Inbox triage. It’s real. It’s happening right now—to your carefully crafted emails—on smartphones all over the world. Your only hope of surviving the delete-a-thon that is email triage is to optimize your emails for mobile. Now.
What is inbox triage?
Inbox triage is the mass deleting that occurs on smartphones to clear out inboxes so users can focus on the emails they actually want and/or need to interact with. Chances are, you do it too. If you start your day with a mobile device in hand swiping any emails that are superfluous to that day, you’re triaging. For me, that triage is what keeps me from getting overwhelmed when I sit down at my laptop later.
What gets triaged?
Anything unimportant and uninteresting.
It’s not only a morning activity. Triage can happen any time of day. I’ve done the mass delete while standing in line, waiting for an event to start…even while stuck in traffic. Triage is not done thoughtfully. It’s very much a non-thinking activity with the sole purpose of reducing inbox clutter.
How do you survive it?
Unless you’re sending email as a customer, work colleague or close family member, or you’ve already built a strong brand affinity with a recipient, you’ll have to work hard to survive the mass delete so your email has a chance to get noticed, opened and interacted with. That means optimizing for mobile first and foremost.
And that means you have to start paying attention to the preview text.
Over 50% of email opens now occur on a mobile device. And a mobile device doesn’t display the inbox like a laptop or a computer does. Due to the space limitations of a small screen, an inbox on mobile is like a condensed, concise version of the real deal. Check out this screen shot. All I can see is a From name, a short subject line, and the preview text.
And I am going to decide what stays and what goes based on what I see while I am doing my mass delete, looking at these three things, but most especially the subject line and the preview text. “Visit Harbor Freight Tools”? Boring. Delete. “Up to 50% off”? Hmmm…that might need a closer look later. Save.
Note too that the subject line is even more truncated on a mobile device, so you can’t rely on it as much as you’d like to generate opens and engagements.
So how do you write great preview text?
Step 1: Realize that you need to write great preview text!
Mastering that critical first step will go a long way toward giving you an inbox advantage. And once you’ve realized the importance of the preview text, you can strive to write compelling copy that will both support your subject line and compel an open. As with subject lines, however, trickery is to be avoided at all costs. Your preview text should offer one more reason to open the email, not empty promises.
Also keep in mind that different phones (and other mobile devices such as phablets and tablets) will display varying lengths of preview text, so write copy that will work for all.
Finally, as with all good email marketing practices, testing is key. Test and re-test to find the kind of preview text that works best with your audience.
Mobile matters, now more than ever, and will only continue to grow as the device upon which people check their emails first (or only). Move previews to the head of the line and survive some of that email triage.