Mobile-First? Mobile-Only? Or Simply Screen-Optimized

The latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices. I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

How to Improve the Mobile Shopping Experience for CustomersThe latest comScore report “Cross-Platform Future in Focus 2017” continues to inform as to how we consume content via our total digital (desktop and mobile) devices.

I spend much of my digital day on my laptop (all work) — with periodic smartphone interruptions for both work, information on-demand and play, with a smidgeon of tablet (also work and play). But I don’t appear to be typical …

Since 2013, total digital media usage is up 40 percent — all of it driven by mobile. Smartphone usage is up 99 percent – that’s double since 2013. Tablet use is up 26 percent since 2013, while desktop has declined by 8 percent. I can match the 40 percent time growth in digital easily enough, but I’m still in love with my Lenovo ThinkPad. As a writer and communicator, I just can’t let go of my keypad and (relatively) big screen. My tablet even has a perfectly operational Bluetooth keypad.

I’m sure a generation (or two) ago, it was tough for writers to swap out their typewriters for “word processors.” But look around … times they are a-changing.

You can guess age has something to do with it.

Mobile now represents seven in 10 digital minutes. Dig deeper: 22 percent of 18 to 24 year-old women, and 16 percent of 18 to 24 year-old men are “mobile only.” (Echo Chamber: I’m guessing most mobile-only’s are not white-collar workers with computers in home and office work stations. I can’t think of any of my professional colleagues who do not interact with a PC or laptop.) On the other side, 19 percent of the U.S. market has no smartphone penetration at all — with age 55+ smartphone penetration at just 61 percent.

While mobile platforms definitely prevent a complete divide between digital have’s (those with PCs/laptops + mobile) and have-not’s (those who do not, without even a smartphone), in my mind, there is still not “information” equality between digital and mobile. Do we consume information equally in depth, in time, in audio, in video, in copy length — from one size screen to another? Can attention be held adequately? Can copy be as easily read? Content cannot and should not be packaged the same for both platforms, IMHO. (If it weren’t for mobile, I would have typed out “in my humble opinion.”)

Consider these other effects:

  • Desktop Audiences Amplified: Mobile is a desktop extender – the top 100 digital properties have increased their mobile audiences over their desktop equivalents by a factor of 2.4. This multiple is growing, and probably not coincidentally, most smartphone screens now have 4.5-inch or larger displays — which has flattened the growth of tablets.
  • Wall Strength: Huge growth is happening in time spent inside mobile applications: led by Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Instagram, Gmail and Google Play. Snapchat, Pandora and Amazon are the largest apps outside the “walled gardens.” Snapchat usage grew by 114 percent.
  • Apps are Changing Behaviors: Apps are changing consumer behavior permanently – from ordering rides, to paying friends, to making dates – by the tens of millions. And some apps are “flash” – Pokémon GO has one-fifth the active user base that it had last July.
  • Millennials are Smart … Phoned: Smartphone penetration among Millennials (ages 18 to 34) is at its saturation point — currently 94 percent. With the big rise in Snapchat, they still spend most their social app time on Facebook, with equal time in Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat app penetration among Millennials is 60 percent, compared to 95 percent for that of Facebook.
  • Time Spent Digitally: This might also help to explain why the three top digital time uses are social media (20 percent of total digital time), multimedia (14 percent) and entertainment/music (11 percent). One has to go all the way down to 3 percent equally for news and information, email, and search. Mobile is primarily a connection and entertainment vehicle for us. Information-on-demand is hugely important. However, we get it and then get off it.
  • Video: YouTube is the big online video winner and 70 percent of watch-time is on mobile devices, versus 30 percent in desktop. While mobile minutes and monthly videos watched per viewer are dominated by mobile, desktop still gets (just) an edge in average minutes watched per video … 4.7 minutes on desktop average minutes to 3.7 minutes on mobile. Perhaps as display screens expand, and headphones abound, video is becoming just as captivating on either screen.

