How to Optimise your Email for Mobile Devices

When you hear the words ‘mobile optimisation’ a wave of dread may come over you – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s terrifying. Optimising your email for mobile devices is not difficult, and the thought of doing so shouldn’t fill you with terror.

This post is aimed at putting your mind at rest, we’ll explain the most common best practices, and show you a few live examples as well.

What is mobile optimisation?

In its simplest form – mobile optimisation is tailoring your email for mobile devices, instead of desktops, to ensure your email marketing campaigns are seen and appreciated.

Why should I optimise my email?

The number of people opening emails on mobile devices is continually increasing. A recent study conducted by Econsultancy found that 41% of all emails were opened on mobile devices with 29% opened on smartphone, and 12% on tablets.

Another survey conducted by Nielson found that 68% of UK consumers had used their mobiles to check emails over the last 30 days.

The Econsultancy survey also found that marketers are becoming savvier as well. 33% of survey respondents didn’t know what proportion of recipients were opening emails on mobile devices, but this is a significant drop on last year, as 48% of marketers didn’t fully understand their contacts in 2012.

Combine these figures with the fact that 26 million Brits currently use a smartphone; there are potentially millions of people who are still receiving emails that have not been optimised for mobile usage.

Here’s an example of an email which has not been optimised for mobile devices, by New Look. I love New Look’s desktop emails – they are always eye catching. But this mobile email kind of lets the side down. I need to zoom in and scroll the see the specific call to actions and products.

Here’s the desktop version:

new look desktopHere’s the mobile version:

new look mobile

How do I optimise my email?

1. Include a ‘View on a mobile device’ link

If your contact is opening the email on a mobile device, but your email isn’t optimised, include a link that will take them to mobile optimised version of your email message. This is a good way of ensuring the contact has a choice if you don’t want to implement an optimised template in full.

2. Include a bigger call to action

Another way to optimise your template is by including a bigger call to action – for those fat fingers. They should be larger and nearer to the top left. This allows the user to understand the email without the need for zooming out or scrolling.

3. Create an adaptive template

Adaptive design and intelligent CSS is a great way to ensure your template moves to fit whatever device it is opened on. This means your template is intuitive and won’t compromise the template for users on desktops.

4. Send a mobile only version

If you have an intelligent email service provider you may be able to see which kinds of devices are the most popular with your contacts. If you have an equal split of contact using desktop and mobile devices, it may be worth spending time creating a mobile only version to send to specific contacts. It’s up to you and your company to decide if this would be time well spent.

5. Segment your lists

Following on from point 4, you could go one step further and segment your lists based on the specific device. Look for contacts opening emails on iPhone or Android devices, and any tablets, for very specific and targeted campaigns.

6. Ask your contacts about their preferences

The best way to ensure your marketing is correct is to ask your subscribers about what they want. Upon sign up, consider implementing a preference centre to find out what type of emails they’d prefer to receive – html or plain text? Mobile or desktop? Do they prefer to receive email weekly or monthly? This can really help you boost engagement levels as the contacts are more open to your communication.


-    Remember to test. Make sure your content is easy to read on any screen on a variety of devices.

-    Don’t forget the subject line. This will be cut short on the majority of devices. Is it still understandable? Does it make the contact want to click?

-    The landing page is important too. The whole point of optimising your emails for mobiles is to encourage click throughs and engagement, so your landing page shouldn’t let you down. Remember to optimise the landing page for mobile devices – it should load quickly and easily.

How do other people optimise their emails?

There are a lot of large email senders that do not currently optimise their emails. Rather than focus on the negative, we’ve gathered a few examples of great emails, and we’ll compare them on both desktop and mobile to show you exactly how they should look.

1. Not On The High Street

As you can see from this example, the changes on the templates have been small but effective. The navigation has been removed from the mobile version. Small navigation bars are not suitable for mobile emails. Fingers are too wide to use the bar easily, and the user will need to zoom in to view the correct options. The images have been placed into one long column so that the user can easily see each individual product.


noths desktop



noths mobile

2. House of Fraser

House of Fraser has chosen to keep their navigation bar in the mobile version, but they have organised it in a much easier way than in the desktop version. The text is very small on a mobile device, but as the text and background is quite plain it is easy to read and digest.


house of fraser desktop


house of fraser mobile

3. John Lewis

There is a lot of information in the desktop version of this email, but John Lewis has easily split the email for mobile. As the email template is already separated by the coloured backgrounds, it’s easily changeable for their mobile version. Again, the text which introduces the items is very small, and doesn’t really pop out from the blue background. However, the call to actions are big enough for fingers to click correctly.


john lewis desktop


john lewis mobile 2

4. Size?

Size? Have been very clever with this email campaign. Again, just as John Lewis did, they have made their lives easy, by creating a template that is easily adapted for mobile. I really like how the mobile version has a little mobile icon in the top right of the design. This shows me that Size? Care about what device I’m using, and they have tailored their messaging for me.


size desktop


size mobile


Take a look at this infographic by Return Path, which details the impact of mobile emails across the world.


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