Email marketers are in a dire situation. Many of them don’t know it yet. One of the major activities for smartphone users involves checking email. For marketing emails, while the current best practices dictate formatting emails to support both text-only and HTML email clients, the HTML versions donâ€™t scale well to smaller devices. This is a big problem.
Thing is, as smartphones get smarter, more and more are working to support HTML emails in their email clients. The iPhone is a great example. Any email marketers reading this should find someone with an iPhone, and pull up their emails on it. If theyâ€™ve been using text only, with a graphic here or there, it should look alright. But if theyâ€™ve established a graphical header, or formatted the email with a fixed width, the text should be just about impossible to read right now.
But thatâ€™s alright â€“ users can just zoom in, right? Yes, but the iPhone email client doesnâ€™t create new lines for text when itâ€™s zoomed in, so reading the email is a painful exercise in horizontal scrolling. The irony here is that the email marketers doing the best job graphically with their emails are the ones facing the biggest issue.
It’s Netflix consumer feedback surveys or Virgin America flight confirmation notices that raise my ire. Barnes & Noble has two excellent iPhone apps. Their emails viewed on the same device? Atrocious. Formatting errors galore, and their use of images to display text, while producing a great experience across desktop clients, leads to an email only ants can read.
Then thereâ€™s the question of whether the email is being read in landscape mode or not â€“ this again dramatically shifts which formatting will work , and which wonâ€™t. For the worst offenders, even landscape mode doesnâ€™t fix things. Android has its own quirks. The smartphones that render HTML emails are wreaking havoc on otherwise excellent email marketing.
Whatâ€™s an email marketer to do? Text only is always an option, but just removing horizontal width fixed elements can improve things dramatically without compromising aesthetics too much. Some of the more clever marketers may want to investigate detecting User-Agents for hosted images and based off those assign â€œlowest common denominatorâ€ support for that userâ€™s email address. The most important thing is to do something, because as the smartphone share of the wireless market expands, emails that fail to get it right will miss the mark for a greater number of recipients.