I have a confession to make. For all the work I do in mobile application marketing, I’ve still made some basic, block-and-tackle mistakes in which I’ve overlooked mobile as a key channel for content consumption. Given that today marks Cyber Monday, I want to share one of these gaffes with you. It holds lessons for any marketer who has a holiday season to make or break this month.
Nearly a year ago, I was working late one night with one of our agencies to put the finishing touches on an all-new e-magazine we had created for company employees. Our mission was to publish something that would be the anti-corporate internal newsletter, one that would look fantastic on multiple screens and be something employees would welcome in their inboxes.
I had spent the last several days admiring the piece’s design and rich content. It included video, deep links to apps, and bright, vibrant photos. With just hours before our deadline, I asked the question that I should have posed at the project’s onset: how did it look on smartphones?
The answer revealed that mobile devices had not been included in the test plan that immediately preceded deployment. Thankfully, my agency was able to test on the most common smartphones my colleagues used, but it’s a good thing we caught the oversight. While it looked fabulous on all the devices we had used to create it, it clearly was broken when viewed on phones. That night went later than I anticipated, but we fixed the problems.
As the most important season for consumer spending enters high gear, many companies will employ email marketing. Here are some lessons I learned from my near-miss experience with the newsletter that can help email marketers deliver engaging content for smartphone users.
- Understand that there is a very high probability that your customers will read your company’s email on their smartphones. I found this useful site on mobile email usage. While your mileage may vary, expect that between 25 and 50 percent of emails your consumers receive will be opened on a smartphone. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of smartphone owners use their devices to check email. Keep these users and use cases in mind as you craft your email design and content.
- Set mobile-specific performance metrics. Set open and click-through rates that are unique to mobile. If you have no precedent upon which to set these targets, don’t let that stop you. It might make sense to start with objectives based on desktop publishing precedents. You always can adjust your mobile targets as you gain experience.
- Design for small screens. Because many marketers and agencies consider tablets, with screen sizes that more resemble a desktop than smartphone, to be mobile devices, it’s not enough to create with mobile in mind. The term is too broad. Instead, you’ll want to build for a four inch touch screen. Sites like Constant Contact’s offer practical guidelines on how to design and distribute for such small real estate.
- Save your best writing for the subject line. Chances are pretty good that your smartphone users have less time to spend with your emails than they do when they are reading on tablets or laptops, so your subject line will have to hook them fast.
- Experiment with different content to see what works best. Treat your emails as the experimental platforms they are by varying one attribute at a time and seeing which ones work best for your mobile users. You could try different subject lines, primary images, offers, and calls-to-action. If you’re prepared to measure carefully, the result should be an email campaign strategy that maximizes clicks over time.
How effectively do companies execute mobile email today? To answer that, I’ve resisted the urge to delete all the emails I get from retailers over the last few days so I could evaluate their mobile execution. I’ve tested them on iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices, and what I see suggests that these companies, a mix of large and medium sized retailers, have a lot of improving to do.
Some don’t offer me a subject line that gives me any reason why I should open the email.
Others try to cram too much information into the subject or the email.
Many feature prominent images that seem irrelevant to the email itself.
Nearly all use fonts that are too small to read without zooming.
When I view these emails on my computer, though, I find many of these complaints fade away. The email marketers responsible for a lot of the content lingering in my inbox these days clearly are still designing for the laptop. My experience suggests they would be wise to revisit their approach.
Show that you can one-up your competitors by challenging your marketing team to develop a mobile-specific email campaign.