How To Drive Email Engagement On Mobile Devices


For retailers hoping to engage customers on their smartphones, welcome to the world of short attention span theater. But you’re still with me, right? Since 51% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device, it’s critical for retailers to master the art of mobile email marketing. Here’s what you need to know to engage customers and win in an increasingly competitive market.

Inspiring Customers To Join Your Mailing List

There is no email campaign without email subscribers, so first, you have to inspire them to subscribe to your emails.


You never want to buy a contact list or add a customer to your email list simply because they made a purchase. Instead, let them know the benefits of subscribing, such as exclusive offers and coupons on items you know they’ll love. Also let them know that you won’t overburden their already crowded inbox. This way, you’ll engage those customers that want to be engaged. They’ll also look forward to seeing your messages and are more likely to take you up on your offers and share your content.

The First Glance

If you’re already doing email marketing, you know that you have precious few moments to grab a reader when they first see your email in their inbox. When the reader is glancing at their inbox on their mobile device, while they’re walking from their car to the office or waiting to catch the bus, chances are those moments are even fewer.

The best way to grab their attention is through familiarity. Is the message from an employee they know or is it coming from your brand? Use the name they most closely identify with your business.

For the subject line and first sentence, keep in mind that unless you immediately answer what’s in it for them to open that email before they actually do, there’s a high probability that they won’t take action. (More on the subject line later.)


Formatting on an email is incredibly important when read on a smartphone. We found that three-quarters of consumers say they are highly likely to delete an email if they can’t read it on their mobile device. Your best approach is to use a mobile-friendly template because these ensure your messages look great on any size screen. Most email service providers have mobile-friendly templates ready to go. If that’s not an option, use a single column template because it makes your messages easier to read on a smartphone.

Once you have a template, don’t forget to brand your email with your logo and campaign colors. It’s one of the easiest things a retailer can do — yet you’d be surprised how often this important step is overlooked. Not only does it make your email more recognizable, it also adds polish to your messages.

In terms of the size of your text, use a 22- to 24-point font for the headers and no less than an 11-point font for the body, though 14 is ideal.

Copy Do’s And Don’ts

Of course, you already know that the text needs to be short, engaging and tweet-worthy. To do this, replace lengthy paragraphs with quick sentences. Also, remember the three A’s: active tense, eliminate adverbs for punchier copy, and be clear about the action you want customers to take.

When it comes to writing subject lines, be specific and make sure the copy aligns with the email content. Customers shouldn’t have to scroll to get the gist of the message, and on smartphones, subject lines often become truncated.

Aim to keep the subject line to fewer than 50 characters and avoid “spammy” words like free, act now, buy, and no obligation. Not only do those words invite a negative response, they can quickly land your email in a spam filter.

With regard to the length of the actual email copy, we recently analyzed more than two million customer emails. As we dug deeper into the data specific to retailers, we discovered that click-through rates improve by more than 50% in emails that have between 17 and 19 lines of text. However, click-through rates then drop by 50% among emails that have between 19 to 21 lines of text.

Further underscoring the importance of concise content, the study also found that three or fewer images result in optimal click-through rates. Often, readers don’t have time for the pictures to load while they’re reading your content on the go. Provide some visual content in order to grab readers, but not so much that they’re waiting for the 4G to kick in.

Calls To Action

When you have a singular focus for your message, the call to action should be clear to your customer. You can make it even easier for them to take immediate action by including large call to action buttons that accommodate fingers and thumbs. This way, customers can register, buy now, or be directed to a specific page on your web site where they can learn more.


Along with checking to see that your images and text appear the way you want them to before you go live with a campaign, make sure your messages are quickly downloaded and won’t sour your reputation by turning you into a bandwidth bandit.

With more customers reading email and taking action on mobile devices today, and an anticipated increase in mobile shopping activity this holiday season, now is the time to get your email marketing in shape so you can seize all those opportunities.

Zephrin Lasker is Constant Contact’s head of mobile and social product. He is a product visionary, serial entrepreneur, investor and startup advisor. He is the founding partner at Edge Drop Labs, an early stage incubator focused on product development and innovation. Previously, Lasker was CEO and Co-founder at Pontiflex, a leading mobile ad platform with over 80 million users, later acquired by Blackstone. He has advised major private equity firms and global venture capital firms on technology investments and strategy. 

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