Have you noticed that some of the marketing emails you’re receiving lately are a bit… plain? Instead of colorful, beautifully branded templates, I’m seeing more and more plain vanilla, less-than-beautiful missives in my inbox.
There’s a reason for that, and it’s probably sitting on your desk right now. At the end of 2013, mobile email officially made up over half of email opens – and that number will only grow this year. Mobile email marketing is key to your marketing program efforts.
What does this mean for your email marketing efforts?
More of your audience members are viewing your emails on small phone or tablet screens. And that means your beautifully designed HTML emails may be getting squeezed and distorted into who-knows-what format.
For example, when I open this email from Disney Vacation Club, all I can see is this. I have to scroll down two screens before I can find out what the email is about.
This email from a local restaurants fits the screen, but the font is too small to read easily.
What About Mobile-Responsive Templates?
Many email services have introduced mobile-responsive templates to make emails more readable on phones and tablets. I recently tested some templates from my email service, aWeber. Here’s an example.
The resulting template fits the screen, but the colored bar is distracting and is taking up valuable space that could be devoted to a marketing offer and call to action.
What’s the Solution?
More and more marketers are turning to “plain HTML” emails to make sure their messages are easily readable on a mobile device.
Don’t confuse this with a “plain text” email. Bear with me while I get a bit technical. A true plain text email is exactly that – no graphics, no HTML, just good old plain text. Your email service automatically produces a behind-the-scenes plain text email every time you create a pretty HTML message. Here an example of the plain text version of an HTML email in Constant Contact. These exist in case your reader is opening the email on a computer or device that can’t read HTML (by the way, you should always check and test the plain text versions of your emails before you send them).
A “plain HTML email”, by contrast, is an email that is formatted with HTML but limits the use of graphics, colored backgrounds, columns and so on for better readability. Marketers have always used this email format, but it’s getting more popular for several reasons.
- It’s easier to read on a mobile device
- It feels less like a sales pitch and more like a personal email
- It’s more likely to get through spam filters
Here are some examples. First, here’s an email I received from Facebook marketing expert Amy Porterfield a year ago. It’s typical HTML template with a “content and right-sidebar” layout, which looks great on my desktop monitor.
Contrast that email with two recent emails from Amy shown below. The one on the left includes a graphic and pretty links, but it’s much plainer than the old template. The one on the right has no graphics at all. They both use lots of strategic bolding to draw the eye to the most important parts of the email, and both are a single column of content with no sidebar, which looks much better on a mobile screen.
What Does This Mean for My Emails?
With mobile email usage growing rapidly, you don’t want to risk losing readers because your emails are hard to read. Why not start testing a simpler email layout and see what happens to your email and click-through rates? You can even try a split-test – send half of your audience a fully graphic email and half a plainer layout and see if one performs better than the other.
If you try it, let me know how it goes!