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How to shift your email marketing to the mobile channel

How to shift your email marketing to the mobile channel

By Tim Ingram-Smith, head of technology, Charterhouse

In the last few years, consumers have been driven towards mobile by increasingly clever smartphones, more apps and better data tariffs. As a result, mobile has demanded an increasing proportion of marketers' time and budgets and this is set to continue with Gartner predicting worldwide smartphone sales to reach 468 million units in 2011. Smartphone ownership is up by a third in the UK this year to 36 per cent according to a recent study by

The growing maturity and ubiquity of the mobile channel is shaking up ‘traditional media’ to the extent that many existing approaches and preconceptions need updating. Despite efforts from Facebook to displace traditional email from its lofty perch, and because of desktop decline and resistance to text messaging as a marketing channel, email continues to thrive on the mobile phone.

It is time to look again at the best practice rules of email marketing, and see what works best for the smartphone. To ensure that email continues to be effective, businesses must change their approach. Marketers should consider the following to enhance their mobile email success.

Data is everything

For many business brands, the tipping point between desktop and mobile email use amongst target audiences may have already arrived; this realisation should seriously shake up a marketing strategy and approach. However, if you don’t know which of your audiences use mobile, you are never going to keep up with your customers.

Brands should invest in solid primary research to establish who they are targeting, via which media, the timing of their messages and what to say. Once email campaigns are underway, further data can be captured about the different devices being used to better inform content and design choices. It can, for example, help you shape your layout to match the dimensions of device screens.

Dead time is different

Research will also tell you that people on the move check their email almost habitually and that catching up with emails in transit is now commonplace. But attention is limited and spare time is precious – the modus operandi of mobile email users is much more active and decisions to delete unwanted emails are often ruthless.

Short, sharp emails that get to the point quickly and offer value work best. Consistent application of this insight will increase your chances of being read – and marked as a trusted source by email providers.

Play the generation game

Remember, it is not just ‘Generation Y’ that has embraced mobile. Business audiences are even more religious at rifling through emails on the move. Know your audience and then consider the messaging trinity of content, timing and targeting, before moving on to design.

Grab the user’s attention

Although wireless network speeds are improving, users still value their time and skip messages that take too long to download. Likewise, a message that doesn’t spark any interest right away will inevitably get trashed. The iPhone only has room for 5 or 6 short words in an email subject line before the ellipsis kicks in – use tight, punchy titles to grab the user’s attention.

The first line of text is also important. Don’t squander its impact by opening with ‘Can’t read this? Click here…’ The user translates it as ‘Won’t read this, next!’ Put your mirror links at the foot of the email and optimise any linked content for mobile.

Put mobile first

The old rules of email marketing still stand for mobile. You may be competing with hundreds of other emails in someone’s inbox so keep the design clear and simple to increase the likelihood of being read. Your message should be text focused; not overburdened with images and logos. Apart from one key picture, optimised to the device, avoid images and just use text. Try experimenting with background colour and font size to highlight calls to action and stick to single column text that is easy to scroll on a mobile. Two or three column layouts, designed to make traditional emails more newsletter-y, are out.

The proliferation of computer viruses has cultivated in an aversion to email attachments. They add a barrier of inconvenience to your message and rejection rates are high. Avoid attachments to increase the chances of a mobile email getting through.

We now know that mobile is a pertinent issue in email marketing. Anyone using this channel must invest in their understanding of mobile to truly master it and reap the benefits.

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