How to Optimize Emails for Mobile

How to Optimize Emails for Mobile

Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is not dead. Far from it, in fact.

With so many new marketing strategies floating around today, it is easy for marketers to get swept away and forget about email marketing.

Don’t be one of those marketers.

Discounting the power of email marketing is a mistake.

According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing drives $44 in revenue for every dollar spent.

Something you should do, however, is re-evaluate your approach toward email marketing in order to drive user interaction and engagement.

One of the most important steps you can take to drive user interaction and engagement is to optimize your emails for mobile.

Why is Mobile Optimization so Important?

When was the last time you visited a website on your mobile device?

Just thinking about it can be frustrating and make your eyes hurt.

From the tiny links and buttons to the small text boxes that make you feel as if you have sausage fingers, it’s not surprising that many readers abandon the site.

Mobile optimization for websites has been accepted as an essential step in the website creation process.

It’s time for the mobile optimization of emails to be treated in the same manner. Many companies agree:

However, although many companies are beginning to realize the importance of email marketing optimization, they are having trouble getting the job done:

If companies are going to keep up with today’s consumer, something has to give.

Customer Expectations

People are busy and they are increasingly impatient. Today’s consumer expectations are high when it comes to user experience. To meet and exceed those expectations, emails coming from your brand should always be optimized for mobile users.

Sending emails that are optimized for the mobile user experience is an increasingly important part of meeting consumer expectations.

Reducing Friction

For websites and emails alike, the main motivator for optimizing for mobile is to reduce friction. When customers have to work harder than necessary to get something, they feel friction. Friction makes customers want to avoid the experience – and your brand.

  • If users know your emails are optimized for mobile, they will open them.
  • If you have a reputation for emails that have not been optimized, they won’t.

Understanding how consumers read their emails can uncover insights that result in better decision-making for your email marketing campaigns.

For example, on what type of device are consumers reading emails?

Email open rate on mobile devices has increased exponentially since 2011, growing more than 100%. In fact, today 61.9% of all emails are now opened and read on mobile devices.

As the rate of desktop opens steadily declines, marketing campaigns must focus on strategies that display and interact with users effectively on mobile devices.

You can probably imagine what consumers do when they receive an email that isn’t optimized for their mobile device.

They delete it. In fact, 80% delete the email immediately!

To avoid that type of scenario, 7 simple steps can help your brand avoid such a catastrophe.

7 Steps to Optimize Emails for Mobile Access

Step #1: The Reader Must Open the Email

For this to happen, it’s all about the subject line and what’s called the pre-header text. This is where the consumer makes the critical decision of whether the email is worth the opening click.

The subject line is that line amid the long list of emails readers receive each hour. The subject line must be short, succinct, and enticing. But too many marketers stop there.

The pre-header text, that first line of email copy that is visible and serves as a preview, deserves an equal amount of attention. Those precious few extra characters provide your brand with an opportunity to entice the reader toward that opening click.

While pre-header text is also important for desktop emails, it is especially important for mobile email marketing because time is typically in shorter supply for mobile users.

They are mobile after all, right?


Pre-header text varies depending on the reader’s email server and the device being used. So it’s especially important to split-test and customize pre-header text for different segments of your target audience.

A few things to keep in mind as you design your pre-header text:

Space. When you combine the subject line with your pre-header to form one connected message, you gain a bit more space to put some context around your message.

According to Litmus, you have the following number of characters to play with for each of the following devices:

Personalization. A customized approach that includes the reader’s name is always a good idea when it comes to email marketing and it’s no different when it comes to the subject line and pre-header text.

  • According to Statista, open rates for personalized emails average 18.8% compared to 13.1% without personalization.

Step #2: Optimize the “From” Field

Who are your emails coming from?

Did you know that 68% of Americans base their decision to open an email on who is sending it to them?

The “From” field is displayed prominently when a reader sees an email. In fact, on mobile devices, it’s probably the most noticeable element of an email campaign. Larger and bolder text allows a scrolling reader to easily discern who is sending the email.

To optimize this part of your mobile strategy, let the audience expectation guide you.

Consider this question: Who do they expect to send this email?

It’s also important to consider how many characters make sense. The magic number seems to be 23 and under in order to have the entire “From” field clearly displayed.

