7 best practices for mobile-first email design

We allow our favorite brands into our inbox because of the impression they leave us with their emails. Not keeping up with the latest responsive design trends can immediately mark a hotel as a brand that doesn’t understand the technology we’re all living with today.

As such, the consequences for not utilizing mobile responsive design can be dramatic. More than 50% of emails are being opened on mobile devices. Mobile traffic made up to 52.64% of total online global traffic in 2017, accounting for 50% of total eCommerce revenue in the US as customers spent 69% of their media time on smartphones.

Lower click rates and engagement are practically guaranteed, as 80% of readers will stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their mobile device. Even worse, 30% will simply unsubscribe altogether. That can be a tremendous missed opportunity. Since email marketing has a median ROI of 122%, it’s a must to invest resources to make sure every email is mobile ready.

Preheader text  
You want to engage readers quickly to tap on the call to action, and you can start before they even open an email. Preheader text matters even more on mobile devices than on desktops, since it’s usually bigger than the subject line and is often the first thing they see when scrolling through their inbox on a tablet or phone.

Call to action  
Once they open an email, you have limited time to catch their attention, since half of readers on mobile devices spend less than 3 seconds reading each email. The call to action must be clear and concise. In some cases, completely hiding content modules on a mobile device is necessary. For mobile, everything needs to be condensed, so your focus draws eyes to the CTA.

When it comes to visual design for mobile, square or rectangular images and text boxes work well, especially when organized in an inverted pyramid layout that directs readers straight to the call to action button. All images need to scale correctly, and placement needs to be an important consideration. A hero image of a property that would look beautiful on a desktop might shrink so small on a mobile device that you can’t see any details, for example. In that instance, you’d want to have the image automatically swapped out on mobile devices for a zoomed-in photo or an interior shot.

Keep in mind that images can be a real drain on data, and loading times can lag on cellular networks. That means images need to be small, and you need to be selective in deciding what to include. A good rule of thumb is save image resolutions to 72 dpi and keep the large images no wider than the pixel width of the campaign (typically 600px). However, smaller thumbnail images should be 320 pixels to ensure they look good when they respond to full width on mobile devices. Also, make sure that it’s clickable so as to not waste such valuable email real estate.

A common miss is designing buttons for strictly for desktop readers, which become far too small to tap unless they are automatically resized for mobile. Buttons and form-fills should be large and easily clickable without forcing readers to pinch and zoom. The minimum standard is 44 x 44 pixels with 10 pixels of space surrounding.

Push social media icons down to the bottom of the email. For social media icons, a neatly organized footer that runs along the width of the bottom of an email on mobile can be very clickable and reader-friendly. You could even share some social content, which we’ve seen get almost as many taps and clicks as calls to action. Remember to load higher resolution images for logos and social media icons, as unlike photos they actually increase in size and ratio on mobile.

Overall, emails on mobile should have a minimum of scrolling and drive readers to a call to action, which should be very easy to tap on. Once readers tap, the next experience needs to continue that mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive aesthetic and functionality. Otherwise, you’re just going to lose readers at the final end. The entire process has to be mobile-friendly, from initial email to purchase.

Let Cendyn help 
Email platforms are constantly changing and updating. That’s why it’s so important to stay up-to-date with tools to keep your emails on track.

At Cendyn, our vast experience in both the hospitality industry and email marketing combines with an exacting eye for detail and innovation. Contact us today for a free personalized demonstration of our hotel CRM + email marketing solutions.


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