Understand mobile e-mail for a better user experience

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Jeff Hassemer
Jeff Hassemer

Sending e-mail today automatically includes you in the mobile e-mail business. Some companies realize this and have taken steps to address the issues surrounding mobile e-mail; others realize it, but ignore the situation. Many simply don't realize that 20% of their e-mails are received and read on mobile devices.

The mobile market is huge and an increasingly prominent part of our lives. The global mobile market subscriber base reached 3.25 billion in July 2007. In that same year, sales of smartphones exceeded sales of laptop computers for the first time.

Mobile e-mail marketers face unique challenges. For example, since mobile e-mail generally redirects messages from the e-mail server, it's virtually impossible to determine whether recipients read your e-mail on the mobile device or in the e-mail client. Mobile devices generally turn off images, making open rates difficult to track. lus, traditional tracking methods, including Web analytics providers and your ESP, don't track mobile browsers.

But many mobile device carriers have decided to follow Apple's lead. RIM will release the Blackberry Bold, which promises a better user experience on the Web and within the e-mail client. Samsung, LG, Nokia and Palm have either released or plan to release mobile devices that render HTML as well.

Until then, marketers can hunker down and hope, or take some simple steps to improve the mobile e-mail experience.

For HTML e-mails, the norm is “Images off” Insert more smart text and fewer image-only types of e-mails. Be certain to test both traditional e-mail and mobile e-mail clients.

Create compelling content Build both an HTML version and an xHTML (mobile-friendly) version of your e-mail to host on a Web page. Always give customers the option to view a mobilefriendly version, as well as an HTML version. Use compelling text in the first part of the e-mail body. Remember: Subject lines still matter in the mobile world.

Minimize your e-mail file size E-mails should be below 20k — if possible — including images. Avoid multiple columns, wide graphics and tables. Scrolling down may well be a necessity, but avoid forcing the customer to scroll to the right.

Keep your URLs short Sometimes this is unavoidable due to your e-mail software or international requirements. Don't use unnecessary images.

The mobile Web will only increase in popularity. Understand this channel, and you can support the user experience.

Jeff Hassemer is vice president of product management at Entiera. Reach him at jhassemer@entiera.com.

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