According to recent research by New Media Trend Watch, more than 31 percent of the United Kingdom’s adult population now owns a smart phone—nearly double the ownership level of a year ago. This ongoing growth in the ownership and use of smart phone devices has transformed how brands communicate with consumers, redefining the entire marketing landscape.

In addition to providing brands with new consumer touch points, smart phones have extended the reach of some existing marketing mediums, such as email, with a 2010 Nielsen study reporting that email is the No. 1 activity on mobile devices. But this greater reach doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. To achieve the strongest impact via mobile email marketing, marketers must ensure their branded messages are optimised for mobile phones.

In short, the way consumers engage with information through their phone is different from the way they engage with content via a computer. There are obvious variations (such as screen size, processing speed and functionality), but marketers must also consider the intrinsically different functions users turn to mobile devices to perform and adapt their approach where necessary. Here are four items to consider when optimizing email for mobile devices:

1) Think about how messages will render on various platforms

Many email marketers design marketing emails without considering how the message will render on a mobile device. This is a crucial error that creates customer frustration and can decrease interest in the brand. So, ensure a positive subscriber experience by using alt tags, adjusting font size, making sure emails are typically less than 600 pixels wide and including key messaging in the top-left corner. Also, an emerging practice to consider is to use style sheets that will adjust size of images and text to be optimized for screen size. Finally, consider zeroing in on singular calls to action whenever possible, and make sure to test your messages on mobile devices, checking link functionality and image rendering and revising as needed.

2) Build for touch.

With the explosion of touch-screen tablet devices and smart phones, a new challenge has emerged for email marketers—designing for the fingertip as a mouse. Email marketers need to rethink the placement of hyperlinks, avoiding putting them too close to each other, which causes great frustration for users. Incorporating clickable content blocks that are at least a fingertip’s width apart is an emerging best practice.

3) Take advantage of pre-header text.

To avoid having “View as Web page” be the first words smart phone users see, use this space to briefly promote or state the main call-to-action link so that someone using a mobile phone can quickly see what you’re offering. By using this text to complement your subject line, you’ll entice more subscribers to open.

4) Optimise sender names and subject lines.

Space restrictions mean that subject lines are sometimes cut off on mobile devices. With that in mind, use subject lines of short, medium or long length but make sure to include key information within the first 30 characters to help increase the chances of conveying the email’s content and value.

With less characters to work with—on some mobile devices, as few as 10—the “From” name takes on greater importance. Make sure you’ve selected a name that’s easily recognisable and are using it consistently—utilizing the same “From” name increases recipient familiarity with your brand and helps build the relationship.

As smart phone use continues to proliferate and customers increasingly access email through mobile, marketers will need to ensure that they are providing these recipients with the best possible experience. By following the tips outlined above, you’ll help guarantee that you’re engaging customers regardless of what device they use to view and interact with your messages.

Richard Evans

Richard Evans


Richard Evans is Director of Marketing, EMEA at Silverpop