Email Marketing Best Practices

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Sports enthusiasts are a tough crowd—especially for marketers. Sports apparel and merchandise retailer Fanatics knows this to be true and relies on email marketing to consistently deliver the right products to fans of all stripes. Using Salesforce.com’s Marketing Cloud, the company was able to deliver 15 million personalized emails to Denver Broncos fans within minutes of their team’s Super Bowl L win; Carolina Panthers fans were wisely left alone.

Email marketing is essential to engaging with customers across a wide range of industries, and it has become even more important with the ubiquity of mobile devices. Nevertheless, many marketers aren’t delivering the content customers want in their emails, a problem that is exacerbated by a lack of distinction between emails optimized for desktop devices and those optimized for mobile devices. To successfully engage with the always-on consumer, marketers need to craft emails that are designed specifically for mobile devices.


“Today, if a marketer isn’t thinking mobile first and desktop second, they’re probably lagging behind,” says Kaila Garrison, head of product marketing at Oracle Responsys. Justin Foster, cofounder and vice president of market development at Liveclicker, agrees, adding that “marketers that aren’t paying attention to mobile today are behind the curve.”

According to Foster, it is essential for marketers to detect the device a person is using so they can dynamically change the design or content of the email accordingly. Using a responsive design can ensure that email will be properly formatted for a mobile screen. Foster also emphasizes the need for technology that can determine whether a person is using an iPhone or an Android phone, and alter emails accordingly. For example, a marketer can include a button to download a mobile app for the platform that a particular customer is using, or have images in the email link to apps that are installed on the phone.

Brevity is crucial when it comes to email marketing on mobile devices for a number of reasons. Because people walk around with their smartphones in hand, they may delete emails more quickly. Furthermore, because mobile devices have smaller screens, marketers have less space for content. For these reasons, marketers need to get their message across in just a line or two of text, delivering a clear call to action. Additionally, because people can delete emails so easily, marketers shouldn’t shy away from sending messages frequently.

“You have to get your point across, [you] don’t have much time to do that, and [you] need to be clear on driving home an action or next step,” Danny Estrada, CRM practice director at Net@Work, told CRM magazine via email. He adds that marketers need to “find creative ways to get people to jump to the next step.” Amanda Sibley, demand generation manager at HubSpot, also stresses the need to keep it short: “On mobile you really want it to be one piece of content.”

When crafting a call to action, a marketer needs to think about how people are going to achieve what is being asked of them. Although it is easy for people to read or skim emails on their mobile devices while they’re shopping or commuting, actions such as making a purchase or filling out a form are more suited to laptop or desktop computers. Marketers need to deliver contextually relevant content when creating their emails and choose their calls to action based on what device a person is using.

They also need to consider the overall design of their emails. According to Foster, it is important to properly format text and images for the mobile screen, ensuring that people can read the content of the email without having to pinch and zoom. Marketers may also want to show some restraint in their designs, leaving ample white space so that their messages appear less crowded and are easier to consume.

Images are a great way to grab people’s attention on mobile devices, Garrison says. “With a desktop, you obviously have a lot more space to play with. An email best practice for mobile is that it should be very image-heavy,” she says. “The image [should] also contain the promotion or the text itself, and maybe the only thing you’re seeing on that email is that image with the ability to click through.”

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