Why is responsive design crucial to delivering a successful multi-device email marketing campaign?

Multiple devices

So you’ve evaluated the relevancy of your regular newsletter, you’ve identified the “Cost per Influence” of your marketing strategy and you’ve built a perfectly optimised preference centre for your email campaign. Now, you’ve got to think about design and how you actually present all this highly relevant, personalised and engaging content to your customers. Getting the right creative in front of a consumer to entice them to purchase is the final, all important step. Yet too many brands fail to pay it fair attention.

The design of your email, from the balance of text and images to its basic content, the colour and font of your text, through to the positioning of links, can all have a dramatic impact on conversion rates. Building innovative designs that will get noticed in an inbox takes time. As a first step, make sure you have optimised your design for both the desktop PC or laptop and the growing number of mobile devices that are coming onto the market. Approach mobile as a single channel of delivery, but avoid focussing on it exclusively. It should be viewed as part of a wider multi-channel CRM strategy.

Communication channel specific approaches and personalisation according to a specific device is now becoming far less relevant, as marketers learn to take into account the multiple devices each customer will use. The chance of a customer reading an email on their mobile or tablet may be increasing year-on-year, but the likelihood they will respond via the PC or home laptop is equally high. Technology now has to fit around the creative. This means marketers have to adopt a much more joined up proposition, one which talks to the customer in the most effective way possible. It’s now all about content, relevancy and design.

According to our research, mobile/tablet readership of emails is between 45% and 55% on average. Spend is 14% higher on average too (average order value) which is most likely reflective of the demographic usage rather than ease of accessibility of content. The relative media cost of targeting mobile audiences is lower, which presents a great opportunity for marketers in the short-term. Typically, we tend to see more shopping comparison activity on desktops and tablets during the day and purchase activity at night – which only serves to re-enforce the need for delivering a multi-device strategy.

Your email design therefore needs to reflect and respond to this changing level of engagement. If you’ve directed your customers through a preference centre you’ll have already collected demographic information and know their personal preferences. The trick is to use this information effectively and evaluate it against your business needs. What do you want to achieve from your next email send? Establish this and then select the best form of communicating that message. Would that be an HTML coded image email with small amounts of texts? Or a text heavy email, carefully phrased and paragraphed, so that it will render on a mobile or computer without fail?

Marketers need to make sure each communication channel includes a clear synergy between platforms, a direct and succinct primary message and a clear call to action for customers to interact with. Ultimately your emails need to incentivise the recipient to visit your website, or feed into and influence key stages in the customer lifecycle. If they are on the brink of making a purchase the email you send needs to drive them onto the next stage of the sales process. That may involve; inviting them to make an appointment to speak to a sales advisor in store, providing them with an offer or discount code, or simply giving them more information. Whatever you do, you have to convince them to buy from you in the future. This is particularly important. If they are not quite at the purchase decision stage the right information can crucially dissuade them from turning to one of your competitors.

The design of your email should ultimately encourage people to read on. With open rates rising, mobile customers are rapidly increasing in value. That’s where the “Cost per Influence” comes into play. Customers are now interacting with email in a whole new way, especially in the retail sector. Email sends have to tie into where your customers are and what they are doing. Sunday is typically when customers tend to commit to buying goods at home on their tablet, whereas during the week they are more likely to research items on the work computer during their lunch break or via their mobile phone whilst they are commuting. Take these timings into account. Be careful when it comes to the tone and the style with which you present your message. The same message will likely be read very differently in both these scenarios. Each should be viewed as a separate opportunity to engage, firstly to inform them and tap into their sub-conscious, secondly to secure the sale.

It’s also important to be concise. Compared to a laptop or desktop, you have much less space on a mobile phone to make an impact. You need to make effective use of the space and clearly sign-post which areas you want your customers to interact with. If you’ve provided customers with dynamic personalisation options in the preference centre, you’ve already taken some steps towards responding to this need. If you haven’t, experiment with where you display certain links, headlines and photos.

Creating trigger points is a key part of this. If you give your email a focal point, it is immediately clear what the purpose of the email is and what you want your recipient to do. If it’s content driven this is more difficult, so look at ways you can enhance your messaging. Consider adding a QR code for instance, which could be scanned to unlock additional content, or even price alerts or a barcoded discount voucher, which recipients don’t even need to print off to cash in.

Interestingly, there are still many retailers that haven’t fully embraced the mobile revolution. According to our recent study into the top 50 retailers in the UK, 92% of the emails they send are at least mobile optimised but many are still not taking full advantage of the technology. Only 43% of the top 50 have introduced a mobile website for instance. Display settings provide a deeper problem. You may have designed the best email in the world but if it doesn’t display properly, the potential for a positive impact is lost. Selection of design and presentation can help solve this. In some cases this will be irrelevant, particularly if you have a very enticing subject line, but other times it will matter. The solution is to test, test, test.

Users have adjusted to reading emails without images as default behaviour from ISPs do not render images by default. This underlines the need for emails to be tested both with and without images. Alt-text messaging is very much under-utilised. This can be a fantastic way of delivering impactful messages since users are more prepared to scan the essence of a message without rendering images. In the absence of images, more text-based content, link relevance (and associated link text) becomes even more paramount.

So is responsive design worth the effort when images aren’t being viewed by default anyway? It’s a fair question, but it’s also a slightly lazy one. If no-one is going to read the email, why should I bother? If brands are utilising alt-text correctly and delivering relevant, engaging emails, users are more likely to take the time to render their emails if required. The design and creative elements of emails still drive the biggest impact and long-term brand awareness. To omit them for your marketing strategy can only serve to undermine our brand identity – do so at your peril.

Want to know “The Truth about Digital Marketing”? Mark Ash will reveal all at Teradata eCircle’s event Connect 2013 on May 15th at the O2 Arena, London.

Visit http://conferences.ecircle.com/connect2013/  for more information. 

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By Mark Ash