Responsive design has been a hot topic for some time now, and in the last year or so, responsive email design has really come into its own. Making the decision to invest in updating emails to responsive templates is truly dependent upon the types of devices that your audience is accessing your email from: mobile, desktop, webmail, tablet, or other. By recognizing their opportunity to connect with a highly mobile audience and becoming an early adopter of responsive design, DEG client partner Portland General Electric was able to realize a significant increase in engagement with its more that 1.5 million customers through the Portland area.

 

Challenge

Portland General ElectricPGE is a utility company that services an area of the country known to be progressive both in its social structures as well as its embrace of digital. Known as the “Silicon Forest,” the area is home to a number of high tech companies like Salesforce.com, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard. Given its tech-savvy demographic, it’s no surprise that PGE’s customer base has widely opted to interact with it online, particularly through email.

PGE sends monthly newsletters to its residential subscribers, and over the course of 2012, email engagement (open and click rates) became relatively stagnant. With newsletter engagement being the only real barometer of success, they were challenged with creating an optimized design that made it easy for subscribers to digest the five or so articles they send out each month.

 

Strategy

PGE utilizes Litmus to measure device usage, and had been doing so throughout 2012. In examining that data, we noticed that mobile open rates increased over time, peaking at about 39% of total opens in November of 2012. Because more than a third of their subscribers were accessing the email via mobile, we identified a need to create an engaging and effective email design that performed well on both mobile devices, as well as desktop or webmail clients.

Additionally, we needed to make a few changes from the previous newsletter design. The old designs were text heavy, and allowed for copious amounts of content within the newsletter. In fact, each email contained so much content that a table of contents with anchor links was used to drive readers further into the email. Recent research suggests that people don’t read content on the web as much as they scan, picking up only the important or eye-catching details as they go. This is understandable given the amount of content produced every day: 148 billion emails, 4 billion Facebook posts, and 500 million tweets, on average. People are in a hurry. To better sevice PGE customers’ needs, we needed to simplify the email, reduce content, and optimize for scanning.

The answer was a responsive, fluid newsletter that rendered beautifully across multiple devices. The new design launched in January of 2013.

Responsive side by side

 

Results

After deploying via the new responsive template, PGE saw great lifts in engagement metrics. With the first send of the new template, they realized a 20% increase in click through rate. Additionally, as a measurement of sustained success, after six months of sending the new template, the average for click through rate was besting the previous by 21%. Finally, when combined with PGE’s ongoing efforts to create more engaging content, we have dramatically improved our click through rate when comparing the last send of the old template and the last send in our initial testing period: click through rate has increased 112%, from 2.92% to 6.21%

 

Conclusions

As this case study shows, simplification can go a long way when it comes to email. Be conscious of the amount of content subscribers are inundated with each day; if it looks too long, subscribers are liable to skip over it and move on to the next email, post, tweet, etc.

Furthermore, it is important to cater your messaging to the manner in which your subscribers will receive it. PGE was able to optimize its communication stream because it knew that large portion of it database accessed its emails via mobile devices (that device share has grown to just over 50% as of this post).

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