Writing for mobile-optimized emails

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 Listrak 0 Comments

Writing for mobile audiences is actually much simpler than you’d think.

It’s all about being what I like to call “skimmable” – someone should be able to read your email while scrolling at a normal speed and get the major points. You’ve got about 3 seconds to grab a reader’s attention before they move on, so make good use of it with succinct copy, relevant content, and lots of highly breathable white space.

Here are some tips:

#1: Channel Joey Gladstone and cut it out
The biggest difference between a desktop email and a mobile one is the amount of room you have to work with. Because the device width is smaller, you have to be even more fierce with your editing. Every word counts, so if it’s fluffy or unnecessary, get rid of it.

The goal with mobile-friendly email design (and just good marketing design, period) is to be easily digested and understood. Be skimmable (despite what your high school English teacher said, sentence fragments are allowed), use active speech, and tell your customers to click through for full details (which should live on your landing page).

A prime example of short and sweet copy used in a gorgeous design.


#2: Make a plan (and stick to it).
Before you start designing, decide exactly what you want to address (i.e., make a content hierarchy) and be ruthless with yourself if you start deviating.

For example, let’s say that my email is dropping on a Friday morning and I’ve got a TGIF sale planned, an in-store event on Sunday, tons of clearance merchandise that I need to move, and a slew of new products arriving on Tuesday.

As tempting as it may seem to pack all of this into one email, I’m not going to. Think about it this way… you just got a brand new pint of Chunky Monkey. You know you could dive in face-first and house the entire thing directly from the container, but should you? Clearly not. As delicious a choice as that would be, do the right thing: go get a bowl and decide how much you really need.

So in our scenario, we need to figure out how much our readers need in one sitting. What’s the #1 most important thing we absolutely need to get across right now? I’d say the TGIF sale, and because it’s so timely and important, it’s totally OK to stop there and call it a day. Sending an email out with just 1 thing that’s compelling and relevant is a great idea.

But, if you really want more, it would be OK to add just one more thing, so let’s determine what’s #2. Depending on whether or not this is the last email of the weekend, I’m going to say it’s either the in-store event or the clearance goodies. Now I’m going to stop there and make this email with just those 2 things. I’ll give my #1 priority a ton of real estate to really hype it up, put #2 below that, and stop designing.

This brand chose to say just one thing (aside from their permanent social content) and it's marvelous. 

This email literally tells you what the top story is (not that they had to since they made it front and center) and makes everything else secondary.


#3: Images are your BFF.
People process images 60,000x faster than they read words (it’s science), so lean heavily on them to create an emotional connection and tell your story in far fewer words. Lifestyle images (those that feature people in real-life situations) tend to be the most emotionally grabby, but also try playing around with iconography to save space and create visual interest.

Just two bits of content in this email, each with a perfectly chosen image.
Without all the images, this email would be very dry and copy-heavy. Adding product images and photography in a zig-zag layout adds visual interest and makes it feel lighter.

This brand eliminated a lot of excess words from its design just by adding icons. Sentence fragments for the win!



#4 Use social proof
Your customers are on their phones constantly, so use the opportunity to weave user-generated social media content into your emails. If you’re fortunate enough to have customers who post pictures of your products, that is pure gold. Incorporating their images along with your own content will make for a much more compelling message, and you get the added bonus of acquiring a few new followers.

Social images are like product images and product reviews in one -- a double-whammy of "you should totally buy this, see how great it is?!"
  

#5 Be clickworthy & clickable
So by now, your email should be the right length, feature interesting images, and include relevant social proof. There’s just one more thing you need: calls to action.

Call-to-action buttons (or CTAs if you want to get all jargony) are incredibly important on mobile emails, and you need to make sure they’re big enough to be tapped. There’s nothing worse than tapping the wrong link, so 40px is the smallest dimension you want to be working with on mobile devices. If your CTA is within a larger image, make sure that when it scales down, it’s still big enough to tap comfortably.

You should also play around with phrasing. “Shop Now” can work well and is very traditional, but it’s certainly overdone. I encourage you to be creative and have as much fun as your brand allows.

All CTAs are sufficiently large, even the one that's over top of an image, and the copy is just spicy enough to make you want to click.

This brand clearly knows their customer base. "Shop Newness" is a perfect little tweak on "Shop Now" that adds some personality. Buttons are big enough to tap and well placed.


*Note about the right amount of content.
Ultimately, you just have to know your customers. How old are they? What are their habits? Are they natural-born scrollers or is their attention span super quick?

Some brands thrive on massively long emails. Take Dot & Bo, for example (RIP, my gone-too-soon wonderland of décor). Their emails were unbelievably longbut you’d better believe I scrolled through every single one of them because their content was marvelously curated. A well-deserved post-mortem round of applause to whomever was in charge of those beauties.


Questions? Let us know!





Laurel Morse
Manager of Copywriting and Content Strategy

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