Email open rates on mobile phones have exploded in the last few years. In 2012 email open rates on mobile devices were tipped to overtake those of desktop open rates. Nine months into the year, this has already happened.

When it comes to email marketing, optimising for mobile is something any marketer simply cannot ignore. In the UK 38 percent of phones are smartphones, a figure that is growing every year (Return Path Campaign Insight study, 2012). We are all changing the way we view our emails and, importantly, where and when.

This change means that marketers need to revise their approach to email, considering not only the content but also when and how this content will reach your target. Mobile devices have added several new layers to the problem of cross platform email rendering. There are a number of key changes marketers can make to ensure their email efforts have the most impact:

  1.  An introduction that needs no introduction

The subject line and email pre-header are your mobile brand ambassadors. Exploit these elements to win the attention of your customer. The email is being read on the move, or is just one of many activities competing for the eyes and minds of your customers; a compelling headline will have the crucial impact needed to draw them away from posting another photo of their coffee to Instagram.

  1.  Less is more

Smaller screens dictate the amount of content you can deploy. Don’t waste your valuable screen real estate but make sure its simple for your reader to reach further information.

  1.  Ready emails for fat finger scrolling

The pixel accuracy of the mouse pointer is no longer in command, instead interaction with your message is driven by the thumb or finger, often on the move. Make sure your Calls to Action are fat finger friendly.

  1.  Size does matter

Opening an email on your desktop you are likely to have a very good broadband connection meaning downloads of images, fancy fonts and formatting will be instantaneous regardless of size. On your mobile device, however, you’ll have a feeble 3G or a public wi-fi signal to slow you down. You want the content immediately; this is what you’ve become used to. Make sure the email not only looks good but loads up quickly leaving no time for the target to get bored waiting and drop out.

  1.  Grab attention quickly with key themes

Mobile email is even more immediate than traditional email, but attention spans are shorter. Building on the immediacy, content should focus on special offers, discounts and localisation. In mobile the message should beless about the brand building, content led newsletter and more about the here and now.

  1.  Land with a splash, not with a bump

Okay, you’ve designed a great email, it’s easy to navigate by thumb, even with a weak connection, and the time sensitive offer is clear and relevant. But once your eager customer has clicked through to your website they are confronted with a non mobile friendly page, that is impossible to navigate. It is essential to build mobile optimised landing pages for the email. The user experience must be smooth and easy to complete. A poor mobile online experience may result in your customer switching allegiance to a more mobile friendly competitor.

Now readying your email for mobile is a fairly clear and simple task as long as you follow the above guidelines, but what takes a little more time is finding out exactly who your mobile readers are. Questions like what OS or email client are the emails read in? Are they being read on multiple devices? Is it a quick inbox check on the way into work, with interesting emails flagged for a re-read at the desk later on in the day?

All of these questions change elements of how to shape and target your email, but the answers are difficult to find. Fortunately there are tools available, like Litmus, which not only allow you to see at a glance how your email will render across multiple platforms and configurations, but also provide data on where your customers are reading your emails.

With this data it is then possible to begin playing with your email strategy, testing different content and assessing its impact. These tools also include content checking against all major anti-spam filters as well as in depth delivery analysis. You are able see how your message will be presented, and importantly, be given information allowing you to tweak your content to ensure it drops into your customer’s inbox.

Whilst email may seem a little one sided at times, it’s still a conversation and needs to be treated as such by delivering content in a compelling and informative way. Ask yourself the question; if I didn’t know what this was about, would I devote the time to understand? If you’re checking on your mobile, chances are it’s because time is valuable to you and you’re seeking to make the most of it.

Devoting time to digging the bit that’s relevant to you out of an email isn’t likely to be high on your list of priorities. The lessons from mobility revolve around delivering information in simple, relevant and timely ways. All the technical issues and controls are merely to support of those three simple goals.