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How can retailers optimise email campaigns for mobile devices?

It’s true, mobile retail email open rates jumped by 50% over the holiday period last year[1] with more and more people reading their emails on their mobile devices.  This upwards trend is only going to continue.

If your customers are telling you that they are receiving your emails on a mobile device, you need to ensure that your emails are optimised so that not only do they open your email on a mobile, but they also click and convert.

So what are the first steps in developing a strategy for mobile email?

What devices are your customers using?

Before you do anything, you need to know what devices your customers are using. Do your customers prefer smartphones or tablets? Or do they open your email on a mobile device but click and buy on a desktop? All of this information is really important for you to determine what your mobile email strategy should be.

Using a reporting tool like Adestra’s MessageFocus Email Client Detection Reporting you can see what devices your recipients are using. We have taken an in-depth look our reporting across all of our retail clients. This data is aggregated across our whole retail client base from 1st April 2012 up to 28th January 2013, and presents a true picture across the retail sector.

The iPhone is the king when it comes to retail emails. 22% of all email opens across Adestra retail clients are opened on an iPhone, followed by Outlook at 16% and the iPad at 15%. This shows that even though mobile optimisation is most definitely a priority for retailers, your email must look good on all devices to ensure a good recipient experience.

  • Top mobile email client: iPhone
  • Top desktop email client: Outlook
  • Top webmail email client: Hotmail

Now you know what they’re opening your emails upon, what about the devices they’re clicking on?

An important point to remember is that many mobile devices download images by default so you may record more opens on mobile devices. That’s why it’s really important to know what devices your customers are clicking on to maximise your conversions.
  • Top desktop email client: Outlook
  • Top webmail email client: Hotmail
  • Top mobile email client: iPhone

Even though iPhones are king when it comes to people opening retail emails, Outlook still rules when it comes to clicks.

What is interesting is the correlation between opens and click through –  17% of emails that register an open are read via Outlook and only 1% less  (16%) of clicks happen in Outlook. Understandable. However for an iPhone,  22% of emails that register an open are read on an iPhone, however only 15% of clicks happen on an iPhone. So one third of iPhone readers simply stop at the opening stage. Interesting stats, especially if you are tracking ROI and conversions.

How can retailers boost clicks on a mobile device?

The same advice applies to retailers as it does to other sectors. Optimise your emails for clicks on all devices and your results will improve. Here we go through some key points on what to focus on first”¦

Enticing them to open

The same applies here as with desktop best practice. Except in the case of mobile you have the pre-header text visible in your inbox. Use your from name, subject and pre-header text together to give them the information they need to entice them to open the email.

From name: Make sure it is recognisable. Company or brand name is best. You just need to be careful if they leave.

Pre-header text: The first bit of rich text in your email will display here. Make sure you clearly state your call to action here to entice them to open.

Subject line: Use this to tell them what is inside; demonstrate the benefit – what’s in it for me? Remember though that you will only see the first 30-40 characters before you open so ensure your most important information is at the start. Adestra’s subject line research showed some words encourage response more than others.

Clearly not all offers are created equal! The words “coupon” and “voucher” have been ruined by group buying sites and now elicit an extremely poor response. However, giving specific information on the offer appears to drive both opens and clicks. For example, “% Off” and “Sale” proved particularly effective. If you are promoting an offer, be clear about what it is and the revenue will follow.

Being topical about an event certainly catches interest – for example Christmas and birthday offers – but remember you’re not the only one emailing them these offers, so response can drop off somewhat. However, if your product lines covers non-specific events (such as “Summer”) then you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Focusing on the benefits of your products is key, so word choice here is critical. Customers love to be at the cutting edge, so it follows that the word “New” drives results. “Next Day Delivery” gets people to read the email, but not respond at such a high level. Consider including next day delivery with an offer and your results will increase.

Once they’ve opened”¦

“¦make sure the email is readable

Best practice email marketing states that short and punchy copy is best. While this is definitely the way to go, longer emails are also fine for mobile. The key is that your template is readable and clickable. Make sure your HTML scales your email so that copy can be viewed by scrolling vertically. Far too often we get emails where we have to scroll inconsistently horizontally and vertically on a mobile and the email becomes unreadable.

“¦make clicking easy

Tap is the new click and you need to ensure that it is easy to click your links with fat fingers. Make sure there is enough space around your buttons and links. Putting them too close together means it is easy to accidentally tap the wrong one.

Ideal button size: The average width of the index finger is 1.6 – 2cm which converts to 45-57 pixels.

“¦and after they’ve clicked

It’s really important to think about the post-click experience. Responsive design emails will give you an uplift in results when they are easy to use on a mobile AND the rest of the web experience is mobile friendly.

Needless to say, a mobile friendly website that makes it easy to purchase online will make all of the difference.

“¦tips for rich media:

Images: Mobile devices tend to have more restricted bandwidth so keep images small and optimised for web.

Video: Video is a great way to engage people on the move. Watching a 60 second video when you are on the move may be much easier than reading copy. However you need to think about mobile bandwidth – the recipient may be in a low range area and not able to load your video. Ensure you have short snappy rich text to accompany videos so no one misses out.

Animated GIFs: Remember animated GIFs work nicely on mobile as opposed to some desktop email clients so take advantage of this. Keep the most important information on the first frame though to ensure it is seen by those who don’t support animated GIFs. As always, be careful of file size as animated gifs will increase the size of your email and they will take longer to download. Read our how Long Tall Sally used animated GIFs to improve email engagement here

By taking the above into consideration you should help your audience interact with your email on their mobile a little easier. Coupled with finding your optimum time for your audience this should hopefully boost the responsiveness of this audience. The next step however is to ensure that your website is also optimised for mobile!

To find out more, get in touch by emailing


Reena will be speaking at Internet Retailing Expo on Wednesday 20th March about “Email Conversion Optimisation”. Find out more here 

[1] Knotice Mobile Email Opens report – H2 2012 – Published Feb 2013