How to create mobile-friendly emails

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Global open rates for email messages are overwhelmingly trending mobile, with 38% of emails today opened on mobile devices, according to a recent ExactTarget white paper, "Designing for the Mobile Inbox." While b-to-b emails have a lower percentage of mobile opens—anywhere from 10% to 30%, depending on the audience—business marketers need to pay careful attention to the content and design of their messages to make sure they're readable. One reason b-to-b emails see a lower mobile open rate may be that businesspeople still send and receive many emails from their desks. Still, as the "bring your own device" and telework trends continue to expand, mobile-friendly emails will be even more important to b-to-b marketers. "In some ways things are getting easier, because email is consolidated around fewer platforms," said Adam Blitzer, VP-b-to-b marketing automation at ExactTarget. To make mobile marketing a little easier, Blitzer and Andrea Smith, ExactTarget's design lead-content marketing and research team, provided these three tips.
  1. Use Web resources to check how emails will render on mobile devices. Marketers can use websites such as to see how their emails will render on different mobile platforms, Blitzer said. In addition, many of the ESPs offer their own built-in emulators. This is especially important for email marketers that send different versions out to customers. "Most people will never use the "Forward to a Friend' button. They are just going to forward it in email," he said.
  2. Consider reflowing your design. The traditional email design of two or three columns doesn't work on a smaller screen, Blitzer said. Recipients don't want to scroll from right to left. "You might want to reflow your design from two columns into one stacked column," he said. Column size is important, too. Desktop emails might look great at about 600 pixels wide, but mobile devices look much better when shrunken down and restyled so they are 220 pixels wide. Text size is another big consideration. "Make sure recipients can see your messaging," he said.
  3. Start thinking about retina displays. Retina displays are high-resolution, which means everything appears sharper and clearer. Emails can potentially look worse if not designed with this in mind. Some people have even equated transitioning from regular displays to retina displays to the change from VHS tapes to DVDs. "We're going to have to start paying more attention to how images and even text renders in an email," Smith said.
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