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The best mobile-optimized email campaigns from H1

While a significant portion of marketers? email opens come from smartphones, many brands still struggle with how to optimize their campaigns for mobile. However, companies such as JCPenney and Nike understand that simplicity is key.

Reading emails on a smartphone has quickly become a popular activity. Email marketing firm Responsys reports that its clients typically see between 30 and 50 percent of email opens coming from mobile devices, with iOS the dominant platform in many cases.

?Mobile?s role in email kind of snuck up on folks ? mobile opens increased much faster than anyone expected,? said Wacarra Yeomans, director of creative services for Responsys, San Bruno, CA.

?We are still in a learning phase,? she said. ?Most brands understand that this is something they should address but they don?t know how.

?It is important to understand when viewing email on a mobile device that subscribers are generally in motion and interacting with content differently. Therefore, it is important to make sure the primary message is really easy to click on and to really focus on the one thing you want to do.?

Ms. Yeomans recommends marketers take advantage of the fact that mobile users are out in the world versus sitting at a desk by using email to drive subscribers into a store or to take some kind of action out in the world that might not make sense on desktop.

Because mobile users are on the go and viewing emails from a smaller screen, it is also imperative that marketers design emails that are easily viewable on a small screen and enable users to quickly complete a desired action, such as clicking through to a brand?s Web site.

Here, in no particular order, are the best mobile-optimized campaigns from the first half of 2012 that are highlighted in Responsys? Fourth Annual Look Book.

In an email from earlier this year informing subscribers about the retailer?s winter clearance sale, REI used responsive design to enable the content to change according to the device it was viewed on.

Mobile users saw a streamlined version with fewer navigation buttons than desktop users and easy-to-tap calls-to-action.

The retailer was also able to hide some content and push forward other content so that mobile users saw what was most important.

?They were really smart about choosing which information was going to be most relevant for a mobile user,? Ms. Yeomans said. ?For example, it is more important for mobile users to get the different categories on sale as opposed to percentages off.

?REI also pushed forward information about the store,? she said.

?Having flexibility with the way you deliver content can deliver a much better mobile experience. The next step is making sure you have a mobile Web experience that matches.?

The campaign proved successful for REI, which saw the mobile email drive more additional in-store traffic than the default version did.

Brooks Brothers
This spring Brooks Brothers sent an email showcasing its entire range of polo shirts in 44 different colors. The email takes advantage of scrolling technology on mobile devices with an image that encourages users to scroll down to see the entire stack of shirts.

At the end of the image was information about a sale on polo shirts.

The email cleverly takes advantage of mobile technology to make an impact and get customers engaged in a way that could not be done in desktop.

?The way the email is designed, it is clear to understand that there is more to the image,? Ms. Yeomans said. ?There is a sense of delight as you keep scrolling to more shirts.

?People are very curious - if you play off of how they can see the remainder of the image, you can get them more engaged than you could on desktop because it is not as fun to scroll with your mouse as it is on a mobile phone,? she said.

In February, JCPenney took an approach similar to Brooks Brothers in an email campaign featuring creative that encourages viewers to scroll. However, in this example, the image scrolls to the right and is optimized for tablets.

The retailer regularly uses tablet-friendly horizontal scrolling formats. In the February example, the image shows a family on vacation and encourages users to scroll to the right using the body language of the models as well as the strong lines of the other items appearing in the image.

?Scrolling emails have been around for four or five years,? Ms. Yeomans said. ?With mobile, they have come back into fashion again.

?JCPenney?s email has a really great image that has a nice rhythm to it and lets you know that there is more image to it if you keep scrolling,? she said. ?You have to have great imagery to pull this off.?

A series of triggered welcome emails for the Nike+ running application are coded so that they automatically scale down by about 50 percent when being viewed on an iPhone. This is a strategy that a lot of marketers are using these days to simply optimize email for mobile devices.

However, what makes the Nike example stand out is that the marketer used bold graphics, concise copy and clear calls-to-action so that mobile users can quickly and easily understand what is going on in the email. If there is something that users want to see more information about, they can zoom in.

?Nike did a great job ? you can generally tell what the email is about from an iPhone,? Ms. Yeomans said.

?My advice for marketers is to be the mobile user themselves and go through the experience,? she said. ?It is important to view your creative on a mobile screen you can understand what the rendering is going to look like and can make sure that subscribers can tell in less than 30 seconds what you want them to do.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York