Let’s start by picturing the daily scenario most of us go through. It’s morning. You wake by the alarm on your mobile phone. Swipe to snooze. Whilst in your hand, you read your emails, check social media, and catch up on the news.

As you eat your breakfast you reply to text messages from the night before and check your work calendar to plan the day ahead.

On your commute to work you take a quick detour past a coffee shop using Google Maps. *POP UP TRAVEL NOTIFICATION* There’s a delay ahead to your usual commute so you use your travel app to find an alternative route.

You’re late to the office so you dial in remotely to the morning’s first conference call.

Pretty much all of the above wouldn’t have been possible or as efficient without that little device that we are so dependent on. Yep……it’s the smartphone.

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Considering this personal device evolved into the market only 9 years ago, its usage has increased dramatically in that time and we have become so reliant on it that when the battery occasionally runs out on us, we stop everything to have a mini breakdown.

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There has been no other personal device that has had the same societal impact as the smartphone.

We can safely say we are now obsessed with the smartphone with 91% of the UK population aged 18 to 44 now owning one. That means that the overwhelming majority of your customers will own a smartphone and be using it every single day.

On average they will also be clicking, tapping or swiping their smartphone 2,617 times a day. That’s a lot of opportunities to engage with your customers. Email usage via a smartphone also continues to increase annually and remains the most popular digital communications tool on the device.

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Why is this important to email marketers?

Let’s all agree, I think the smartphone is here to stay. Checking emails on the go is one core reason we keep picking up the smartphone. It has been predicted that by the end of 2018, worldwide mobile email users are expected to total over 2.2billion.

Consumers now don’t just own a smartphone and check their emails, they also purchase with it. Black Friday- known for being one of the key retail shopping days of the year, became the biggest day for online shopping in the UK ever last year, surpassing the £1bn mark.

£495m of that was spent using smartphones and tablets. This is what makes the smartphone such an important part of the digital marketer’s optimising puzzle. However, the mobile experience has a long way to go with Accenture finding that 81% of potential buyers are frustrated with their smartphone purchasing experiences.

What has been the challenge for mobile optimisation?

So far optimising digital marketing for the smartphone has been incredibly fragmented across individual channels from ecommerce websites to SEO. Generally, the marketing channels with the highest budgets in many organisations have been prioritised.

The central point for taking the first step onto a responsive journey has been primarily focused on updating the brand’s website. The downside with that approach is that by starting that journey, many organisations discovered that their websites were built using legacy systems.

Developing what was once a desktop only website to automatically responding to a smartphone wasn’t quite as simple as first envisioned. I’ve worked with lots of established and well-known brands that have taken years to bring their websites up to scratch responsively.

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This has effectively meant the other digital channels have had to wait their turn before they too could become responsive.

For any organisation still without an effective mobile website, Google has also now begun to step in and as of April 2015, they have penalised brands that don’t have mobile friendly websites. Brands not implementing a mobile first approach is now also going to impact SEO performance.

Google is now taking it a step further and is looking to create a separate search index for mobile users, so search results will only display websites that are mobile friendly whilst searching using a smartphone.

I’m personally surprised Google has taken this long to start creating these developments and clearly, there has been an element of Google expecting brands to keep up with consumer demands. The last thing Google wants to see is mobile users starting to turn away because they constantly receive a bad experience presenting results with unfriendly mobile websites.

In many cases, email marketing has been way down the pecking order for mobile optimisation. Even as the number of smartphones used to open an email has gradually increased, the urgency of optimising for that mobile experience hasn’t been there for email.

Now more than 60% of opened emails, are opened using a smartphone. Now is the time for email marketers to catch up. Fortunately for email marketers, there are tools readily available, such as smart drag and drop templates to make it possible to optimise today and not have to wait years like ecommerce managers had to do in the past.

Responsive design is more than going mobile-friendly

There are several hurdles to overcome after you’ve hit the ‘dispatch’ button!

First hurdle is to get your email delivered and then to get it opened before being faced squinting at microscopic text and wonky, misaligned images because the template isn’t responsive. Implementing a responsive template is key. Besides, why spend all that time creating and building an email campaign to fall over at the third hurdle because of a template?

But it’s not just about ensuring the design is responsive and adaptive to all devices, the smartphone has also impacted consumers’ expectations. It’s changed their expectations of real-time, relevant messages.

This will have a bearing on how a brands’ message is perceived, and that’s if it’s even received at all in the ever-crowded inbox.

What a recipient now perceives to be relevant is constantly changing with their needs, locations, devices and so on… It’s important that your email marketing strategy fulfills these needs to achieve the highest ROI.

Read my tips below on optimising your email strategy, content, and design for the smartphone.

