According to new data from comScore, people accessing email via mobile devices increased an impressive 36 percent, from November 2009 to November 2010. More than 70 million people accessed email on their mobile devices in the month.
In this age where "mobile" is so often equated with apps - and their astronomical development costs - this study is excellent news and a steadfast reminder that every business can be "mobile" without breaking the bank. All you need is an email list - which you should already have and, if not, get on it - and a few tips on optimizing messages for the best possible mobile user experience. That's where we come in.
Let's take a look at some mobile email, using an iPhone as an example. Devices vary somewhat, but this gives a good picture of the mobile email experience on a standard smartphone.
In all cases, rigorously test mobile email messages across several devices before executing a campaign.
Before Opening the Message
Who is the sender? The sender display name is limited to 16 characters. Good usage of the sender field are company names, individual names,
The subject line. The viewable subject line is somewhere around 35 characters, including spaces. Keep in mind that a Forward (Fw:) and a Reply (Re:) will take up five characters each. It is vital to make the subject line compelling enough for the user to open the email and not delete it with one swipe of a finger.
Content at a glance. The first few lines of content make up about 75 characters, including spaces. Again, be careful of a Forward, as the entire first line could be taken up. Often, I receive emails that begin with "Message not displaying correctly?" or "This is a post-only message. Please do not respond" and so on. That's wasted space and a very good reason for your message to be ignored.
The first 10 or so words of your message's content need to give the recipient an explicit reason to click the message to read more - be it an offer, discount, request for a reply or whatever motivates your users.
Optimizing Mobile Email Content
Continue the action. Once a user has clicked on the message, the call-to-action must be immediately clear and reinforce the first few lines the user has already seen. Tell the reader exactly what to do next - click a link or forward the message to a friend, for example. Remember, these are users largely on-the-go, so be succinct and actionable.
Users can be sent just about anywhere from a mobile email, but good options are mobile-optimized pages of your website and social destinations, where the user can spread your message. Recipients can be directed to Facebook Places, Foursquare or even Google Maps. Coupons are a good idea, along with the store's location, conveniently linked to an interactive map.
Using images. Debate swirls around using images in mobile email. Some devices will have trouble displaying the image but today's smartphones are well fairly well adapted. If your audience is tech-savvy, you might have more flexibility. However, images should be well-planned.
For example, text on an image can be difficult to read, particularly on a small screen. Oftentimes, I receive virtual flyers in an email. The images dominate and the text is tiny. I am forced to zoom in to see the message, and that is not ideal. If you plan to use images, do so responsibly and make sure the success of the email does not rely solely on the image. An image can make a nice addition to making mobile email more interesting but it should be used to support the message.
Selling product. Mobile commerce is still relatively new but that does not make it impossible. There are mobile payment solutions, including PayPal, and the mobile space is ripe for impulse buys. It is unlikely that people will buy major products through their phones but ringtones, music, e-books, etc.? That's doable.