The art of e-mail

Creating a favourable customer experience through e-mail marketing takes talent.

Read time 4min 00sec

At the start of 2016, 26.8 million South Africans had access to the Internet, according to research conducted by We Are Social. The same report estimates 92% of local Internet users are accessing the Internet via their mobile devices, with an average daily usage of just less than three hours.

Smartphones are important to marketers for reasons other than sheer penetration and usage. Mobile devices are the most common starting point for many online activities: a quick check of e-mail to see what's important to read later; price checking a product on the Web; or sharing a joke, meme or article on social media while on the move.

For e-mail marketers, creating a positive customer experience on mobile is crucial. Every aspect of e-mail marketing - from strategy, planning and design, through to coding and testing - must be done with mobile in mind. Getting the right blend between e-mail best practice, leveraging the capabilities of the smartphone device, and remembering what makes a great human experience is an art.


Regardless of the device used to read it, the basics of what makes a good e-mail are constant: e-mail communications need to be meaningful, targeted, conversational, relevant, strategic, and co-ordinated with other communication elements.

Marketing e-mails should be personalised and customised to the greatest degree possible with the available data. The simplest form of personalisation is addressing the recipient by name, but the real value lies in segmenting the data to identify the right product/offer for the customer in the moment. This is not simply a matter of best practice, it's about results - an Experian e-mail marketing study showed personalised e-mails generate six times higher transaction rates than non-personalised e-mails.

Smart capabilities to smartphones

Marketing is all about the right message at the right time to the right customer. On mobile, there needs to be a focus on delivering the right experience to the device.

Just because the e-mail is delivered to a narrower screen, it doesn't mean it has to be simple. The content of the e-mail can be the same, but the mobile presentation layer is able to turn it into an 'experience' by adding interactivity and Web-like functionality. E-mails to mobile devices can include links to the app store or a deep link into a specific app.

The built-in capabilities of a smartphone support an easy workflow wrapped inside a familiar experience - actively moving the customer to another channel or closer to making a purchase.

Marketing is all about the right message at the right time to the right customer.

For example, a 'view more' button can become a 'click to call' button on mobile. Formatting the date in a specific way will launch the "add to calendar" functionality by tapping the date.

Remember the people

A lot of attention is spent on device specs, screen size, e-mail client and operating system, sometimes at the expense of what is experienced by the human using the device.

Creating a great human experience goes beyond just responsive e-mail layout and neat content placement. To capture the reader's attention, ensure the entire experience is consistent and enjoyable, which includes anywhere the e-mail leads a customer to - linked Web pages, lead generation forms, content marketing sites and even subscription pop-ups. The full process needs to be responsive, mobile-friendly and, above all, easy to navigate.

Easy navigation is essential to drive the customer to respond to the call to action - designs should be uncluttered, with large links for fat fingers and bite-size content for an audience that is skim-reading on a small screen while on the move.

Part of creating a great human experience is understanding how customers sort or order their inbox, finding out what time customers check e-mail on mobile and knowing that content hierarchy often differs on mobile. It won't matter that the e-mail is perfectly responsive if the message isn't even opened.

All in the blend

Considering that smartphone penetration and usage in SA is far outperforming other devices, it makes sense to ensure e-mail marketing efforts are aligned with the best customer experience mobile has to offer.

If marketers can get the right blend of e-mail best practice, while leveraging the additional capabilities of the smartphone and still addressing what makes a great human experience, then they are well on the road to achieving their e-mail marketing goals.

Ross Sibbald

Executive head of Striata Marketing Solutions

Ross Sibbald is executive head of Striata Marketing Solutions, an agency focused on leveraging the power of digital communication to achieve the desired results for clients. Sibbald is responsible for the customer experience, financial performance, operational efficiency and talent management of the agency.

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