The future of mobile email and why you need more than responsive design

The need for mobile optimized email is undeniable. Study after study has shown that consumers engage with email—in some capacity—on mobile devices. IDC found that 79% of smartphone users reach for their devices within just 15 minutes of waking up. As a consumer and receiver of marketing emails, I personally check my email on my smartphone a few times a day. I also check it on my tablet in the evenings and on my desktop at work or on the weekends.

So how are modern marketers developing brand emails to adjust to different devices and screen sizes? Many have adopted responsive design.

Responsive design has grown in popularity in recent years as a way to handle mobile display for HTML emails. It’s essentially a collection of techniques aimed at providing the optimal viewing experience across various platforms.

As Litmus explained, responsive design emails use media queries that detect screen size of a device, which then trigger different sets of rules based on that screen size. These rules may include changing font sizes, hiding content or scaling images.

Sounds good, right?

Responsive design is valuable, but a complete mobile email optimization strategy requires more. Here’s why:

  1. Screen Detection. Device detection is not associated with responsive design, meaning marketers receive no learnings about the consumer. Marketers are unable to determine if an email was opened on a PC or a smartphone or both. The ability to determine the level of engagement by device is key to unlocking the best customer experience. For example our digital messaging platform, Harmony, can detect the device of open and display the appropriate version of that email, providing a higher level of personalization and targeting that simply can’t be achieved today with responsive design.
  2. Attribution. Since responsive design cannot detect devices, it also fails to provide attribution information. As marketers, we’re responsible for providing metrics that justify our investments. While we’ve been measuring channel attribution for some time, marketers are justifiably becoming more and more interested in device attribution. In today’s real-time non-stop, omnichannel environment, marketers need to understand whether or not consumers are taking action on an email from their mobile device or if they are they waiting until later to transact on a PC. This knowledge demonstrates how mobile influences customer transactions and how marketers should invest their dollars moving forward.
  3. Consistency. As previously mentioned, responsive design is based on sets of rules triggered by screen size. As a result, consistency and personalization may not be optimal. The experience a consumer receives from a brand email on their mobile phone may not be the same as their experience when they reopen it on a different device. The email may not only look different, in terms of fonts, colors and imagery, but it may contain different content all together. With Harmony, brands can create multiple versions of an email campaign, each tailored to the recipient’s preferred device to ensure a consistent experience.

Responsive design is valuable, but today’s marketer needs more to achieve a mobile optimized strategy. The ability to learn from our customers, make the right marketing investments and provide consistent and personalized experiences are the keys to success. We’re excited to see how the field evolves to better address email optimization.

To learn more about Harmony visit our website.