If you aren’t yet optimizing your email campaigns for a cross-device, mobile audience, you’re falling behind. Email has quickly become the most used app on smartphones, with 73% of owners checking their email at least once a day. Companies are regularly seeing between 40% and 60% of their campaigns opened on smartphones and tablets. With numbers this high and increasing by the day, companies have realized that mobile is a market in which they need to have a presence.

But with the change happening so quickly, many senders are scrambling to cope with how to target audiences in ways and in contexts that they never imagined. Below are the basics to get your campaigns ready:

Get Your Analytics In Line – As Jason Grigsby, Cofounder of CloudFour, says, “We cannot predict future behavior from a current experience that sucks.” So goes the problem with deriving mobile analytics and conversion rates from emails and websites that have yet to be optimized for mobile in any significant way. Still, it’s a good idea to check your analytics and tracking to get a baseline of mobile opens, clicks, website traffic, and conversions you are already seeing. This baseline can then be used to analyze against any future increase in clicks, traffic, or revenue from mobile devices, to determine how well your mobile strategy is working and what content you need to focus on to make it even better.

Good Content Wins – Developing a focused content strategy that creates useful, relevant, and engaging content is the first and most important step in targeting customers and users in any context. As Karen McGrane points out, in Content Strategy for Mobile, “…there’s no point in debating the merits of the container if you don’t know what you want to put in it.”

Clear, concise, and relevant content is the only way to truly engage with your customers. And with less screen real estate available, focusing your content becomes even more vital in the mobile context. Consider evaluating your previous sends by combining a content audit with good tracking metrics, to determine what content your customers are actually engaging with, as well as if there are less relevant links, copy, or content types that can be removed or paired down. Keep in mind that taking a concise, targeted content approach may mean the need for a higher percentage of emails tailored and personalized to specific types of customers. Relevancy is, after all, the key to conversion. If you have a broad audience with varying products or content interests, having well-segmented lists is a requirement for the delivery of concise, targeted content that engages customers. But, if done right, less can be more.

Swiping, Not Scrolling / Tapping, Not Clicking – Touch is quickly becoming the norm for how users interact with their devices and your content. Touch is now a primary source of input, not just on smartphones, but on tablets, touchscreen laptops, and hybrid devices like the Microsoft Surface. When given the option, users choose touch, even when there are more precise interaction methods available. If it’s difficult for users to directly interact with your content by swiping and tapping, they will simply abandon the email. In fact, Worldata found that, emails that aren’t optimized for touch suffer from a 28% lower conversion rate due to user frustration with tap-errors and mis-taps. In order to avoid tap errors in your designs, make sure any calls-to-action are designed to be obviously and easily tappable. This includes making tappable areas a minimum of 44 by 44 pixels in size, with at least 15 pixels of padding between any adjacent tappable elements.

Design For Every Screen – Optimizing your campaigns for mobile devices may have gone from “maybe to mandatory” but that doesn’t mean larger screens can now be ignored. As of June 2012, desktop and webmail clients still made up 33% and 31% of the market respectively, and according to a recent study by Google, 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal.

Because your customers might be scanning emails on mobile devices and then opening them on laptops later to take action, a well-designed campaign should attempt to offer a good, consistent cross-device experience. There are several layout options available when designing a cross-device experience, some are easier to accomplish and maintain, such as skinny templates and fluid designs. More complex options, such as responsive layouts, require more time and resources, but offer a higher-caliber experience. Whatever option you choose, the most important thing is to maintain a high-quality experience that is capable of targeting all of the devices your customers are using. As Luke Wroblewski points out, “The ability for users to work across different screen types will become a basic expectation.”

Don’t Forget About Your Website – You know where your customers are. You’ve got your content in order. You’ve designed the perfect cross-device templates and your emails look amazing on every device imaginable. But, what happens when a user clicks on your calls-to-action? Where do they go then? A non-mobile optimized landing page? A product page on your website that doesn’t work on their mobile device? Does it simply redirect them back to the homepage of your mobile site because of a lack of content parity between your mobile and desktop sites? What happens after the clickthrough is an often overlooked part of the commerce equation. But having a mobile and cross-device optimized landing page, website, or store is just as important in creating conversions as the email itself.  After all, if your customer can’t complete their task or transaction, even the best emails in the world won’t perform.

In the end, targeting mobile comes down to providing customers with the easiest path to interacting with your content. Most customers aren’t going to know, or care, whether you’re using the latest design techniques to achieve that goal. All they care about is if you’re delivering valuable, engaging content that they can interact with easily. And in that sense, targeting mobile should be business as usual, even if some technical details may change.

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