There’s more to report in this study, including some concerning effects regarding advertising. But like the previous blog post — the perfect mobile ad — we need to be screen-optimizing our content. We also need to plot the customer journey in mobile, and depending on the target audience, place that mobile customer journey first in mind.

7 Email Design Must-Dos for Today

The bottom line is email can run our lives. Because this is the case for many people, we need to design marketing emails to make life easy for our recipients. Here’s my list of must-dos to make it easier to review emails, and more importantly, to get positive results.

Patrick's email blogEvery morning, I try to be at my desk by 8 a.m. The first thing I do is log in to my computer, pop open my email application and see how many emails I’ve got to review.

Some mornings, it’s not too bad. Some days I’ve been bad. I reviewed emails in the evening. I try not to do that. Otherwise, I tend to work all night. On the other hand, if I don’t review emails the evening before, I have many more to review in the morning.

The bottom line is email can run our lives. Because this is the case for many people, we need to design marketing emails to make life easy for our recipients. Here’s my list of must-dos to make it easier to review emails, and more importantly, to get positive results.

Your Layout Must Be Responsive

I’m not talking emails that get response, although that’s obviously the goal. I’m talking about email layouts that change size based on the device the email is reviewed on. Today, large numbers of people are using their smartphones to review their emails. The stats don’t lie:

Patrick's email post graphic

Responsive design results in a nearly 15 percent increase in unique clicks for mobile users from a 2.7 percent average to 3.3 percent, according to Litmus and MailChimp. 

Email designs for desktops are usually 600px wide, because 600px avoids some of the limitations of email applications and takes into account “browser chrome,” the space around email not allowing the email to take the full width of the screen.

The optimum width for mobile is 320px (640px for retina screen).

To help your design on mobile devices, stick to single-column layouts. Multi-column layouts usually appear squashed. A single-column design simplifies your layout and helps to focus your message for the recipients, makes it easier to read and makes you email cross-device compatible.

Don’t Forget the Preheader

This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves. Too many emails today still do not use a preheader or snippet and I don’t understand why.

The preheader is the first thing you see in an email application’s preview pane. You know when someone has ignored it when you see this line in the preview pane: “If You’re Having Trouble Viewing this Email …” This is also the title of a blog I wrote on preheaders and will give you more detail than I’ll do here.

Patrick's email preheader example

This example shows a preview pane with the top email not using a preheader and the second that does.

Highly Visible Call to Action

This almost doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it, anyway.

Call to actions or CTAs should be above the fold. Content above the fold gets 84 percent more attention. CTAs should have a lot of attention given to them and be written plainly and clearly. Also, make sure to use active language. Tell people what to do and they tend to do it.

You can learn even more about CTAs at my Design DR blog post “5 CTA Button Design Best Practices.”

Don’t Bury Your Branding

You’ve got a couple of seconds when a person opens your email to understand who the email is from. How best to do this … think about how we read. We start at the top-left corner and read left-to-right. The obvious conclusion is the top-left corner is the obvious place to place you logo or branding. It’s not a set rule, but it works. You can also consider placement in the top couple of inches (also prime email real estate) for brand placement as it works with your design.

Patrick's Converse email

This Converse email takes advantage of branding in two ways. The upper-left logo placement and logo placement on the video play artwork.

Size Matters … Font Size, That Is

Make sure you use a font size that is easily read. I usually recommend 14px as body text and 20-24px for headlines and subheads.

Remember: A large percentage of email will be read on a smartphone. I will also say the font you choose will affect the size equation. Some fonts read smaller or larger than others. Keep that in mind when you set the font size, as well.

A Picture’s Worth A 1,000 Words … Unless It’s Not Seen

Images are wonderful in an email. They ad great visual impact and deliver 1,000 words, right away. But we need to keep in mind that many email clients have images blocked. There’s nothing we can do about the blocking, but there is something that can be done to minimize the damage: Use alt tags.

