Responsive Email Design 101
by Alyssa Nahatis
posted on 02-28-2014
Emails are often the starting point for personal relationships between brands and consumers. It is therefore mandatory for marketers to ensure that emails are readable on every device available as part of an effective marketing strategy. The audience has expanded beyond the desktop to mobile, and brands have to follow the trend.
I wanted to discuss the importance of reaching consumers on any device and to gather some best practices for impactful, responsive email design. Below are some basic questions I receive from customers when asking about responsive design.
What Is Responsive Email Design?
Responsive email design ensures that an email renders appropriately for the device on which it’s opened.
As marketers, our customers are mobile, and the majority of emails are now accessed on mobile devices. As a result, marketers need to adapt their communication strategies to include a lighter format and a mobile friendly layout: that’s responsive email design.
Why Should Marketers Invest Time Recoding Their Emails if the Format They Use Today Performs Well?
With 61 percent of marketing emails being opened on smartphones and tablets, marketers must be sensitive to the consumer’s experience. Seventy-five percent of consumers say they will delete an email that doesn’t render properly on their device, so ignoring responsive email design can have disastrous results. Furthermore, responsive email design can generate additional sales. Nowadays checking one’s email is the most popular activity on smartphones and 56 percent of US smartphone users who have made at least once purchase through their mobile device, state that they made it after having received an email. Consequently, email marketing remains the best call-to-action – even on mobile. It just has to be adapted.
Does This Impact Both B2B and B2C Sectors?
Quick answer – yes. For obvious reasons BtoC organizations need to make the shift first. But these new behaviors are common in a BtoB context too. 57 percent of employees are participating in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) worldwide and 85 percent of managers use smartphones for business purposes. With the proliferation of mobile devices and increasing use of these devices for both work and play, BtoB and BtoC both need to ensure responsive design is part of every digital communication to effectively engage with their audiences.
Responsive design is an appropriate strategy for both B2B and B2C marketers because mobile is the number one platform for opening and reading reading emails. In fact, studies have shown that 65% of marketing emails were opened on a smartphone or tablet in the fourth quarter of 2013, while desktop opens slowed to a new low of 35%, down from 39% in the previous quarter.
Do Brands Need to Recruit New People and Buy New Campaign Management Solutions to Produce Responsive Email Designs?
Campaign management solutions (such as Adobe Campaign) can leverage responsive design code without limitations and also offer responsive design templates in the newest software solution. Marketers have to ensure the solutions they use are equipped with these features and offer the same level of flexibility.
In terms of resources, it’s important to train the people creating your emails to give them enough knowledge to code ‘mobile-ready’ emails. If you outsource email creation, you must check if your agency has enough expertise in mobile readiness and responsive design.
What Are the Main Best Practices around Responsive Email Design Strategy?
Making emails readable on any device means adapting what they contain and how they are built. Here are some rules for making responsive email designs work:
- Build on a single column template to optimize readability. Smartphone screens force marketers to arrange their contents vertically. Lateral scrolling is not good practice for mobile design.
- Shorten content and ensure that the call to action is visible without scrolling.
- Emails might be read “on the go,” and therefore need to be impactful and quickly recognizable.
- Emphasize subjects and first lines to increase open rates. Most mobile inboxes display emails in a list showing only the subject and the first one to three lines.
- Lighten image sizes to make them available quickly. Download delays are a real annoyance for consumers; marketers must avoid this. Images should be hosted on a remote server to make emails lighter.
- Adapt call-to-action buttons to make them mobile friendly. Buttons must be large enough to be easily reachable with a finger: 44×44 pixels is a minimum.
- Test, test and retest, to ensure that your emails display well across all devices.
How Can Brands Test to Ensure Their Emails Are Actually Readable on Various Devices?
Prior to sending an email campaign, marketers should utilize rendering tools to test how their emails will be displayed on a wide range of screens and devices.
What’s the Next Step?
Not only is it important to build responsive design into emails, it’s important to consider what happens after the ‘click.’ Why spend the time to create a responsive-designed message if the landing page doesn’t adapt to mobile devices? Make sure to drive your customers to a page that will recognize whether or not they are mobile and present the information in an adapted format. Another good option is to drive your subscribers to your app in the appropriate online store.
What’s the Most Important Takeaway?
As marketers, we must always consider the consumer experience. Before even considering responsive design options, we must first ensure that we’re only sending relevant emails that our customers have asked for. Permission and relevance remain the key requirements for any email strategy. Once that’s ensured, marketers can innovate with new options for connecting with their customers, such as responsive email design.
Topics: Campaign Management