Where to start with your mobile strategy?

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It’s easy to just think about the design of your email marketing campaigns when optimising for mobile devices without ever factoring it into your email strategy.

Aligning the customer experience across all devices also plays a key role in identifying the where, what, and why elements of your strategy to ensure you achieve the business and marketing objectives and goals. You don’t need to have a separate mobile strategy, it’s subscriber behaviour that should be identified within your strategy.

If this has been clearly identified, then mobile optimisation is likely to play a huge part in ensuring you are creating a seamless experience for your subscriber. If it isn’t included then your subscribers will be experiencing a fragmented experience not only across devices but also in every engagement with you, which could be in store, online or on the phone.

My three top tips for optimising your email marketing strategy are:

  1. Put the customer at the centre when creating your email strategy. To be able to determine your subscribers’ needs and expectations you must analyse all the data you’ve been gathering from all of the email campaigns you’ve sent. Break this analysis down into segments and start to establish content that performs well. Subject lines that don’t generate an open and time & day of when is the most optimal time to send your emails. For example, if your subscribers spend a shorter amount of time reading your emails in the morning and a longer time in the evening, then optimise your email content accordingly.
  1. Map out your subscriber’s current journey with your brand before and after receiving an email. Determine pain points that can be optimised and identify trigger points to ensure you send your emails at the right time, to the right person, with the right content. Always think about the subscribers’ experience beyond the click in an email, because that could have a huge impact on your email performance. For example, if you’ve responsively optimised your email campaigns and website landing page but not the payment area of your website, you’re likely to see a huge drop because the consumer will expect a completely mobile optimised journey and experience.
  1. Mobile is a part of the experience but isn’t the entire experience. There is no doubt that for most industries, a mobile first approach is crucial to success, but always validate that with your own subscriber base. It may be that your subscribers open their emails using a smartphone but majority still purchase via a desktop. Understanding your attribution funnel across digital channels and devices will ensure that you optimise all areas of a consumer’s digital experience with your brand. Think about collaborating optimisation, not silo optimisation.

Creative mobile optimisation

Once you’ve identified your email strategy you’ll have a clear purpose for every email campaign you send. This purpose forms the ‘why, what and where’ elements of your email content and design brief. The ‘how’ element is where the tactics come into play to bring your email strategy to life.

Top key areas to consider when optimising your email content and design for the smartphone are:

  • Make sure you optimise your subject and super subject lines as the first thing you do. Don’t leave these two crucial areas as the last things you think about when creating your email campaigns. These two areas along with the sender name, are the judgement areas of whether your email is opened or swiped and deleted. Include any key information at the very start of the subject line, make it clear why a recipient should open your email.

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  • Write your content as if you’re writing a tweet – there is limited space available on a smartphone, so make sure your message is clear & concise.
  • Make it really clear what you want the recipient to do, what is the action you want them to take?
  • When designing the email, always consider image file sizes, bigger the file the more time it will take to download. For example, if you’re trying to capture subscribers during their typical commuting hours when wifi and 4G speeds will be limited, consider the image file size, and potentially reducing the number of images features.
  • Make your template responsive, this means it will automatically respond to various device sizes as soon as the recipient opens your email.
  • Use a content checker to ensure that the design and content are rendering correctly before sending the campaign. This will highlight any areas that won’t display correctly and enable you to edit it before the email is sent.

Testing is your friend. When optimising for mobile devices, testing will enable you to gather learnings into your subscribers’ behaviour and areas that work within your email campaigns.

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For example, if you design a brand-new email template, A/B test the old version against the new and compare the results.

The results will highlight areas that work well and areas that need further testing and tweaking. It’s from testing that you start to learn more about your subscribers’ behaviour and start optimising not only for mobile but also to increase email performance.

(Psst… If you want to learn how to create high-converting call-to-actions, check out our CTA bible)

Wrap Up

There’s no doubt that the smartphone is here to stay and the more we use the small screen the more we expect from it. For brands not optimising mobile first you’ll be a step behind your subscribers’ expectations already.

Don’t let that step become a mountain and start optimising your email strategy and campaigns for smartphones today.

Free Downloadable Bonus
Download your own checklist and get mobile optimized today.

Jenna Tiffany
Jenna has over seven years’ marketing experience within B2B and B2C sectors across a number of industries, having previously worked across within the travel, financial services, and retail sectors. At Communicator, Jenna works with the likes of West Ham United, Moss Bros and The Co-op, to analyse and develop their key journeys & wider digital marketing activity, developing best in class digital strategies & campaigns to deliver ROI. Jenna serves on the DMA North Council, is a member of the CIM North Board and contributes to the DMA’s Email Marketing Council.

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