Maggie Haverty
Maggie Haverty 11 July 2016

Optimizing Email for Mobile Devices

Mobile device use has increased greatly in the past few years. Mobile email deployment remains an important aspect of any marketing campaign and learning how to optimize for this channel is key.

Create high performing mobile emails

Although it may appear that email marketing has run its course with the multitude of new innovative ways to reach your audience, the statistics show that it is here to stay. According to Capterra, 89% of marketers still claim that email is their primary channel for lead generation. That alone shows that email marketing is relevant in this industry.

So yes, email is a still a big player in the marketing mix, but in order to make it worthwhile companies must pay attention to the changing trends in the way consumers read email. Gone are the days of dial-up connections and chunky desktop computers. Today, mobile devices are taking over and email is not immune to their dominance.

The Stats

In 2015, 53% of emails were opened on a mobile device. That number isn’t expected to plateau any time soon. In fact, mobile email accounts for 15-70% of opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type. That number varies with age: 40% of 14-18 year olds will open on mobile first while 29% of 19-34 year olds will open first on mobile.

Mobile email opens have grown 180% in the past three years alone with no signs of slowing down. Paying attention to this growth is imperative to getting your message across effectively, especially if your target audience is on the younger side.


The layout of a mobile email differs greatly from a desktop email. Single column layouts work best for mobile because it is more appealing and doesn’t force your reader to scroll. Leaving out extraneous information and keeping things concise is a good way to make sure you can follow these guidelines. Below are a few different options for mobile layout design explained:

  • Scalable- The scalable design layout works well across all devices without using code to alter the backbone of the email. You can create one email that is used for both desktop and mobile by resizing and zooming out. This technique makes the images and text fit on the smaller screen of a mobile device. A single column email is recommended for this type of design.
  • Fluid- This layout uses percentage based sizing to adapt the widths of tables and images to the screen the user is on. Fluid design doesn’t alter the basic layout of your design. It resizes the already existing charts and images and the text will fill into the open space created. Fluid works best for text based emails because images don’t always render correctly
  • Responsive- Using a responsive layout means that the code is smart enough to know which device it is on. CSS media queries change the layout which in turn adjusts the size of the text, images, and columns. The content creator will make separate templates that are optimized for desktop and email. The responsive layout will automatically recognize the device it is being opened on and respond with the correct template accordingly. Your specifically designed mobile email will generate more positive responses then if you didn’t take this approach.

The responsive approach leads to a nearly 15% increase in unique clicks for mobile users because of its optimized design. One perk of using this approach is the ability to show or hide content using progressive disclosure. This tool gives more opportunity for the user experience to become interactive while hiding information that could clutter the email. Using responsive design leads to a streamlined and easy to use email that audiences respond well to.

Content Tips

The clear difference between desktop display email and mobile display email is the size of the available screen. There is much less “real estate” to work with on a mobile screen and one needs to cater to those restrictions. That may seem obvious but often times a reader only glances quickly at whichever email they have opened. If the reader is not happy with the visual they see they will quickly delete. To keep them reading and interested, a streamlined and uncluttered message is key.

When thinking about text and actual content, remember to keep things simple and straight to the point. The bigger the text the better when it comes to mobile because you don’t want the reader to strain their eyes when looking at an email ad. Include only essential information by making use of bulleted or numbered lists and short separated paragraphs to make the reader’s job easy and more enjoyable.

Importance of the Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is an integral part of an effective email that drives click and open rates. Once again, mobile screens are small so making your call to action the center of attention is a good approach. When thinking of how a user interacts on a mobile device, the button should be large enough to be pushed by a thumb. Action verbs such such as “click” or “read” accompanied by “now” or “today” serve as a good guide for the text being used. The CTA should be visible at a glance and placed at the top of the mobile email so no scrolling is involved.

Mobile Moving Forward

The growth of mobile use is apparent in all aspects. On average, users today have their phone present a staggering 22 hours of the day. It would be detrimental to ignore their presence in email marketing. Using the information above, it becomes simple to optimize your email efforts and remain current in a fast-moving world.

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