At the beginning of the year, Litmus, the premier email testing service, released its “2016 State of Email Report.” The report’s 55 pages are full of all sorts of detailed information about how to handle the oddities of different email clients such as AOL’s Alto Mail App, but they also contain a rather amazing, paradigm-shifting statistic: 55% of emails are now opened on mobile.
Here’s the breakdown, per Litmus’s email marketshare report:
- iPhone – 33%
- iPad – 12%
- Android – 10%
That means that most people who are being sent marketing emails are likely opening them on a smartphone or tablet. Moreover, 45% of users view emails using Apple’s iOS operating system.
Unequivocally, mobile email marketing is the new standard. Any email marketing program needs to accept this and start designing emails with a mobile-first mindset. Furthermore, considering iOS’s dominance in the mobile email market, email marketers need to attend to the particularities of iOS, including wearable technology devices — such as the Apple Watch — that are associated with iOS.
Here are some tips, derived from Litmus’s report, for creating a better mobile email marketing experience for what is now most of the email marketshare.
General Mobile Email Marketing Tips
1. Create Responsive Emails
With multiple generations of iPhones and iPads out there, as well as the dozens of Android smartphones and tablets, your emails need to be able to adjust their content to display correctly on various mobile devices.
As with mobile-ready websites, it’s imperative that emails be built using responsive frameworks. Make sure you have a responsive email template on file and that any unique emails you send are built to be responsive as well.
2. Design for Mobile
Don’t design an email for a desktop (e.g., Outlook) or web email client (e.g., Gmail) and then adjust it for mobile. Rather, start with a mobile-friendly design and build the desktop version from there. Mobile email marketing best practices include:
- large text
- buttons that invite touching
- single-column design
3. Attend to Preview Text
Think of preview text as a “second subject line” and optimize it the way you would subject-line text. Make sure to:
- Include useful information
- Be specific
- Express a sense of urgency (if appropriate)
- Attend to display character limits
iOS Email Marketing Tips
1. Rethink Video Usage
Across the boards, videos are being used to increase engagement.
However, iOS does not support the <video> tag for embedding videos, even in its latest incarnation, iOS 9. Therefore, if you plan to include a video in an email addressed to users who will be viewing it on an iPhone or iPad, consider using alternative strategies, such as:
- A static image with a link to a video hosted on a website
- An animated GIF
(Keep in mind, though, that desktop Outlook does not support animated GIFs. Per Litmus, Outlook is only 6% of the overall email market, but we know from experience as an industrial marketing agency that many industrial customers continue to use Outlook as their work email client of choice).
2. Anticipate Peeks and Pops
iOS 9 introduced two features called “Peeks” and “Pops,” which add some new dynamics to how the Apple operating system handles emails.
A Peek opens a modal that loads an extended preview of an email, including images. From there, users can Pop into the email, which opens the entire email in a separate window.
The Peek feature means that iOS 9 users will be able to view more of your email than just the inbox preview — three lines plus the first image — before they open it. As with preview text, think about how to use this extended introduction to convince people to Pop open your email.
Also, when reviewing your email metrics, make sure to attend to the fact that a Peek will register as an open even if a true open does not occur. (The technical definition of a traditional email open is when an email client requests an image file from a server. Since Peeks load images, they will prematurely register as opens in typical email reporting.)
Email Marketing Tips for Wearable Technology
1. Include Plain-Text Versions
The Apple Watch does not support HTML emails; only plain-text emails. This appears to be the trend for how wearable technologies will display emails in the near future. So if you anticipate users will be reading your emails using wearable technology, make sure to include plain-text alternatives as a staple in your email marketing program.
Honestly, this should be done regardless since some users (e.g., those with minimal smartphone data plans) prefer to view emails as text, rather than HTML.
2. Optimize Your Plain-Text Emails
If you’re going to author variant plain-text emails, you should optimize them. Best practices for plain-text emails used for mobile email marketing include:
- Keeping your messages short and sweet
- Using abbreviated calls to action
- Limiting links (Only phone numbers and addresses can be enabled as links in plain-text emails viewed on Apple Watches.)
Some email service providers (ESPs) can send watch-specific emails using the Content-Type text/watch-html. Make sure to ask your ESP about this feature if you want to create plain-text emails specifically for users who read emails on watches.
3. Develop Alternative Metrics
Plain-text emails do not include tracking pixels, which is the default mechanism email marketers use to generate email performance metrics such as open rate and click-through rate.
In which case, if you anticipate plain-text emails will make up a significant part of your mobile email marketing program, you’ll need to develop alternative methods for tracking and assessing their performance. One option is to embed tracking phone numbers in plain-text emails so you can use call metrics to assess campaigns.
Design Your Email Marketing for Your Audience
Although the official news that mobile has overtaken the email market marks a paradigm shift, it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Progressive marketers have been anticipating this day for a while and have already made mobile email marketing basics — such as using responsive email templates — their norm.
Going forward, though, it will be increasingly important for email marketers to attend to the specific devices their audiences use in order to view the emails they send.
The above mobile email marketing tips are based on Litmus’s breakdown of the general email market, which includes emails sent by everyone from industrial oven manufacturers to discount shoe retailers.
It stands to reason, though, that different verticals — such as manufacturing and distribution —will all have audiences with their own specific breakdowns of devices and email clients.
In which case, make sure you understand which ones your audience is using to view your emails and plan accordingly.