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Mobile Email Marketing Pitfalls; How Do Your Messages Measure Up?

By Len Shneyder

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting with eROI’s Dylan Boyd on the topic of Mobile Optimization. We had a wonderful audience with a bounty of great questions stretching the limits of our imaginations and knowledge.  Seriously, if you don’t learn something from your audience then I doubt you’re really listening. I’m writing today to answer, in greater depth, one of the great questions that came in during the webinar: what kind of pixel resolutions should I code for?

In truth, the most common appears to be 320×480 for most of today’s smart phones. The following resolutions might give you an idea of the slight to drastic variance and how the nuances of the handset’s specific rendering will affect the final outcome:

  • iPhones – 320 pixels wide x 480 pixels tall
  • iPhone 4 has an effective resolution of 640 pixels but viewable top to bottom because of rescaling to 480.
  • Android Nexus One – 480 pixels wide x 800 pixels tall
  • There’s more variance with Android because of the variety of devices that run Android’s Mobile OS.
  • Palm Pre – 320 pixels wide x 480 pixel tall
  • Palm Pixi – 320 pixels wide x 400 pixels tall

Now that being said, let me contradict myself for just a moment–you  don’t really have 480 pixels to work with. Nope, not even close, by almost a quarter. Let me explain.

480 pixels is the top to bottom screen size of the iPhone screen and you have to subtract 20 pixels for the status bar and 44 pixels for each of the tool bars (on top of the message and below). This leaves you with 372 pixels of actual screen resolution.

Making Emails Mobile Friendly

There are a few questions you should ask of your emails to determine if they are anatomically correct for the corpus of mobile handsets:

  • Are my logo and calls to action above the fold?
  • If you use pre-headers or a link to a mobile version or ‘add to address book language’ above the body of the message, how much punch is your communique losing because the content is being pushed below the fold?
  • Are your calls to action clear and can they be acted upon by those of us with less than piano perfect playing fingers?
  • Is your content being shrunken to the point that the recipient is spending too much time figuring out ‘what to do next?’

But the fun doesn’t end here.  Remember where I said above that things get “resized?”  Well, here’s an example.

Although the Nexus One boasts a higher overall resolution than the iPhone, email isn’t automatically resized for the actual handset screen.  This results in the recipient being forced to scroll left and right to take the entire offer in.  You can also see from the image that although the Nexus One has an overall larger screen, the viewable message area is almost the exact same size – around 370 pixels from the top to the bottom of the first screen because of the amount of space dedicated to the subject line.

Not Rocket Science

Designing powerful creatives for mobile devices, or ensuring that your standard creatives can be viewed across multiple email clients is not rocket science. On the contrary, it may be the exact opposite of rocket science; what cross-channel optimization calls for is a bit of simplicity. Simply place your logo, your call to action front, center and top and ensure that you can see and act upon the offer without squinting, and hopefully without much scrolling.

As surgeons of human desire – marketers, I mean – our task is to figure out what our consumers want and then make sure that our digital missives are the antidote for whatever ails them, literally or metaphorically.

Mobile is a unique opportunity to reach people anywhere and during anytime of the day.  Mobile devices have in one sense made us less shackled to our desks, but infinitely more tied to our jobs and each other.  What makes the mobile proposition even sweeter is that you literally have to do nothing – no short codes, no long setup times, and you don’t cost your users money by sending them communications to their mobile handsets as with SMS/MMS. What you do need to do is optimize your message for the mobile landscape, and that starts with understanding the anatomy of a mobile phone.

Cheers!

-Len Shneyder
Sr. Product Marketing Mgr.
Unica | Pivotal Veracity

  • Vinay Cardwell

    I never really thought of that before with the resolution, but it makes sense. I am going to look at that now.

    Thanks this was good info and common sense to keep in mind.

    VDC