If you've got an active email list that you're sending to, be aware that many of them will be reading their email on the phone. Comm100 explains in this article how to create an email that will be as effective on a mobile phone as on a large computer monitor.

The Smartphone Phenomenon

Walk into any coffee shop, library, bus stop, gym... honestly walk just about anywhere and you'll see the masses browsing the web and checking their email on the newest generation of cell phones. Smartphones, as they're called, are defined as mobile phones that operate with advanced capabilities and operating systems, similar to that of PC functionality. These phones have internet browsers and capabilities, and, increasingly people are completing their internet surfing and email reading on these phones.

Why is this important to my email campaign?

The primary reason that the proliferation of smartphones is important to your email campaign is that your marketing email design (ebook - Email Design: Be Different for Different Email Service Provider Platforms) needs to take into account how it will display on a smartphone. This makes it even more restrictive than it used to be to design email to the phone. We'll detail the elements of email design that you need to keep in mind at the end of this article, after we familiarize you with the lay of the land when it comes to smartphones.

Types of Smartphones

By the time that you read this article, the information about the most common types of smartphones will probably already be out of date! However, at this moment, the smartphone market looks something like this (according to a 2011 study by Canalys):

  • Android: 48.8%
  • iOS: 19.1%
  • Symbian: 16.4%
  • BlackBerry: 10.5%
  • bada: 2.7%
  • Windows Phone: 1.4%
  • Others: 1.1%

If you email a great deal, it would be worth your time to find somebody in the office with each of these phones to see how your email displays on their various screens and resolutions. It's becoming as important as checking your email in various email providers.

How many people use smartphones?

According to a recent comscore study, you can expect up to 20% of your email list to be reading their email on the phone, and, if the demographic that you market to involves business professionals, that number will skew even higher. It's a growing demographic, and one that you'll need to cater to if you want to optimize your email marketing platform.

How does this impact my email marketing?

The primary way that the emergence of smartphones will impact your email marketing campaign will be to make your design team even more frustrated! We've already discussed how design teams can become frustrated with the html limitations and low graphics counts required in good email design. Imagine how your designers are going to respond to you when you tell that that, ideally, you need your email template to still resolve on a three inch by two inch screen. It should be readable on that size screen, and it can't be dependent on graphics in case they don't load!

The good news is that you'll have a better chance of having your email read by users checking their email on the phone! Some studies have indicated that users checking email on the phone do it more during leisure time or "down time" than those who check on a laptop. For example, they check email on the phone while waiting for public transportation or for a meeting to start. So unlike trying to stand out in an inbox that people are trying to clear, you stand of chance of being opened just to that the user has something to read.

So, the keys to remember are that you should keep in mind that a portion of your users will view your email on the phone with a three inch by two inch screen. Then you can hope that you're on the lucky end of an increased open rate!

Should I segment out my smartphone users and send them a different email template?

There's been some discussion of the possibility of beginning to ask users when they join your email list if they regularly view their email on the phone. This would be similar to asking users if they prefer to receive their email in html or plain text, and the end result would be to send those users a different email template that was designed to resolve better on a small screen.

We'd recommend against this. Firstly, it's probably a segment of your list that doesn't justify the extra resources and list management to create an entirely different list for them. Secondly, even your most avid smartphone users won't always view email on the phone. So if you're sending an email that's designed for a small screen and then the user views it on a normal laptop or desktop, you've just sent a highly non-optimized email.

Rather than try to treat regular smartphone users separately, just practice good clean design and be sure your email doesn't explode into a mess when viewed on a smartphone screen!

Being aware that your users will view your email on the phones is becoming more and more important, and your email program will certainly suffer performance issues if you don't accommodate it. However, it's still a growing segment of your list, and your main focus should continue to be on laptop and desktop users.

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