Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Check.
This is the mental list many ponder before going anywhere. And studies show that some Americans check their email accounts in the middle of the night and many remotely peruse their work accounts on Sunday evening; meaning that the next trend—that consumers are checking their email accounts on-the-go with mobile devices—isn't much of a shock.
What it does mean is that marketers have to be mindful of this channel integration and how it impacts communication. Here to provide helpful hints and design advice are:
- John Arnold, director of customer training and certification for Waltham, Mass.-based email marketing software provider Constant Contact, and author of "Mobile Marketing for Dummies"—coming out at the end of the month—"Web Marketing All-in-One Desk Reference" and "E-Mail Marketing for Dummies";
- Dennis Dayman, chief deliverability and privacy officer at Vienna, Va.-based marketing automation solution provider Eloqua;
- Michelle Eichner, vice president of product management at Unica's Pivotal Veracity, an email delivery auditing and optimization solution provider;
- Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services at Akron, Ohio-based "direct digital marketing company" Knotice; and
- Alex Williams, digital marketing strategist at Portland, Ore.-based email marketing firm eROI.
A few behavioral hints can help marketers succeed in their mobile email efforts:
1. Mobile is becoming the primary way to communicate with consumers. Williams says: "In several recent tests done by eROI with our clients, we almost always see mobile engagement rank the highest, followed by desktop. Both B-to-B and B-to-C customers are spending much more time with email on their mobile devices."
Marshall says: "Within years, it's likely the majority of all emails may be viewed on a mobile device. So decisions like overall email design, copywriting, calls to action and links should be re-examined thoroughly to understand if your emails are simply asking for more time and expecting greater screen real estate than your customers are able to provide."
2. Context is key, so content may have to change to fit the situation. Cell phones are portable and can be used to make immediate calls, instead of just being used as computers to look at websites, Arnold notes. So adding a phone number that consumers can click or touch to call brings up the issue of whether marketers should connect calls to live agents or use voice recognition technology.
"For example, if you send out an email and the main call to action is free shipping, that's great if you're on a computer in your office and you want to just click to buy and get it shipped to your house," Arnold says. "But if you're on the sidelines at a soccer game watching your kids play soccer and you get this email, maybe the message should be, 'Stop by on your way home and pick it up.'
" … Also," Arnold continues, "people generally read email on their mobile phones in order to sort through their email and decide what they want to read later. So that might change your call to action. Instead of 'Buy now,' you might be more interested in saying something like, 'Save this email. It contains your link.'"
3. Show respect. "Every wireless provider touts fast speeds," Dayman says. "But your targets aren't all located in big cities where these speeds are [possible]. Be respectful of your targets' time and bandwidth by only sending what is really needed for them to get the message."
In other words, stick to the facts and don't push for a mobile conversion—that'll probably happen later, on a desktop, Williams says. "Focus on your core message and keep the copy to a minimum."
To incorporate those hints into their mobile email strategies, marketers may benefit from these design tips:
1. Always include text. Dayman says HTML tags can often get garbled on mobile devices, and Marshall adds that devices, including BlackBerry, default to text.
"It's critical to closely examine how you create the text version," Marshall says. "And perhaps place more emphasis on this process. Specifically, what text and links appear at the very top of the email? Can your Blackberry readers understand your message and take action through the text version?"
Dayman adds that marketers can use alt tags to add in, for instance, company names when logo images are blocked.
2. Consider multichannel consumers. "The hard part today is you can actually open up an email on a mobile device and decide to read it later on a standard desktop email client," Eichner says. She suggests that—much like the preview pane on a desktop email program, such as Outlook—the calls to action, links and other important information remain in the upper left-hand corner. (Playing it safe, marketers can assume that the small screens are anywhere from 150 pixels by 150 pixels, up to 240 by 320 or, flipped to the side, 320 by 240. Other devices, like the iPad, have larger screen sizes to consider.)
She adds: "Here is the proper way to code a URL to ensure it works across platforms: click here"
Williams says, "Use a fluid layout. This will allow the message width to adjust to the size of the device screen and optimizes readability no matter what device your customer is using. Don't try to use one layout specific to the iPhone or Blackberry."
3. Make it short. Shorten links, Eichner says. Shorten subject lines, Dayman adds. Or front-load subject lines, Williams says.
For marketers who have a lot to say, Marshall suggests providing a link at the top of the email to a mobile-friendly version on the Web. Eichner notes that any links within the email should also lead to mobile-friendly landing pages.
4. Use analytics. Eichner says even marketers who don't have analytics attached to their email campaigns can take a look at their Web analytics and use the data to design mobile emails. "Your web analytics data, in addition to having browser and operating system data, [will] also have screen resolution data," she says. "So you can make inferences by seeing a 320 by, say, 396 screen resolution, or 240 by 240."
Marshall adds: "View a broad range of your current email creatives through the top 10 mobile devices represented in your reports. This should encompass a variety of email clients."