A beginner’s guide: how to write emails for mobile devices

It’s noon hour and you’re sitting at your desk zipping through emails on your phone.  Or, you’re in line at the grocery store. Or you’re in a parking lot waiting for your teen to finish practice and you take a few seconds to check your emails on your phone.

Research shows that 51-60% of mobile device users will be using their device as their primary means to connect and shop by the end of this year.

Connecting to your readers who are using their smartphones and other mobile devices is different than connecting to those using laptops or desktops, or even tablets.

Catch your reader’s attention

What gets your attention? Usually, you open emails from people or businesses you know and trust. Or a trigger word in the subject line catches your eye.

That being said, you know your readers are doing the same.

What can you do to have more people open your emails? Give them information they want or need.

First, decide why you’re sending an email (the content), then write the subject line.

The subject line is the lure – is it engaging?

The subject line in an email is like the headline in other copy forms.  It needs to catch your reader’s attention. It needs to be simple. It needs to be one idea.

You can find examples everywhere. You can listen to news headlines, look at magazine covers for article headlines, read the blurb about a book on a review.  The headline (or in email, the subject line) is a message to pull the reader into reading more.

For example, I was scrolling through the news and this one caught my eye:

“Police offer advice on how to handle phone scammers.”

Well, that’s short and sweet. It got my attention in a heartbeat given the recent series of calls I’ve been receiving. 

The subject line is meant to have the reader open the email.  The content of the email are for another time.

Creating the subject line is a little tricky

Let’s start with your answer to the most important question: what is the email about and why should your reader care?

If you’re uncertain, an email survey is a solid idea.  If you’re only assuming you know what your readers want, you may be mistaken.

Before investing a lot of time and resources into an email campaign, do your research. Be sure you know your reader’s interests, wants and needs.

When you know what your readers are looking for you know what content to develop for an email campaign.

3 content tips:

  1. Be yourself: Always be authentic and be consistent with your brand.  Your email needs to sound like you. Consider having a human name as part of the sender name (i.e. Georgie @mygreatbusiness).

And, in the same spirit of being human, personalize the email with your reader’s name.

  • Have something to say: don’t just send an email without a purpose.  Remember, your subject line needs to be inviting. There needs to be value in the subject line. 

Is the email about a special offer, a reminder, an announcement, a new service, or the answer to a problem? The subject lines needs to match to content.

  • Use simple, but powerful words:  there is limited space in email subject lines. Each word has to be necessary.

Tip: The optimum number of characters is 25-30 for a subject line but the average number is 41-50 characters.  (You can start off with a long headline, just keep editing to become focused and succinct. Simple is best.)

Take your time to find the best words to use.  There are resources you can Google. You might search for terms like ‘power words’  These are words that provoke an emotion or reaction, often unconsciously, to the reader.

Which power words are best for you to use? Well, this goes back to which power words will strike your readers triggers?

You want to use words that trigger curiosity, or target vanity, or offer silver bullets. Or you might use the fear of missing out or address a pain point you readers experience.

You will the best power words for your emails when you are clear on what your readers need and how you can meet this need.

The practical pieces of emails for mobile devices

Now you have your content for the email and your subject line ready to go, so make sure it’s going to work well and easily on mobile devices.

3 more quick tips:

  1. Be seen – literally.  Avoid having your subject line being cut-off.  Smartphones have small screens. Wearable devises are even smaller.  

Adjust your font so that it can be read more easily.  Instead of using a small font to get ‘everything’ in your subject line onto the smaller screen…use a larger font and a shorter subject line.

  • Allow more empty space. Why? Tapping action buttons on a phone can be frustrating.

Leave more space for your reader to manoeuvre and continue reading. 

Be careful of the use of graphics as some readers will disable graphics on their phones.  In the same vein, be careful of audio or visual. Not everyone has an unlimited data plan on their device.

The best approach is to design your emails for mobile devices without graphics or video. Pure text content is always a sure bet for every device.

Tip: Just a reminder. If you’re linking to your website, be sure it’s mobile friendly.

  • How often and how many:  avoid drowning your reader. Generally speaking, in today’s world less is more with a few exceptions.

In February 2019 Campaign Monitor published results of a survey of 472 American adults. 45.8% marked emails as spam because they were sent too often, and another 36.4% did the same because they didn’t ‘purposefully subscribe.’

Think of yourself. How many emails a day do you receive, and how do pick which ones to open? How quickly do YOU delete emails without reading them? Why do you do that?

If you are very unsure of how your clients respond, you can test the frequency over a period of time and see if your readership stays the same, increases or drops.

Or better yet, you can ask your readers in a survey how often they want information from you.

There are times when you might push a few more emails.

For example:  during a particular shopping season, or new year when people are wanting to renew their goals. Or perhaps holidays and people are thinking about  personal retreats. You can also send a birthday or work anniversary email to your reader.

Regardless, be sure the email has a clear purpose.

Finally, keep your eye on how the tech industry is changing. Watch for news about tech updates that may influence your reader’s experience in using their devices.

Ms Charron is a copywriter with more than 35 years of experience in a variety of industries. She’s a copywriter who is focused on remembering the human heart in advertising; and enjoys working in self-improvement and personal growth.