“Alt tags” or “alt text” (short for alternative text) is the text that will show when an image is blocked. This is not automatic. If your designer does not program alt tags, you’ll see text where images would be displayed.

You can simply apply alt text to your images and call it a day and the text you apply will show. You can also specify the color behind the text and the text itself. This gives you some minor control of how it looks. You should always take advantage of this technique. To lean more, Litmus has a wonderful blog about the options: “The Ultimate Guide to Styled ALT Text in Email.”

You just need to keep one thing in mind: We are talking about email. Not all email applications support styled alt text. The Litmus post spells this out quite well.

Patrick's alt email Litmus

Personalization

I always make sure to personalize emails designs with name, text and images.

The easy part is using the recipient’s name. You have this info and it’s easy to implement in the subject line, in the preheader and the email body. According to Campaign Monitor, personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened.

Also, depending on your data, you can also personalize based on:

  • Products they’ve ordered in the past,
  • Life events, like birthdays and anniversaries
  • Connections, like clubs they belong to, if the are veterans, Moms, men, women, etc.

Personalization can also be imagery. Using the list above, you can change the images used. For instance, if you know the person’s name, sex, car purchased from you and where it was purchased, you can create an email with the following things personalized:

  • Name: Place their name in the subject line, headline of the email and in the body text.
  • Sex: You can change the products offered and colors of the artwork to be more male- or female-oriented.
  • Car Purchased: You can use a picture of the car they purchased and if you have the info, the model and color of their car.

You can see the power of personalization and how it can make your email more relevant to the recipient. By segmenting a campaign, according to the DMA, marketers have found a 760 percent increase in revenue. Add a highly personalized element to the segments and who knows what the potential might be.

Don’t Forget the Footer

Lastly, do not forget the footer. They can increase your creditability. Yes, this is important. The fastest way to look like spam is to not include a solid footer. You must include:

  • Your organization’s name and your complete contact details
  • A clear, easy-to-find “unsubscribe” link
  • Include links to your main website or key service/product pages
  • Make it easy to share the email with a forward-to-a-friend link, and social media links
  • Add a line about why they are receiving the email, i.e. membership in a loyalty program or other such reasons

Patrick's forward-to-a-friend email

We’ve all gotten emails with poor footer information. My biggest pet peeve is no unsubscribe link. Right behind that is an unsubscribe link that takes me to a page that I need to log into to “manage” my email preferences. This is a bad user experience.

This is my basic list for email design. Can this change? My answer is “yes,” but I encourage you to test, test, test. There is not such thing as a hard-and-fast rule. Everything changes. Email applications, they way people respond, what’s in favor this season or addition of new technologies. Always look forward and always challenge designers and your own assumptions.

Consumers Like Direct Mail

For the past several years, direct mail has been bashed for being too old school and past its time. The reality is far from that. Direct mail response is on the rise. Consumers enjoy getting direct mail that is applicable to them. When direct mail is targeted correctly, it will not be considered “junk mail.” Yes, even millennials like to get mail

For the past several years, direct mail has been bashed for being too old school and past its time. The reality is far from that. Direct mail response is on the rise. Consumers enjoy getting direct mail that is applicable to them. When direct mail is targeted correctly, it will not be considered “junk mail.” Yes, even millennials like to get mail.

Here are a few reasons people like to get mail:

  • Its delivered to their home through no effort on their part
  • It can be fun (get creative and think outside of the box)
  • A way to save money (people like a good deal)
  • It’s informative (people are curious)
  • It’s easily kept for future reference or use (use a magnet, they can then post on the fridge)

Direct mail statistics you should know (as reported in “From Letterbox to Inbox 2013”):

  • 79 percent of consumers say that they act on direct mail immediately
  • 56 percent of consumers stated that they found printed marketing to be the “most trustworthy” of all media channels

So what do people do after they get a direct mail piece? (“Consumer study reveals ‘direct mail matters’ in connected world,” July 11, 2013)

  • 44 percent visit a brands’ website
  • 34 percent search online for more information about the product
  • 26 percent keep the mailing for future reference

Keeping all of the above in mind, how can you change the way you send direct mail? Are you focused on the consumer and what is in it for them? Do you have a clear call to action and the benefits they get by responding? When you think you do, get someone from outside your organization to critique it for you. You will be surprised with what you can learn.

