4 ways to make sure your email technology is mobile optimized

All this week, we’re running a series entitled The Future of Email Marketing. Our authors will deep-dive into the tools, technology and strategies changing email for the better. Each day will feature case studies, interviews, technology reviews and best practice – as well as the results of our reader survey. Expect cutting-edge insights, predictions and more!

Just as with web browsing and search, consumer habits around email are trending overwhelmingly towards mobile.

In 2016, Gmail reported more than 1 billion monthly active users, with 75% of them on mobile devices.

The Litmus State of Email 2017 report found that across email providers, 54% of emails are opened on a mobile device – and also that 43% of consumers marked promotional emails from a brand as spam because they didn’t work well on a smartphone.

This last stat is a particular problem for brands who want to reach consumers where they are spending increasing amounts of their time. If you want to make sure that your email marketing is optimized for mobile, the technology that powers it – from your email service provider to your reporting tools – needs to be mobile-optimized as well.

So how can you make sure that your email technology is optimized for mobile? Here are four things to bear in mind.

Can you use a responsive or mobile-aware template?

There are three main types of email design: desktop-centric, responsive and mobile-aware (also known as scalable design). If you want your emails to be mobile-optimized, using one of the latter two is an essential first step. According to the 2016 State of Email Design, 8% of email marketers are still using desktop-centric designs – don’t be one of them!

A responsive email template is one that will adapt to whatever screen your consumer is using to read the email, be it a desktop, tablet, smartphone or something in between. If you’re a B2B brand, there’s a good chance that many of your consumers will be reading your emails on a desktop, so a responsive template will cover all your bases.

However, if you’re B2C or otherwise prepared to place all your bets on mobile, you might want to opt straight for a mobile-aware template, which is optimized for smaller screens.

A lot of different email tools come with responsive templates built in, so if you’re using a pre-designed template from your email service provider, make sure it’s responsive or mobile-aware. If not, a lot of companies offer free or premium responsive templates that you can use – Mashable has a good list.

If your email tool has a CSS editor and you don’t mind getting hands-on, you can also create your own responsive template using CSS and HTML.

Do your reports cover client and device?

In all honesty, establishing this should be your first step – there’s no point optimizing for mobile if you can’t tell whether any of your tests or changes are having an effect.

There’s also the slightly frustrating fact that many of the technical tricks you can use to optimize for mobile (like media queries) aren’t supported by all email clients; and different types of devices can display emails very differently.

But before you run around frantically trying to optimize your emails to display on the tiny screen of a Nokia N70, it might help to know whether any of your consumers are actually using one.

This is where reporting tools, or the in-built reporting capabilities of your email service provider, come in. Many ESPs and reporting tools give you a breakdown of your campaign performance by client and device, letting you see exactly what your customers are using to access your emails, and what your response rate is on each.

That way, when you test mobile-oriented improvements like implementing a responsive template, shortening your subject lines or improving your pre-header text, you can see whether it has improved your open and click-through rates on mobile devices.

It’s also a good way to get a sense of what percentage of your audience is using various devices, if you don’t already know it – the metrics might surprise you.

Can you preview across devices?

Once you’ve found out which devices and clients your recipients are using – and decided which you’re going to optimize for – you need to make sure that you can preview how your emails will appear on them.

Many email service providers come with this functionality built in (usually called “Inbox Preview” or “Inbox Testing”) – although in some cases it is a premium feature that costs extra to enable – and it will show you how your emails look across different devices, clients and browsers.

If your ESP doesn’t have this feature, you can use a separate email preview tool like Inbox Inspector, Litmus or Inbox on Acid. TestSubject by Zurb is another useful tool which allows you to test how your email subject lines, sender name and pre-header text appear on popular mobile devices and email clients.

Do you have adequate support on hand?

While good email technology can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to mobile-optimizing your emails, if you’re serious about having a mobile-first email strategy, you might not be able to avoid getting hands-on with your email’s code.

A lot of tricks that will make your emails work well on mobile, like substituting images – which will serve a different version of an image to smartphone users than to desktop users – or using progressive disclosure, which will hide content behind a button or link, helpfully shortening your content for smaller screens – require you to directly edit the HTML or CSS of your email.

If you’re not a confident coder, this can seem intimidating, so make sure support is on hand. Ideally, your email service provider should have good support anyway, but make a point of finding out how well they can support any coding adventures you might want to embark on.

Do some research into the kinds of features you’d like to try and implement, and in the process, you can find out if your ESP already has any functionality that can support them.

And if not… it might be time to look for a new email vendor.

 

If you enjoyed this article, check out some of the other great content from our series “The Future of Email Marketing”:

Related reading