5 Reasons Why You MUST Design Email for Mobile


Email marketing must include a mobile UX design now, or face missing a big percentage of the target audience and ultimately marketing revenue.

Your email is read on a mobile deviceEmail marketing and the responsive mobile design user experience have been on my mind a lot lately. That is because as a marketer, I have been advocating email nurture and related programs for my clients. But I have noted that many of my clients, and even my peers in marketing agencies many times create email marketing campaigns without a clear strategy and set of tactics to ensure the mobile user experience is optimized for responsive UX design.

That my friends is a big mistake.

And, as long time readers of my blog will tell you, (hi Mom!) I am typically the first to speak out when I see a mistake that can be fixed.

You MUST create email marketing communications by carefully creating the responsive mobile user experience that is required go with it. Why? In a presentation I attended at a local Marketo conference given by Morgan Stewart, CEO of Trendline Interactive, Morgan shared with the audience several pieces of data that clearly define the future of email marketing. And interestingly, the future is here, now!

Email opens via mobile devices is leading other devices and will continue to grow to be the most widely used and dominant method to read and interact with email. Period.


The loss in interaction caused by not adopting a specific mobile UX to your emails now will have an ever increasing negative impact on your email ROI.

This means you either design your emails to have a unique and mobile friendly user experience now, or you will be missing out on communicating with a critical and growing percentage of your target audience, which will severely limit your effectiveness.

The 5 reasons why you MUST design email for mobile…

1. Mobile email client open trend is increasing over time, while Outlook open trend is decreasing.

Email client market share

As presented by Morgan, according to Litmus, a company that track opens by email client over time, as of May 2013 the Apple iPhone beats Outlook in percentage of opens (23% for Apple iPhone versus 20% for Outlook).

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More interesting than that is the trend over time, as seen by the line graphs next to each client. Notice how the iPhone is increasing steadily over time, and Outlook has decreased over time. Likewise, notice the extensive increase in trend for the Apple iPad.

One word of caution about this chart, the outlook numbers may be higher than what is provided above because the tracking technology requires an image to be opened, and Outlook has a default setting of not opening images. But even assuming the Outlook numbers are skewed because of the default setting, the trend information clearly shows mobile opens trending upward consistently.

2. Mobile client access of emails has surpassed desktop and web email clients.


Another data point provided during the presentation was this graph from Campaignmonitor.com email client tracking, which demonstrates the trend of desktop, web and mobile based clients by number of opens. Again, the data is clearly demonstrating a significant increase in trend for mobile opens, with web-based and desktop based opens trending downward.

The data is clear, marketers and UX designers must adopt a mobile UX as a critical element of their email marketing communications.

This data is clear, but what about your own open by device data? How many of your emails are being opened by mobile devices, and which ones?  You MUST know that information if you are going to design the mobile email UX to maximize your communications.

And now for the bad news, apparently many marketers do not know that critical information.

3. One third of marketers do not know their email device numbers

Look around you to the two other marketers sitting near you reading this, one of you is clueless about your own mobile device metrics! Yikes!


According to the MarketingSherpa mobile marketing benchmark report, in a study conducted among marketers a full one third of marketers said they do not know what percentage of customers/prospects interact with their mobile email messages.

Really? As Mr. Spock said so well, Fascinating.

And for those marketers who do actually know their numbers, note that they reported the majority of opens are in the 11 to 25 percent range, which means potentially one out of every four contacts they are sending emails to are opening those emails on their mobile device.

Of the relatively few marketers who are designing email for an optimum mobile UX that I have spoken with, many say they use responsive design to ensure their email is maximized for any mobile device.

For those of you assuming you have it handled through responsive design, think again. Why?

4. Responsive mobile UX design does not work equally on all devices

More marketers and mobile UX designers refer to responsive design as their single method to ensure all their emails are readable. They assume that by using responsive design they are completely covering all mobile devices with an optimal user experience. Morgan also alluded to this during his presentation. Sadly, that is not exactly the case.

An important component of an email client is media query support to enable responsive design. Not all devices (including the Gmail mobile app!) support media query.

Below is a table from Campaignmonitor.com displaying a few of the more popular email clients and their media query support.


As of the time this data was gathered, Outlook exchange for Android, Gmail (all platforms) and Yahoo! Mail mobile apps do not yet include media query support. I expect this to change quickly as adoption of responsive design grows, but understand that for now not all devices support a single means of responsive design.

What does this mean?

It means if you are assuming your singular responsive mobile design for your emails covers you for all mobile devices, in actuality your email communications are probably not nearly as effective as you thought.

But are you even using responsive design in your email communications? The odds are that you are not, and that means you are in with the majority of laggards.

5. More than half of marketers are not designing for mobile

Finally, and most distressingly, more than half of marketers surveyed in the MarketingSherpa 2013 email marketing benchmark report said they were not designing emails to render differently for mobile devices.


And here is another secret I will share with you. I fully suspect that quite a few of those 42 percent who reported they were designing emails to render differently on mobile devices were assuming their email platform (Eloqua, Marketo, Silverpop, etc.) took care of that issue for them.

But my own experience is that those systems, as advanced as they are, do not actually take care of all mobile clients. In addition the fact that not all mobile email clients provide media query support is another reason that the 42 percent number is probably greatly inflated. I suspect many of those 42 percent assume their responsive design is working well for Gmail. Think again.

If my theory is true, the vast majority of marketers are trying to communicate with a large and growing percentage of their target audience with email communications that have a poor horrible user experience. And the odds are that you dear marketer are one of those laggards. Yikes!

5 Reasons Why You MUST design email for mobile

So there you have it, the 5 reasons why your email marketing must design for mobile. If you as a marketer or UX designer are not adapting your email user experience to play nice with mobile devices you are already falling behind in communicating with your target audience.

The loss in interaction caused by not adopting a mobile UX to your emails will have an ever increasing negative impact on your email ROI.

Smart marketers and mobile UX designers are those whom are creating the appropriate mobile email user experience and doing so using a responsive design that ensure the best possible communication for as many email clients as possible.

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