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Owning Email Success in a Mobile-First World

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

We live in a world dominated by our mobile devices, where email is the #1 way to reach consumers. Marketers who artfully combine these two technologies are set up for success.

mobile firstThink about how you typically start your day.

You likely wake up to an alarm. Perhaps you check the weather, the news, and your daily schedule while sipping your morning coffee. You might read your emails, and reply to a few on your way to work. Maybe you book a table for dinner at a new restaurant, and browse through offers related to your next family holiday.

The common denominator amongst all these actions? You do them with your smartphone, or as I refer to it, your “mobile.”

It’s not just a phone anymore, a handy device meant only for calling others. The mobile device has become a personal and utilitarian asset, an extension of who we are, with whom we’ve interacted, where we’ve been, what we’ve bought, messages we’ve sent and received, memories and experiences we’ve stored, personal accounts, and much more.

Our #mobile devices are an extension of who we are – where we’ve been, what we’ve bought & more [TWEET THIS!]

The bond between people and their smartphones is continuing to grow even stronger.

How strong? We check our phones an average of 85 times each day, spending an average 5 hours on our phones daily (last year, Emarsys sent almost 41 billion emails on behalf of our customers, and 51% of email opens were on mobile devices). In this article, I’ll share how to ensure you’re making the most of this shift to a mobile-first world.

Mobile-First Presents Challenges for Email Marketing

Over the last two years, the move to mobile has happened so rapidly that the vast majority of marketing strategies quickly became outdated.

Why? A couple of reasons. Marketers are trying to adjust to an evolving tech landscape on-the-fly, while simultaneously attempting to wrap their heads around how they can best apply these technologies to their business. Ironically, it’s often also because of the lack of applicable tools available to make a mobile-first marketing strategy possible.

This is particularly true with mobile email. Think about the typical workflow for the creation of a marketing email:

1) In most tools, you first have to create the email in desktop mode.

2) Then, if the tool provides the option, you can test your email display in mobile view.

3) You’re ready to send, but armed with little functionality to automate, optimise, or personalise; while most software claims to provide responsive templates, there’s no guarantee that your email will appear as intended on your recipients’ mobile devices.

Today, this simplistic process leaves much to be desired if we want to forge the kinds of personal relationships that go beyond intrusive marketing.

Four Steps to Avoid Mobile Email Catastrophes

Previously, I wrote about the stages of launching an email campaign. Now, let’s dive into ways you can elude common mistakes that can completely derail your mobile-first email campaign.

Step 1: Write an Irresistible Subject and Preview

The contest for consumer attention begins when your email lands in their inbox (along with potentially dosens or hundreds of others).

When a mobile user grabs their phone to check their messages, the first thing they see is often a lock screen notification. This is the marketer’s first and most critical opportunity to deliver a message so powerful that the recipient won’t be able to resist reading it immediately.

The notification will always consist of the sender’s name, a subject, and the “preview”.

The preview is arguably the most underestimated, but also the most powerful, element of the email, since it plays such a major role in whether or not the email is opened. Don’t approach your preview messages lightly; take time to make them engaging, test them to see what approaches work best with your audiences, then use technology to optimise and automate.

Step 2: Provide a Great First Impression

Let’s say the recipient opens your email…great!

However, you’re still far from achieving any major marketing goals. Open rates, while indicative of initial attention-grabbing achievement, are a relatively unimportant vanity metric. Now, you’re on to the next challenge: arranging content for mobile viewing.

The success or failure of an email is heavily dependent on the first impression. Generally, the content the user can see “above the fold” is a major determinant. For example, if the “click for online version” message and the company logo (or just a hero image) occupy the whole screen, the recipient’s motivation to carry on drops dramatically.

Be sure your emails are making a great first impression by thinking strategically about what recipients will see first, regardless of what device they use to open them.

Step 3: Use the Minimum Amount of Content for Maximum Impact

I have spoken with many marketers who spend hours, or even days, crafting emails to communicate wonderful ideas and share exciting news. This is admirable, unless they plan to share it all in one email.

If your email requires the recipient to spend more than a minute or so to read… well, good luck achieving your goals; most mobile users spend just seconds reading a brand’s email.  

Lengthy, content-heavy emails will consume your valuable time, reduce engagement, and disappoint you with poor results. So, keep emails short, sweet, and to the point, focus on just one idea per email, and make it easy for recipients to consume your messages quickly. 

Step 4: Ensure Your Responsive Landing Pages Match the Email, and Load Quickly

Creating and setting up landing pages for a wonderful user experience on a mobile device is an extraordinarily delicate art. If your email engages a recipient enough to entice them to click through, don’t lose them with a landing page completely lacking in mobile optimisation.

Even after testing and QA, don’t launch your campaign if you can’t confidently answer “yes” to the following questions about your landing page:

  • Will it live up to mobile users’ expectations?
  • Is it mobile-friendly and responsive?
  • Does it support the flow of your campaign as a whole?
  • Does it provide the same quality of experience as the email?
  • Does it feel like an extension of your email?

Helpful Tools for a Successful Mobile-First Email Creation Strategy

It’s difficult to provide a great experience on mobile devices if it’s viewed as an afterthought; either go all in on mobile, or don’t do it at all.

A modern-day, quality, mobile-first email platform will:

  • Give you a natural and intuitive workflow.
  • Guarantee quality across every device.
  • Offer a visual perspective of the entire email lifecycle on selected devices.
  • Show everything, from the lock screen notification, to the landing page linked to from the call-to-action (CTA).
  • Display the email as it will appear as a notification on all devices.
  • Display the sender’s name, title, and preview content inside the inbox.
  • Illustrate different layout views on different devices.
A quality #mobilemarketing platform is visual, intuitive & should show how content will display in any view  [TWEET THIS!]

This visual perspective of the entire customer journey can help streamline the brand experience by optimising every single step.

Owning Email in a Mobile-First World

Decisions made on mobile phones are lightning quick, and in an age where our attention spans are equivalent to that of a goldfish, keeping attention with valuable content isn’t easy.

Your challenge, in order to earn it, is to optimise every single step of a mobile campaign. Pique interest with an irresistible subject and preview, make a good first impression, don’t overdo it with content, and be sure the CTA is a natural, seamless, sensible evolution in the journey.

Take the time, pay close attention to the details, and test the entire email funnel for maximum results.

I’m excited for the future of the mobile-first world: it will prompt a noticeable separation of truly digital-savvy companies from the rest of the pack.

If you’re ready to join me in ushering in a more mobile-ready world, I’d love to discuss in the comments below. To learn how Emarsys is helping global brands own their mobile-first strategies, head over to our Mobile First Email HQ.


To learn more about this approach and how the entire process works, get the latest white paper: Omnichannel Marketing Excellence Starts with Email First

mobile first


Robert Sipos is a Senior Product Manager at Emarsys. He has a background in engineering, but moved to Product 7 years ago. He believes that as long as he listens to his customers, understands the market, and inspires his colleagues, he will continue creating successful products. Nowadays, he dives into Content Personalisation together with his new crew. Robert lives in Budapest, Hungary. Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.