Using the fact that almost half of the recipients will go online and check you out after getting your direct mail piece, do you have landing pages designed with them in mind? Are you using responsive design so that they can view your website and landing pages on mobile devices? These days, using responsive design is the best way to have your online content look correctly no matter what device is looking at it. Direct mail will drive people to online engagement; make sure you are ready for them.

The only way that direct mail will continue to work is if we as marketers send direct mail to consumers that is designed well, has a clear call to action and is targeted to the right people. This keeps recipients happy and increases your response rates.

Responsive Design: This Changes Everything

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us. As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business. If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions

Like many businesses, we put off making updates to our Web page because we were … um … well … simply too busy. And shame on us.

As marketers, we know the critical role a website plays for any business.

If a potential client, employee or business colleague wants to really understand who you are and what you do, they take two actions:

  1. Check out your LinkedIn profile: Does your photo look like somebody they want to engage with? Does your experience/education/brand voice look like a good match for my needs? Do you know anybody I know so I can get the inside skinny on you?
  2. Visit your website: How do you present yourself in the digital world? Do you have the experience/skills I’m looking for?

With an increasing number of site visitors using their mobile devices to visit websites, the new design “must-do” trend is responsive design. While in the past it was necessary to have a separate mobile-friendly version of a site, it’s now easy to maintain one site that can serve all your needs regardless of the screen size.

A site that uses responsive is flexible: It changes its layout and appearance based on the pixel width of the screen on which the site is displayed by reorganizing the images into a cascading style sheet. By using x and y coordinates on a grid for layout, and mathematical percentages for images instead of fixed-width pixel parameters, your layout will resize itself to fit in the size of the display device. That means that text on a page can be larger and easier to read on small screen, and buttons can be easier to press/click because they can accommodate the actual size of a finger.

If your site currently uses Flash, it’s probably a good time to rethink that strategy, as many smart phones don’t currently support it—which means many visitors won’t be able to view that content.

Plus, since Google recommends and supports smart phone-optimized sites, their algorithms will automatically detect a responsive design setup if those all-important Google bots are allowed to crawl your page assets. And we all know how critical it is that your site is Google-search friendly!

But, it seems, many brands have not jumped on the new responsive design bandwagon—and understandably so. We’re living proof that planning, designing and re-launching a new website is a time-consuming task. And while many web design firms claim they can adapt your current site for less than you may think, we found that we needed to completely rethink our site and the way we were presenting our work in order to take advantage of responsive design techniques.

Now email is following this same responsive design trend. If you’re like most people, you’ve already discovered that reading email on your smart phone can be challenging. Just because it looks great on your work monitor, doesn’t mean it will render properly on every recipients device. According to Litmus, as of December 2013, more than 51 percent of email opens occur on a mobile device. Meaning you’d better be taking a serious look at your email design if you want to make sure it’s optimized for the majority of your readers.

As for our website, it’s now under construction … and yes, we’re using responsive design … and yes, we’re learning a lot as we go. Check back in about 60-days and let me know what you think.

A Turnaround Idea for Slow 4Q Sales

Only about 30 days or so are left in the holiday season for 2013. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. And if you’re looking at your early Fourth Quarter results and can see you need a jolt of energy to turn things around, keep reading. Today we reflect on a shopping trend that began a year ago, and we you offer an idea you can implement

Only about 30 days or so are left in the holiday season for 2013. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. And if you’re looking at your early Fourth Quarter results and can see you need a jolt of energy to turn things around, keep reading. Today we reflect on a shopping trend that began a year ago and we you offer an idea you can implement yet this season.

