your mobile subscribers to offer up their email addresses on a silver platter. Make it worth their while to do so. Offer a no-clip coupon, coupon code or other incentive.
There’s an app for that
If your business has a mobile app, there are many places you can sneak in an email opt-in. Depending on the app, you could include this on a welcome screen, within the app or even in the app settings
At point of sale
With product in hand (and smartphone in the other), your customer may be more receptive to communications from you. “For product use and care, text CARE and your email address to 12345.”
Ask for their opinion
Gone are the days of the opinion survey post card on the restaurant table. “Tell us how your food and service were. Text REVIEW and your email to…” “What did you think of the (concert/movie/play)? Text REVIEW and your email to…”
Got a captive audience?
If you have customers waiting in line at checkout… waiting for a table… waiting in a doctor’s office… waiting for car repairs… chances are they’re on their mobile devices to pass the time. Use in-store signage to promote email signup via mobile.
For example: “While you wait, text INFO and your email address to 12345 for (insert your company-specific promo here).”
Don’t sell short codes short
If you’ve already got a short code, promote the heck out of it. Ask your mobile subscribers to text one word (such as “offers,” for example) to your short code for access to email-only offers. If you don’t have one, no problem. Text-to-join applications accomplish the same goal, and can plug directly into your ESP or CRM program.
That’s the key. While you do want consistency of message across channels (voice, tone, etc.), the actual message should vary among channels. So if you’re offering X in mobile, offer Y in email, and Z in social. Otherwise, why would your mobile subscriber bother signing up for email promotions?
And don’t forget QR codes
While some say QR codes may soon be a thing of the past, me included, they still are a good way to tie in printed marketing collateral with mobile marketing efforts. Make sure you have a strong call to action, such as “Scan here to get insider tips via email.” The consumer then will be taken to a mobile-friendly email sign-up form.
It’s not only important to consolidate your data, it’s important to track and analyze that data. If your data is housed in a single marketing platform, it’s easier to see cross-channel relationships and trends with all your marketing lists.
So when it comes to building your email list with mobile marketing strategies, you could say you’ve got prospective subscribers right in your pocket. That’s because they’ve got their smartphones right in their pockets.
I admit it. I’ve jumped on the mobile marketing bandwagon to grow my lists. WBU?
Look in your email inbox, and on any given day you’re likely to find several emails that feature videos. They can range from informational/educational to simply entertaining. But what is all the fuss about? Does video email marketing really lift response rates? Can anyone use video in their email marketing? What are the best tactics (or best practices for that matter)? Let’s find out!
Video Email Marketing Statistics and Reports
- Simply including the word “video” in an email’s subject line saw an increase of 7%-13% in overall click-through rates (CTRs) in 2011, according to Experian’s 2012 Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report. Embedding a video in an email generated an average conversion rate 21% higher than emails containing a static image alone.
- And Videoretailer.org reported that using the word “video” in the subject line of helped achieve increases in open rates of up to 20% vs. no “video” in the subject line.
- The 2010 Video Email Marketing Survey and Industry Trends Report revealed that video was used with email marketing by 50% of survey participants, and an additional 24% were considering the use of video in their email marketing programs.
- Video in email can increase click-through rates by as much as two times to three times, according to David Daniels, former principal analyst at Forrester Research and current principle at Relevancy Group.
- Holland America conducted an A/B test with an animated .gif video in email vs. a static image. The video segment resulted in 100% higher click-through rate, reported Liveclicker.
- According to Marketing Vox, 63.9% of 5,000 people watched to completion a video sent by email.
- In a Get Response study of 800,000 customer emails, those containing video received, on average, 5.6% higher open rates and 96.38% higher CTRs than non-video emails.
Video Email Marketing Tactics and Examples
Depending on your budget, several options exist for creating videos in emails:
- Embedded video, which is provided by companies like Bomb Bomb. But keep in mind that embedded video will not work in all email clients.
- Animated .gif videos. See this example from Style Campaign, which is executed brilliantly but this format also has its limitations.
- A static callout linking to a web-hosted video, like the examples below, is by far the most common tactic.
The video featured in this Williams-Sonoma email demonstrates how to use a product (and clearly labels it as such):
Cosmetics retailer Obagi creates continuity in its emails with a video series that touches the emotions, sharing one woman’s struggle with acne and how she overcame it – in time for her wedding – by using Obagi products.
Video Email Marketing Best Practices
No matter what format you choose, if you decide to take the plunge, you should follow these best practices for video in emails:
- Video expert Justin Foster, in a webinar for the Email Experience Council titled “Video Email: Why, When and How,” said it’s important to call out the video in the subject line, use a play button in the video player/player image, and highlight in the email what happens when the video is clicked.
- Make the call to action a text link for subscribers who have blocked images.
- Keep full video length with audio to less than 3 minutes, animated .gif videos to 30-45 seconds.
- Make sure the first frame of the video is acceptable for email clients that show static images only.
- Ensure that the amount of bandwidth required by the subscriber is not more than 150-200kB/second.
The key takeaway to using videos is email
You have to decide whether video in email is right for your brand, your subscribers, and your budget. Video can add a personal element (such as a message from the president), it makes your emails more interactive/engaging, and it can be repurposed for other channels, such as YouTube and social sharing sites.
If fear of the unknown is holding you back, many resources are available to guide you through the process. A few factors to consider before selecting an email video provider include video quality, video storage capacity, mobile video recording and mobile playback.