This month, I’m happy to introduce Brian Sisolak of Trilogy Interactive as the subject of our “5 Questions” interview. Trilogy Interactive is a leading provider of strategic services for political campaigns, nonprofit organizations and corporations.
With email continuing to be the No. 1 mobile activity regardless of device, and mobile consumption increasing year-over-year, it’s important to include mobile optimization in your email design strategy. Brian has been focused on mobile design for a year and a half and offers his insights into responsive email design.
1) Tell us about your background and what motivated you to start focusing on responsive email design.
[caption id="attachment_5472" align="alignright" width="125" caption="Brian Sisolak, Senior Strategist, Trilogy Interactive"]
I’ve been a Silverpop user for seven years and have sent more than 1 billion emails. Trilogy uses Silverpop to support our clients’ email marketing efforts.
Starting in July 2011, Trilogy began mobile-optimizing email campaigns. Back then we were seeing a little more than 10 percent of opens on mobile devices. That seemed like a lot at the time!
Around the same time, some very good resources came out that allowed us to put together our first mobile-optimized campaigns. The HTML code has been tweaked a few times since then, but the basic structure is still the same.
Back in August 2011, one client’s welcome series was getting 15 percent of opens on mobile devices; by September 2012, that rate had more than doubled.
2) What are the first considerations to keep in mind when starting responsive email design?
Trilogy’s responsive design focuses on:
- Using preheaders to optimize for the inbox
- Eliminating the need to either pinch-and-zoom or left-right scroll
- Removing unnecessary elements
- Providing mobile-appropriate content length
Inboxes on iOS devices have three elements marketers can use to immediately engage recipients: “From” name, subject Line and preheader. Where iOS devices pull that preheader from varies based on the type of email account. To be safe, put the preheader at the top of the HTML and text versions of your emails.
Once recipients click into the email, our goal is to make it easy for the user to read the content. To accomplish this, we shrink the text-area width and any full-width graphics to 320 pixels. We remove unnecessary borders and images and shrink any call-out graphics. We shrink images dynamically to 98 percent for full width, or 50 percent wide for graphics with smaller overall dimensions.
Besides the technical tricks, we also consider how much content users can absorb on their mobile devices. Since small screen sizes tax the reader, we’ve now begin to hide some copy on mobile versions of our emails to give the reader a better experience, without losing any of the key messaging.
3) How has responsive email design helped improve your overall engagement with subscribers?
Our clients are using direct response campaigns to build issue awareness, fundraise and build support for their causes. Direct response campaigns provide an excellent arena in which to test, as the results are immediate and conclusive (most of the time). Combining data from Litmus and Web analytics, we’re able to measure which users are using mobile and how they’re converting.
When combined with mobile-optimized landing pages, responsive design has increased conversion rates for mobile users. In a recent A/B test, the donation conversion rate for a client went from 11 percent to 21 percent for iPhone users.
4) What do you see changing in 2013?
I expect continued growth in mobile usage. The holiday season is here, and there are more iPhones and Android devices just waiting to be unwrapped.
But it will be more than just the explosion in the smallest devices – there will be a whole plethora of new tablets as well. We’ll need to consider how we target users of these devices and if that differs from our targeting of mobile phone users. As much as I’d love to expense a few tablets, I’ll leave that up to the folks at Litmus to help out on.
We’re also starting to consider use cases for user-level data. If I know certain users open 80 percent of their emails on an iPhone, is there something else we should be sending those users?
One thing I expect to change is how much content users are willing to read on a mobile device. I suspect many mobile email reads are occurring right at someone’s desk. They are checking personal email on their mobile devices, so you have their attention — just on a small screen. Litmus read statistics should help us shed some light on this.
5) What are some of the resources you use? Any special advice for Silverpop Engage users?
There are a lot of great resources on the Internet. But everyone codes things a little differently, so it all comes down to testing. For that, use tools from either Litmus or EmailOnAcid.
Resources on Twitter:
Resources on the Web:
You can reach Brian via Twitter at @bsisolak.
More on Mobile Optimization:
1) Video: “Mobile Context: What to Consider When Optimizing the Mobile Experience”
2) Blog: “Moving Toward a ‘Mobile First’ Strategy for Email”
3) White Paper: “6 Key Marketing Trends for 2013 – and Tips for Succeeding in the Year of the Customer”