How to optimise emails for mobile | DMA

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How to optimise emails for mobile


Nearly a third of people in the UK read emails on mobile devices but for most of them it is a poor experience. Many of the functions that we take for granted on our PCs such as automatic image loading aren’t always available on smartphones. As a result, open and click-through rates are often low.

As more of us shift away from desktop and particularly web email towards mobile email, it will become more important for brands to design mobile-friendly emails.

BA reaches new highs with mobile email campaign
British Airways created a mobile email campaign to promote the BA Executive Club app. Seeing an increase in the number of mobile devices reading BA emails, they used historic data to create four emails optimised for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and desktop devices. The emails to mobile contained a link directly to download the app from the relevant store. BA exceeded its target open rate of 10%, with Android and iPhones opening at over 50%. Similarly a clear call to action saw 25% click-through rates for iOS and 30% for BlackBerry. As a result app downloads were double the expected rate.

How to optimise mobile emails
Optimising emails for mobile is not that difficult, but there are differences in both functionality and intent to bear in mind:

Although many emails rely on image-based content, only iOS loads them automatically. For Android or BlackBerry devices picture-heavy emails will be rendered almost useless. It’s not just the pictures themselves. Alt text and mouse hovers don’t necessarily work.

Small sizes don’t work on mobile devices. An iPhone will typically set fonts to 13 pixels regardless of the size they were set to. If you want your email to display as you intended you’re best to set the minimum font size to 14 pixels.

iPhones make a pretty good job of scaling to fit emails, but most other smartphones don’t do that. If you’ve designed your email for a PC screen then mobile users will need to zoom or scroll width-ways, making for a dreadful user experience.

It’s important to de-clutter the mobile screen. With its smaller size, all those ‘boy-scout’ badges for social media sharing simply become an annoyance. Single column is also best for the smartphone user. We know that on the mobile web, single columns fixed to the screen width (called ‘running or rails’) offers the best user experience. Why not do the same for your mobile emails?

Touch not click
Most people read mobile emails on touch-screen devices so they’re using their fingers to navigate. And fingers are much fatter than a mouse pointer. Besides the right font size, make sure that buttons and menus are both large enough and suitably positioned for touch-screen devices.

Google tell us that nearly 80% of mobile web searches are for immediate action. Mobile is the same. It’s about immediacy, so short, concise content and a clear call to action are essential.

Although BA used historic data to identify their mobile users, it’s even easier than that. By using html formatted emails, a media query can determine if the screen size is smaller than desktop and then deliver a mobile optimised CSS.

There is enough evidence to show that mobile optimised emails can be very successful. Brands that don’t do it are clearly missing a trick.

Mobile OS Auto image loading Preview text Alt text Scale to window html & CSS support
iOS 4 and above Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes
Andriod 2.2 No No Yes No Yes
BlackBerry Yes* No No No Yes*
Symbian No No No No Yes
Windows Phone 7 No Yes No No Yes

*Must have been enabled on older handsets

Mark Brill, Chair, Mobile Marketing Council

CEO, txt4ever/Formation

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