7 Steps to Optimize Email for Mobile

By Meg Goodman

Email is the backbone of many marketing initiatives, and considerable time is invested in its creation.  That is why any error in messaging, deployment, audience, or rendering has a very real business impact. So it’s critical that you take the important step of optimizing your email for mobile.

When your winback or cross-selling marketing strategies rely on your email marketing campaign, an improperly optimized email marketing strategy can lead to poor customer response and diminish trust.

Frankly, you can’t afford to have emails rendering improperly when 66% of all financial services emails were read on mobile in Q1 of 2016, according to a recent report from Movable Ink.

But how do you know if your emails are optimized for mobile devices? Here are 7 proven strategies for designing an optimized email marketing program.

1. Match the message to the right marketing channel.

It’s no surprise that email has become a primary mode of customer communications. However, not all messages are ideal for this marketing channel.

In the age of scams and phishing, acquisition emails for financial institutions are not the best use of this channel. However, cross selling, retention communications, early months on books (EMOB), and win-back are perfect strategies for this tactic.

You don’t always have to sell to your customers. Build a relationship by providing useful information that will solidify their connection to you. Measure your retention rates or attrition rates and you will quickly see the positive impact of these communications.

2. Use a quality control tool.

Your customers are on a variety of tools, apps, browsers, and email providers—which means your email needs to properly function on all of them, and look good doing it.

In the old days this meant owning a suite of popular devices and manually checking an email in each one. That required time and it delayed communications going out into market. It also increased production costs and the risk of human error.

Today, a variety of marketing tech platforms are available to help you to test critical components of your email, potentially impacting the performance of your campaign in a simple, automated process.

Do you know what your email looks like on the iPhone 6 Plus, vertical with the email viewed using the Gmail app?

With an email quality control tool you do.


3. Use a mobile-friendly responsive template.

Scalable or mobile-friendly templates are the easiest option for developing a responsive email design. These designs typically use a single-column grid with large text and plenty of white space because it formats well on most devices.

Responsive design is about more than the aesthetic. It enhances the user experience by eliminating customers’ need to pinch or zoom to read content or click a button and engage with your institution and your offer.

Every additional click required for engaging with your offer risks a greater percentage of your current or prospective customers abandoning action.

TIP: Make call to action buttons at least 44×44 pixels in size so that they are large enough to click on without struggling or requiring a customer to zoom.

4. Test using a sender name.

The sender address offers another opportunity to optimize your email efforts. Often the default is to use a generic, brand-associated email address, but using an individual’s name offers new trust-building opportunities when used consistently.

Consider testing a campaign using the CEO or a branch manager’s name. Depending on the type of communications, this might be an ideal way to build rapport.

To further solidify the impression that this email is more personalized, use a small picture of the sender in the email signature to help reinforce a more friendly tone and communicate that the email is coming from a real human instead of a faceless company.

Regardless of whether your email sender is from the brand or an individual, make sure to call and speak to someone to verify the email is legitimate.

5. Maximize real estate and leverage your pre-header text.

You have three seconds to get noticed. This marketing mantra has stood the test of time.

I’d argue that you have even less time to pique the interest of your customers, with our tendency to swipe left and quickly delete anything deemed not instantly valuable.

With that in mind, it’s time to treat your pre-header text like valuable real estate and invest time and creative energy making sure it’s working hard to drive a response.

Combined with the subject line, pre-header text has the ability to drive meaningful engagement and demonstrate your institution’s value proposition.

The average email open rate for the financial services industry is 23.3%, and the average click-through rate is 3.2%, according to IBM’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmarks Study.

With active, hard-working pre-header text driving engagement, financial institutions have an opportunity to increase their average click-through rate and decrease the gap between open rate and clicks.

6. Test everything.

Testing is an important part of not only optimizing your emails, but listening to and understanding your customers. Depending on email send volumes and appropriate send logic, a multi variant or A/B test may be necessary.

A/B testing is often easier to conduct because it requires less data to find statistical significance. But it is no less valuable than alternative testing methodologies, and it’s often supported by email marketing automation and sender platforms. Keep in mind that because an A/B test requires less data for statistical significance, you must only test one component of your email at a time to make sure you’re drawing the right conclusions from the data.

TIP: When running your A/B tests, make sure to standardize your send times. Even a 30-minute difference can drastically change the results of your test.

Subject line testing is by far the most popular testing strategy, but don’t be afraid to test more uncommon variables. You never know what’s going to improve engagement and drive the needle.

Possible variables to test include:

  • Subject line
  • Subject line character length
  • Special characters or emojis in the subject line
  • Sender name
  • Day of week sent
  • Time of day sent
  • Links vs. buttons
  • Image-based CTAs vs. HTML CTAs
  • Social sharing icons
  • Preheader text
  • Personalization
  • Header image height
  • Using lists, bullets and/or numbers
  • S. note
  • CTA placement, design, or color
  • Short copy vs. long copy
  • Promotional copy vs straightforward
  • Headlines or subheads
  • Design
  • Images vs plain text
  • Offer
  • Audience segment

7. Believe the data.

The numbers don’t lie—they simply can be misattributed. But, if your testing logic and data analysis is sound, sometimes the results can be unexpected.

For example, the beautifully designed email cross-selling services may not perform as strongly as the more plain design. Or the offer that sales or product marketing felt sure to draw a response may fall flat.

If you’re already prepared to believe the data and have a testing mindset, you’ll be more prepared to course-correct and adjust while in market.

Don’t let your emails get deleted simply because they aren’t optimized for mobile. Go the distance and optimize for mobile. It’s easy and will prove to be a positive step in your email execution—your bottom line will thank you too.

Meg Goodman is the Managing Director of relationship marketing agency Jacobs & Clevenger. She has brought measurable, data-driven results to a variety of major financial institutions. When she’s not riding her motorcycle, you can connect with Meg on LinkedIn or Email: [email protected].