A year ago, early online holiday shopping broke sales records. While forecasts for this year appear to show modest overall growth over last year, there will be winners—most likely online direct marketers ready for the growing number of consumers who purchase via mobile devices. Even if you didn’t plan for mobile marketing, it’s not too late to move into action to help your organization take its place in the winner’s column.

The migration of online shopping will most likely continue its shift from desktops to mobile. Last year it was the Apple iPad making headlines. Consumers used iPads by a factor of nine-to-one over any other mobile device, doubling the year before. With Apple’s 52 percent market share, their users accounted for 88 percent of online shopping traffic, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark Report.

Of course, that was then, and this is now. Recent data tells us 170 million iPads have been sold. A substantial number of people have them, and use them.

As direct marketers, you have an opportunity to take advantage of the sheer number of iPads, and the trend toward using it for shopping, by optimizing your website for mobile applications (if you haven’t done that, make it a 2014 priority). In addition, when you use tools that work well on iPads and hold your prospective customer to the screen longer, your odds for success improve.

One of tool that works great on iPads, and has proven to lift sales, is online video.

Consider these stats:

  • Video is a driver of consumer confidence. Consumers are willing to watch videos 60 percent of the time they are found, and 52 percent of consumers report that they are less likely to return a product after viewing a video (Website Magazine).
  • 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. When a video is information-intensive, 66 percent of consumers will watch the video two or more times. (Internet Retailer).
  • Shoppers who viewed video on product pages were 144 percent more likely to add to cart than other shoppers (Internet Retailer).
  • Shoppers who viewed video were 174 percent more likely to purchase than viewers who did not (Retail Touchpoints).
  • Looking for higher email click-through rates? Link to a video. About half of marketers who use video in email campaigns see increased clickthrough rates, time spent reading the email, and more sharing and forwarding. (eMarketer).

So what do you do today to test online video in the remaining days of this shopping season?

  1. Conduct a competitive analysis of what your competition is doing with online video. Look at competitor websites for video, search on YouTube and social media. Check the length, and examine their format.
  2. If you don’t have a video, record one (or more)! If you don’t have expertise inside your organization, there are multitudes of creative resources that can help you out. The fact is, an inexpensive camera, and someone with editing skills, can create a video for you in no time. While a bootstrap approach may not be ideal long-term, it’s a place to start.
  3. Load the video on YouTube (10 ways to optimize for search here and 12 overlooked ways to help your video rank higher here). Place it on your website or a landing page.
  4. Send an email to your customer list to promote it. Use the word “video” in your subject line—testing shows your open rate will increase. Since we’re talking mobile here, make sure your HTML emails are using responsive design. If they aren’t, readability on smartphones is challenging, so readership and clickthrough rates go down. Most email portals—e.g., ConstantContact, iContact, Mailchimp, and others—offer responsive design email templates.
  5. Include a link to your video on social media. After about 24 hours, check your social media metrics and you should see a spike in engagement with your followers.
  6. Mail a postcard. You have time. Make it graphically obvious on the postcard you have an important video (story/product demonstration/testimonial) and direct your customers to your landing page. Use an oversized “Play” symbol on a thumbnail that you create of your video. Use a QR code or a PURL to more closely track response.
  7. After bringing prospects to your landing page, you’ve got them started at the top of your sales funnel. Now it’s time for marketing automation software to takeover (more about this topic in a future blog) and convert the lead to a customer before the books close for 2013.

If you haven’t tried video, especially when it’s proven that customers love mobile devices like iPads, now is your time. It’s proven that consumers watch videos, confidence is lifted, and they’re more likely to add a product to a cart and purchase after watching a video. Now is the time to test your organization’s ability to be an agile direct marketer.