Mobile emailsThe number of email opens on mobile devices is a little volatile at the moment. Just before Christmas, it hit an all time high of 50%, but it has lost a couple of percentage points since then.

The recent drop in marketshare for mobile devices is possible down to Google’s continued refining of their Gmail service. Their webmail clients now cache and pre-process images and have focussed particularly on the latter when it comes to mobile devices. Therefore, such figures can be a little skewed.

Regardless, these should be viewed as fluctuations rather than anything else. All email marketers need to think mobile-first. If your campaigns aren’t ready for small screens, you’re going to be essentially giving half of your subscriber base the cold shoulder. Imagine that.

But where does mobile go from here? And, more importantly, how do we keep our email marketing campaigns relevant for this rapidly-growing mobile user base?

The ‘post-PC’ era

It’s a phrase coined by Apple, but one that is impossible not to take note of. PC sales are dropping drastically, while tablets are gradually becoming the go-to devices for consumers and business professionals. Need to check your emails? What do you grab first? A smartphone, tablet or laptop computer (that’s likely the device hierarchy).

Building emails purely for the desktop is an obvious no-no. Even if you work in a business-to-business (B2B) environment, the same still stands; your audience, although likely to be sitting in front of their PC for much of the day, will also need to be able to access your messages on their mobile devices. Designing purely for the former will entirely cripple the latter and leave you with some rather disappointed subscribers.

This is completely avoidable. Responsive email is now more accessible than ever, regardless of your budget. Pre-defined templates are usually available and, with a little bit of investment, you can have bespoke responsive templates built for you.

Mobile-aware emails

An alternative to responsive design is a mobile-aware email and we continue to see these today.

Put simply, mobile-aware emails start with you thinking ‘mobile-first’ whenever you sit down to design or build an email. You need to keep the needs of your smartphone and tablet-touting users at the very foremost of your mind, right from the start.

You don’t need extensive knowledge of HTML for these types of messages. Unlike responsive designs, most people can implement a mobile-aware email pretty quickly and at virtually no cost, other than time. A mobile-aware email simply ensures that, if your subscribers receive your email on their smartphone, the experience of reading it will be a pleasurable one.

Usually, such a design ethic will benefit the experience for desktop users, too.

There are four rules to creating great mobile-aware emails:

  1. Use large fonts which are easy to read.
  2. Keep the layout simple; use one column.
  3. Ensure your call-to-actions are clear and large enough to be pressed with a finger.
  4. Implement large, clear images and photography.


Responsive design: the future

Mobile-aware works, but is often a rather cheap and dirty way of achieving true, mobile-ready email campaigns. Responsive design is where it’s at.

Responsive websites are also mobile-aware, but they’re a little cleverer than that. By using clever CSS coding, they can automatically resize themselves based on the screen size on which they are being viewed. This gives you more control over the design and the recipient effortless flexibility on which device they choose to read your message.

Don’t listen to the naysayers who believe responsive design is expensive, difficult to learn, difficult to edit and takes longer to test. That, frankly, is rubbish. If designed properly, your emails will work across most devices, even if certain browsers or clients are unable to render specific elements of the design.

As mentioned above, pre-designed templates exist and they’re a great starting point but, as you get more into email marketing, we always recommend employing the services of a professional in order to get a bespoke template built just for you.

Keeping it mobile throughout the subscriber journey

Your website is intrinsically linked with your email marketing. If you are investing in responsive or mobile-aware designs for the latter, the same process needs to take place throughout the rest of the subscriber’s journey. Your signup page needs to work perfectly on mobile devices, as do any landing pages. If any one of those elements fails to work consistently, you endanger the whole process.

This year and beyond, your subscribers’ journeys through your email marketing world will become increasingly mobile. Keep that in mind at all times and you simply can’t go wrong.


Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG /


Mark is one of mailingmanager's email experts. His contributions to this blog openly share the tricks, tips and best practices he's learned while running multiple e-marketing campaigns.

Follow me on googleplus Google Plus