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Email in 2016 – Mobile and Beyond

9 min read

The rise of the smartphone has been one of the key drivers of change in the email industry. In 2011, only 8% of subscribers read their emails on mobile devices. This number has grown to 55% in 2016. That’s a 688% growth in only four years!


Environmental growth 2011-2016 (most recent data: April 2016)

With this data in mind, mobile email optimization should be a key priority for every email marketer. 

However, that’s not the case. Despite a steady increase in mobile opens, brands are still catching up on optimizing their emails for those devices. Joint research between Litmus and Salesforce found that only 56% of B2C brands use either responsive or mobile-aware email design, while the rest still use mostly desktop-centric designs. 

Marketers who don’t adapt their email strategies to the growing mobile audience miss out on significant opportunities—and can negatively impact their bottom line.

Why designing for mobile is different

Mobile requires a fundamentally different approach to email design and strategy. Smaller screens make it more important than ever to focus on the most relevant information. It doesn’t matter if it’s the subject line or body copy, there just isn’t as much space avaailable to get your message across. 

Marketers also need to adapt their calls-to-action. Subscribers who read on mobile use their thumbs, not a mouse, to navigate through an email. Links and buttons that work fine on desktop devices might be hard or even impossible to hit when reading on mobile. And buttons that say “Click here” are not applicable to those that are “tapping” with their fingers.

If you don’t optimize for mobile, you risk poor engagement and click rates. But that’s not the worst of it—more than 80% of people will delete an email that does not look good on their mobile device

Does your brand already optimize for mobile?

While you’ve taken an important step to better serve your subscribers, it’s not time to relax just yet. As an email marketer focused on success, it’s crucial to stay on top of every new update—and if the email world is full of anything, it’s new developments!

In our 2016 State of Email Report, we analyzed the biggest email developments of the past year and—surprise—many of them touch on mobile email. Here are a few to watch out for… 

New Devices – The Apple Watch

In April 2015, Apple launched the Apple Watch, bringing with it some major implications for email marketers. Not only does the challenge of optimizing for small screens reach a whole new level on the Apple Watch’s tiny 38mm x 42mm display, but the new device breaks with many of the best practices we’ve followed in mobile email design so far. 

Emails on the Apple Watch rely heavily on plain text while stripping out most of the HTML, CSS, and images marketers use to make their emails look great on other devices. The Watch also does not have a web browser, so all links are disabled. Links to landing pages, sign-up forms, or your online store—all the calls-to-action you’ve optimized in the past—just won’t work on Apple’s wearable, forcing email marketers to completely rethink their strategies when sending to subscribers who read email on an Apple Watch. 

New Mobile Email Apps

Every new email app on the market adds complexity to designing emails for mobile audiences, as each app comes with its own challenges and opportunities for marketers. 

In January 2015, Microsoft launched Outlook for both Android and iOS. Unlike traditional inboxes, the Outlook app splits messages into two groups: Focused and Other. Over time, Outlook learns who you interact with most frequently and adds those emails to the Focused group for quick access. Marketers need to send more relevant, useful, and engaging messages or they risk getting sent to the Other folder.  

AOL’s Alto Mail App is another recent addition to the list of mobile email apps. Alto aims to solve the problem of multiple inboxes. It supports all the global email providers, allows you to pull them all together in one inbox, and easily switch between them in a single app.

Alto includes a pinch and zoom functionality that allows users to expand the emails in their messaging list to include more text, meaning users don’t have to click into an email to view a large portion of the message. This translates to an opportunity for marketers to get clever with their preview text messaging. However, it can also impact open rates since users are “reading” the email without actually opening it.

Making a difference in the world of mobile email

Do you want to be on the forefront of mobile email?

Join Justine Jordan at Savage Marketing 2016 to learn about the challenges of optimizing for mobile, the role of responsive email (no, it doesn’t work everywhere!), and how innovations like Apple Watch may change our email marketing strategies. 

Mobile Email Optimization: Strategies for Small Screens (June 1, 2016, 14.35-14.55)

by Litmus

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