responsive email marketingA few years ago, when smartphones were just coming into prominence, email marketers would always include a link to the ‘mobile version’ of their campaigns. Usually, the link to this would appear in the email pre-header. Clicking the link would take the recipient to a web page.

As more and more people start to view emails on the move, it becomes harder to get their attention. Thus, the mobile version of any email needs to engage them instantly.

Here is an example of a ‘mobile version’ of an email:

Mobile version of email

Not particularly exciting, eh?

There’s one way to avoid your emails becoming this dull when people want to view them on their smartphones or tablets, and all you need to do is keep this in mind: every email version is your mobile version.

In most cases, like that above, mobile versions of emails have been simple text affairs with a smattering of images for good measure. There’s no branding, very little colour and zero styling. They are entirely dull and do no service to the brand. You still see them, unfortunately, and I, for one, immediately delete any I come across while walking the dog. I haven’t got time to scour acres of text that don’t inspire me.

This shouldn’t be confused with the plain text version of emails. As I recently mentioned in an email marketing checklist, this is still very important. The UK is still somewhat behind in terms of mobile internet access and there are many rural areas where people simply won’t have the bandwidth available to view the full-blown version of your message. A text only version fixes that in extreme cases.

For those on GPRS, Edge, 3G connections and better, your main email is enough. It just needs to be intelligent and responsive. You don’t need to send them to a web page in order to view it.

So, what’s wrong with a ‘mobile version’?

There’s four key problems:

  1. They are lacklustre. Words and images lumped onto a web page without any styling just looks lazy.
  2. The text is often small. No one likes small text.
  3. Because of the above, they’re often unreadable. The formatting (or lack of it) also often makes this so.
  4. They are hard to interact with. Links will most likely be very difficult to tap on smaller screens.

Have I put you off mobile version of emails yet? Remember – most email marketers get, at the most, two clicks per open. Why would you want to waste one of those clicks by forcing the subscriber to take an extra step to view the email in the first place, just because of the device they are using?

Ditching the mobile version

So, we all agree they’re pretty rubbish. Email opens on mobile devices now stand at 48% of all email opens. It is time to abandon mobile versions of emails. Perhaps we can start a little revolution here.

Mobile has grown incredibly quickly and there is no getting away from the fact that ensuring an email is readable on any device is challenging.  It is worth the effort, though – 70% of consumers delete emails if they don’t render well on mobile devices. You may think they’ll look at the email later on their desktop, but research shows that only 3% of people will view the same email on more than one device.

How to abandon mobile versions

Mobile first. This is gradually becoming the mantra of every email marketer (and, indeed, web designer). Responsive emails are a godsend, but if you’d rather take a simpler approach to begin with, you can simply create an email which works on any screen size without having to resize itself automatically. There’s a few key principals to achieving this:

  • A single column design is employed.
  • A clever grid system ensures alignment and proportions are consistent, regardless of screen size.
  • Larger fonts are generally used.
  • Large, touch-friendly buttons are essential.
  • The call-to-action is always placed in the upper part of the email (usually on the left-hand side).

You have just one version (i.e. one HTML file) of your email on which to work – it’s a great, simple technique.

Going responsive

This does require more time and skill, but that’s what the good folks at mailingmanager are here for! Responsive emails really are the way to go if you can afford the time and budget to get them set up (they will not break the bank, I promise). Responsive emails use clever CSS3 code to render two different layouts of the same message depending on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. CSS media queries automatically adjust the layout, content and text size. It’s clever stuff and works wonders.

Responsive emails can also automatically remove or swap images to fit smaller screen sizes and even the colour and size of buttons can be changed. Unlike the simple method above, responsive emails do require two designs and a fair bit of code, but they really are the only mobile first strategy you’ll want to consider for the future.


Image courtesy of Chaiwat /


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.

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