Step #3: Follow the F Design

In 2006, eye tracking research by the Norman Nielsen Group discovered that people scan phone screens in the shape of the letter F.

According to the research:

  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content. This forms the F’s top bar.
  • Next, users move down the page slightly and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area this time. This forms the F’s lower bar.
  • Finally, users scan the left side of the content in a vertical movement. This forms the F’s stem.

Do the work for your readers.

Don’t force them to exert extra effort. Instead of taking the chance that readers will miss some important information, prioritize your messaging and format it according to what this research tells us:

Optimize your email content for the F-pattern since that is how people will read it:

  • Front-load your emails to offer the most important content first.
  • Design content knowing that readers begin at the top and tend to read the first few words on the left of each line of text as they quickly make their way down to the end.
  • Use headings and subheadings. Be sure that they look more important, and are more visible so users can find them quickly.
  • Start those headings and subheadings with concise wording that conveys the most information. If users only pick up the first two or three words, they should be able to get the gist of the following section. And may even be enticed to keep reading.
  • Visual grouping of related information is helpful. Surround the group with a border to attract attention.
  • Bold important words and phrases.
  • Use bullets and numbers.

Step #4: Are Your Buttons Big Enough?

When was the last time you measured your buttons?

Strange but an important question.

According to a recent MIT study, to accommodate a tap from the average adult index finger, your buttons need to be at least 45 x 45px in size.

Large buttons, especially for calls to action, can be the difference between someone clicking through and someone closing and forgetting the email.

It’s also important to:

  • Leave a sufficient amount of white space around any buttons.
  • Use action verbs in your CTA.
  • Use as little text as possible. “Learn more” or “download now” are always a safe bet.

Step #5: Strike the Right Balance Between Graphics and Text

The brain processes images faster than it processes text. 60,000 times faster, in fact.

Since that was all text, your brain might need an extra moment to process that shocking statistic.

  • This explains why text-heavy emails don’t perform particularly well – especially on mobile.
  • It also explains why 65% of brands use infographics in content marketing.

With so many images being used, it’s important to ensure that those images translate appropriately to the smaller screen of the mobile device.

Infographics in particular that combine images and text can contain text that will be too small to read on mobile. Are you squinting yet?

Step #6: Use a Responsive Template

If you’re going to use a template from your service provider, ensure that it is responsive.

A responsive email template is designed to automatically adjust to fit the screen on which it’s being viewed. As a result, your email will appear the way you intended whether it’s being opened on a smartphone or a tablet.

Step #7: Leverage Device Detection Capabilities

Mobile-responsive design can look great but can present problems when it comes to user experience.

Device detection can solve this problem. With device detection, the email can essentially detect which device is about to be used and adapt to deploy the optimal email presentation.

With device detection, you gain insight into how customers are consuming your content. This enables you to optimize the email experience to reduce friction and lead them through the most seamless buyer’s journey possible.

For example:

  • If your objective is to drive app downloads, device detection can detect whether the email is about to open on an iPhone or an Android device.
  • From there, it can adapt to route the user to the Apple App Store or Google Play for easier conversion.

Step #8: Audit Your Own Emails

When was the last time you sent yourself one of your company’s emails?

The designer of your emails is likely working at a desktop computer. It can be difficult to think about the mobile experience while sitting in front of the large desktop screen.

To get a good feel for how responsive the email will be on a mobile device, pull it up on an iPhone, Android, or tablet. Better yet, pull it up on any mobile device that you can get your hands on.

Test out the links. Scroll up and down to see how the user experience is.

Viewing your email on the small screen of a mobile device prior to sending it out to your customers will enable you to identify and address problems with the user experience that might go undetected on a desktop screen.

Put yourself in the shoes of your readers.

Now, be honest. Is this the best you can do?

Final Thoughts

Once you reach the final step, you are still not done. The optimization process is iterative. You can always find ways to improve.

Technology is evolving at lightning speed. Prepare for anything and stay on top of any emerging trends. This will ensure communication between your brand and your current and potential customers is as meaningful as possible.

An effectively optimized email for mobile will drive up your open rates. It will improve customer engagement and convert sales.

Whether you’re experiencing a surge in traffic from mobile visitors or proactively working to improve the user experience of your prospects and customers, spending time on mobile optimization is always time well spent.