The shift of users to mobile and tablets is the next big challenge for email marketers. Many of our clients are already seeing more opens on mobiles and tablets than on desktops, with some reporting upwards of 80% opening from a device.
We’ve been leading the mobile design effort; speaking at conferences, running workshops and sharing our thoughts with fellow designers.
As of January 2014, on average more emails are opened on mobile devices than in desktops or webmail. Interestingly, we're seeing users move around between different platforms, at different times of the day and depending on their activity.
Unsurprisingly, the iPhone, iPad and Android devices (primarily Samsung ones) are the most popular. In general, HTML email support is very good on modern smartphones, with Gmail's App being the only major mobile email client that presents minor display changes.
For years, users largely sat down at their desktop in order to read their email. It was an experience akin to reading your postal mail over your morning cup of tea. Designing for that environment is relatively straight-forward — and we knew that almost the whole audience was having a similar experience.
The big challenge we now face is that users are taking email out into the world. They may be walking down a street or sitting on the subway; killing time or trying to save time. They may have a slow internet connection, or be unable to convert there and then. But somewhere in this environment, we still need to make sure our message gets through.
In this new world, we need to look beyond the traditional metrics marketers use to measure success. We think that success in the mobile email world means delivering the best experience for users, wherever and however they choose to check their inbox.
Our approach is simple — we design campaigns that work for everyone, regardless of the device they happen to be using.
We design mobile first, aiming to achieve a base level of mobile support for as many users as possible. Then we use techniques such as responsive design as an extra layer of enhancement, to provide the best experience we can for those users who's devices support it.
We always design mobile first — ensuring that all our campaigns are clear and actionable across mobile devices. This includes making sure links are easy to select with a touch screen, content is compelling and easy to read, and most importantly ensuring the message doesn’t get lost on a small screen.
It’s a useful baseline that ensures a good level of support across as many devices as possible. Then we use responsive design as an extra layer of enhancement for smartphone users.
Responsive Email Design allows us to format the content of an email campaign in a more mobile friendly way. This means we can build on a mobile first approach, and adapt the page layout and content structure to further enhance the user’s experience. Unlike previous mobile email solutions, there’s only one HTML version — so if the user views the same email on their desktop they’ll see the desktop version.
Being a newer technology, there's still some users with a device that doesn't fully support responsive techniques — so that's why we see it as an extra layer of enhancement, built on top of a mobile first design.
Adopting a design approach that caters to the mobile audience first also means we can take advantage of emerging technologies that are enabled by mobile devices. Many mobile platforms are actually more advanced in terms of HTML support than common desktop email clients, so in many ways, the migration towards mobile use will be a blessing for email.
Mobile-only techniques we've started to use include opening apps directly from email, displaying content that changes based on the user's device platform, and using CSS3 to enable simple interactions within the email.
Many of our clients come to us to help make their emails more mobile friendly.