Mobile continues to account for a greater share of email opens. In fact, according to the latest research from Litmus, nearly half of all email is opened on mobile devices. This trend will continue, therefore optimizing your email marketing campaigns for mobile is no longer optional.

The staggering growth in mobile usage—and the opportunity it presents for marketers—has prompted many to refer to mobile as “the new inbox.” Mobile has enabled an always-on inbox, as many of us find ourselves regularly checking our email wherever we are. And users have come to expect for the emails they receive to be mobile-friendly. A study from Adestra found that if an email isn’t mobile-friendly, regardless of how good the content is, it’s likely to be deleted in under three seconds. Add to that, as many as 15% of mobile users will altogether unsubscribe if an email isn’t mobile friendly, instead of just deleting.

It’s more than simply being “mobile-friendly” from a technical standpoint (although that is critical – see #1), it’s also thinking about your email design and content from a mobile-first perspective. Here are several mobile-specific things you should consider to ensure your emails are optimized for a mobile audience.

1. Use a responsive or scalable mobile template

Mobile-friendly email templates have come a long way in the past few years, with most of the reputable ESPs and marketing automation platforms providing responsive or scalable mobile frameworks that can be used to create your custom emails. Scalable emails are typically a narrow, single column design that uses large text. They will basically look the same regardless of what device they are viewed on. As with responsive web design, a responsive email template will allow your email to look “normal” on a desktop client, but will adjust the content nicely to a mobile device. Responsive templates will give you more flexibility with your design—allowing you to use multiple columns and optimize for mobile users, while also maintaining the desktop experience.

If you have a well-established email marketing program, this will likely necessitate the rebuilding of many different email templates, auto responders, triggered emails and lead nurturing campaigns. But don’t let the extra work prevent you from converting! Starting with a mobile-friendly, responsive template is the first (and arguably most critical) step in optimizing your email for mobile.

2. Utilize the preheader

You always want your emails to stand out in the inbox and get opened. The preheader is the short summary text and the first item that follows a subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. Most people simply include a “view in a browser” link or something similar. You should always include the option for the reader to view the email in a browser, but you might want to consider putting something more important in front of that link. The preheader might be a great place to include a summary of your email’s purpose or a call-to-action, since this will be one of the first things that gets displayed in your reader’s inbox.   

3. Keep your email short, sweet and to-the-point

Mobile users are often multitasking or on the move; they’re in meetings, sitting at a stop light, standing in line at the store or walking down the hall at the office. Email can be deleted ever so quickly on a mobile device, so it’s important to make sure your subject line and main copy are enticing, engaging and to-the-point. Creating short and engaging subject lines is key to bringing in readers and making sure they open your email (note that iPhones only allow 32 characters before cutting off the subject line).

And once they’ve opened your email, be sure it contains quality content with relevant information, a compelling offer and a clear call-to-action (see #4). Make your design clean, simple and uncluttered. Don’t succumb to the temptation to cram a lot of text in the email; be concise, use easy-to-read fonts and make it easy on the eyes. If your email contains several sections with a lot of content, create a simple table of contents at the top with anchor links that allows users to easily jump to the portions of the email that they are most interested in.

4. Make your call-to-action buttons finger-friendly

Speaking of calls-to-action (CTA), a typical adult finger covers 45 pixels when pressed on mobile screen, so create your CTAs with this in mind. Make sure your CTA images are padded to avoid frustrating tap errors. The easier it is to click on a button, the more likely it is your readers actually will. It’s also best to use “bulletproof buttons” for CTAs instead of images. Bulletproof buttons are built using basic HTML and CSS and they’re more efficient than images. Lastly, don’t overlook the way you handle links. Smaller screens can make links unclear especially when they are surrounded by clutter. So set links to stand out and make them easy to tap on using a <strong> tag and a contrasting color.

5. Be intentional with your use of images

While images can certainly enhance your emails, try to strike a balance between text and images. Your emails shouldn’t be entirely dependent on images; rather the images should support the text that conveys the message you’re trying to get across. Also, when it comes to using images, the smaller the file size the better. It’s general a good idea to use JPG over PNG (unless transparency is needed) and reduce the image file size using an image compression tool such as JPEGmini. Mobile devices typically have slower download speeds than desktop computers, so keeping the image file sizes small can really help with the email downloading quickly and efficiently. It also helps your subscribers be less frustrated and less likely to delete your email before it loads.

6. Test, test and test again

Don’t waste all your hard work optimizing your emails without testing extensively! Testing is a critical step in anything digital, and mobile-optimized emails are no different. After you’ve set up your email, be sure to test it thoroughly on all types of mobile devices, as iPhones and Androids render emails differently. And just like each web browser renders web pages differently, email clients (e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) do as well. Check to make sure that your links work properly, images load quickly and what displays in the preview pane is going to get you an open. And one last check on spelling and to make sure your offer or purpose is clear and compelling won’t hurt either.

Mobile-friendly is user-friendly

With more people viewing emails on mobile devices, you don’t want your email deleted simply because it’s not optimized for mobile users. And more importantly, you want your emails to fulfill their intended purpose—getting opens, click-throughs and ultimately conversions. While there are certainly others, hopefully these considerations will help you make that happen.