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Beyond Mobile-First: Think “Multiscreen”

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
02 January 2013

Recently it seems as if mobile email has become the No. 1 discussion topic among digital marketers: What's the impact? How do you give customers the best email experience in order to get the highest engagement and conversions? How important is mobile optimization, anyway?

Much of this conversation centers on the on-screen experience: What's the best way to design an email so it renders well and drive opens and clicks (that lead to conversions and other desired goals) on the tiny screen of a smartphone as well as the standard desktop version?

This is an important question to ask, but it's only one aspect of an effective mobile marketing strategy. Before you make over the email message itself, you must first work out many other aspects of your mobile strategy.

Mobile-Friendly: Is It Enough?
As marketers, we've spent the last few years focused on mobile email viewing and marketing and thinking about how to optimize the viewing experience to get the highest engagement and conversions.

We’ve exhorted our fellow marketers to get "mobile-friendly" with their email messages so that readers can read copy and images easily without a lot of swiping and scrolling and tap the right link instead of committing one "fat finger" mistake after another.

But that's the last step in a long chain of events and decisions that will dictate how that content ultimately will function on any screen, regardless of size or device.

You have a lot of research and planning to do before you change a single line of code in an email. Keep reading to find out what you should consider in your long-term planning.

Multiscreen, Not Just Mobile-First
A "mobile first" approach is, surprisingly, a short-sighted approach for developing a workable mobile email program.

We need to embrace a broader concept of email viewing on all platforms in order to create the most useful set of email strategies. This means "multiscreen" rather than simply "mobile."

A multiscreen email strategy embraces all the environments where customers view email. It acknowledges the challenges and opportunities that come with reading on a smartphone while also recognizing that desktop email viewing remains the most significant driver of email interaction and conversions for most companies.

The reality for many companies is that customers often check their email messages on more than one device. They might use their smartphones for the first pass through the inbox of the day, deleting the messages they don't want to read and leaving the rest for viewing later on a tablet or home/office desktop.

Knowing what your customers are actually doing with your email messages, and on which screen they are most likely to do it, is one of the first issues you must resolve. That's why there's no simple blueprint. Every company, and its customer database, is unique. Your email strategy must accommodate these differences.

Consider Context as Well as Screen Size and Content
If we focus too narrowly on the screen the subscriber uses to the view the content, we miss the bigger picture: What else is going on while your subscribers are checking their email?

Your mobile viewers have many more distractions to deal with or filter out when checking or reading email on smartphones or tablets.

Smartphone viewers are standing in line somewhere or waiting to pick up kids at school and might not have the luxury of even the five or six seconds of uninterrupted consideration that a desktop email reader might give your email message.

Tablet readers probably don't bump into other pedestrians as they triage their inboxes, but another screen – the TV – might compete for their attention, as well as kids nearby, loud music or distracting conversations.

A multiscreen email strategy recognizes the unique conditions that can interfere with email viewing and interactions and integrates them into content and design strategies such as subject lines, preheaders, message design, layout and navigation.

It's Not Just About Email
Consider what happens when your customer clicks from your message to your website. The mobile experience doesn't end with the email click.

I'll get into specifics in a future blog post, but for now, remember this: A lousy landing page can negate all the work you put into remaking your emails for multiscreen viewing.

For more tips and observations from Loren, connect with him on Google+.

Related Resources:
1) Video: “What to Consider When Optimizing the Mobile Experience
2) Blog: “3 Ways to Use Behavioral Marketing to Drive Mobile App Engagement and Monetization
3) White Paper: “6 Key Marketing Trends for 2013 – and Tips for Succeeding in the Year of the Customer


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