Increasing mobile usage as well as technical handicaps regarding the presentation of mobile content requires a special kind of e-mail marketing for mobile phone and smartphone users.

The mobile Internet is finally reality and the use of mobile data services via mobile phones has soared in recent years. However, an obvious trend has becomes apparent that e-mail marketing driven companies still don’t seem to be prepared to sufficiently exploit yet. Handicaps in the presentation as well as specific user preferences of mobile receivers are a challenge e-mail marketers have to adapt to otherwise, they risk losing an important target group.

Gartner predicts that by 2012 around 20 percent of all e-mails will be sent or read via the mobile device and according to their survey, one in three mobile phone owners (35 percent) already uses mobile Internet services like e-mail today. In the management area, there are even twice as much according to Marketing Sherpa.

Beyond the traditional e-mail marketing: applications and technology

The ever-advancing development of mobile devices provides a better handling of mobile Internet services, so what has been an obstacle in the past can be solved with different types of end devices. To no surprise mobile e-mails are used by 13.1% of mobile phone users only, but by 35.4% of smartphone users, and even 75.4% of iPhone owners, according to ComScore.

The fact that the technology is still inconsistent seems to be a significant handicap for mobile e-mail marketing. The small display size, the low level of displayable text, the ability to display HTML, and the response option become a challenge for marketing, as these parameters depend on the operating system of the mobile device as well as the respective e-mail client and browser and even from the individual settings of each recipient.

But not only technical constraints differentiate mobile e-mail marketing from its traditional counterpart. User preferences of mobile receivers and also different requirements for content and design also raise challenges.

However, those who believe that mobile e-mail marketing means reading newsletters on cell phones are wrong. Mobile e-mail marketing must face up to a completely different situation of use and technical constraints that could eventually even become a killer of traditional e-mail marketing. But surprisingly, or actually not, it is precisely this challenge that can create special opportunities and could make mobile e-mail marketing a very interesting channel.

Mobile e-mail marketing in practice

In practice, e-mail marketers should determine first how many mobile recipients they really reach. To find this out, the can question subscribers, analyse log files according to user-agents or e-mail marketing systems by using appropriate recognition. If the results show that there is a strong group of mobile users in the distribution, it is necessary to think about mobile-e-mail marketing.


Many mobile devices can’t display HTML emails or only present them in an incomplete form. It is therefore advisable to offer a text version of the e-mail newsletter. Since mobile browsers usually have a better presentation than mobile e-mail clients, at least an alternative HTML representation (online version) should be linked.


Small displays and a small amount of displayable text emphasize the credo: “You shall be brief!” This applies to both the content as well as the sender name and subject line, in which important keywords should be placed at the beginning.


Keep in mind the specific usage preferences of mobile users. Traditional newsletters are hardly read on a mobile phone. Relevant for mobile phones are compact service messages or information that serve in case of waiting or interval time as entry for gaining further information on the mobile web.

Mobile Landing Pages

We shouldn’t forget that besides the index page all other targeted pages should be mobile compatible, too. They should also not include any Java script and be geared towards reduced display width. Complicated reaction pathways such as form inputs should be avoided as well.

At least be Mobile Ready

Not all e-mails are read on the mobile. And strictly speaking, it is an art to trigger the mobile reading of e-mails. Newsletter or e-mails that are large due to graphics are probably received on the mobile, but then read only on the PC. So, it is not always necessary to design every e-mail communication for mobiles. But keep in mind: The relevance of the subject and the first recognizable content sometimes decide whether your message will survive until being read on the PC. So take advantage of the sender, subject and the text beginning to arouse sufficient interest to ensure that the e-mail isn’t classified as irrelevant and therefore deleted immediately.

Mobile RSS - the alternative solution

An interesting look outside the box, and sometimes an alternative to mobile e-mail, are mobile RSS feeds. RSS plays to the need of getting compact information even more than e-mail. In addition, the various messages in the frame of the respective exclusive feeds do not compete with a variety of other incoming messages. Many phones of today already support RSS, since it is platform independent.