Email Thursday: Con"text"ual Relevance



Today is email Thursday and I’m your presenter, Andy.

Today, the topic is tech talk and I’m not talking new technology like iPads or Droids (iPhones are not even on the table… they’re so 2008), but rather an old stand-by, the friend that has been clipped to the hips of many a business person and soccer mom alike: the BlackBerry.

As a brief background, BlackBerries first hit the market in 1999 (according to the infallible Wikipedia) and ever since, Research In Motion or RIM has seen a monster-sized implementation in the business world especially, but also in the personal world. From CEO’s and CIO’s to the YMCA and PTO’s, BlackBerries are everywhere. With such a huge number of people utilizing these devices as a main source of communication, it makes sense to understand a little bit of the technology behind the BlackBerry and how that relates to email. If you’ve never used a BlackBerry, they generally employ some kind of trackball as a means to navigate around the screen. This trackball is how you scroll down through an email and look at the various attributes of the email.

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Since BlackBerries don’t offer much native support for images, most of the images in emails show up as the URL they hyperlink to. This can bee seen in the above example. On the left you see the BlackBerry rendering an HTML email that is rich in both images and links. However, it’s not that pretty to look at. If you were able to scroll down through the message on the BlackBerry, you would see link after link after link until finally you reached the main body copy. Now, as I stated previously, this blog is not about comparing the BlackBerry to other mobile devices… even if I do have a picture of an iPhone. This image is simply to show what how other mobile devices render HTML emails.

When it comes to text emails, you can see that there is not much to choose between the BlackBerry and any other device. Afterall, the BlackBerry was made to be a text-based device and was not designed with HTML or other rich content in mind.

So what’s the point? The point is to understand how various mobile devices render HTML emails and to bear that in mind when sending an email. So, for example, if you know that there is a certain segment of your users who are likely to use a BlackBerry, perhaps you may want to consider creating a special segment for these users and try sending them the text version of a message instead of an HTML version. Also, if you know that many of your users view their messages mainly on these devices, you can take steps to simplify your HTML emails. One way you can do this is to begin each message with a mobile header. A mobile header is text that will be the first thing to display on any device. Make this the main call-to-action.

Another thing to bear in mind is the number of characters that can fit on one line. In this case (and each device is different even from one BlackBerry device to another) the BlackBerry can display 21 characters on a line. In contrast, the iPhone’s email client can display 45 characters on a single line. This is something to think about when crafting your subject lines, especially if a large segment of your users are utilizing a BlackBerry.

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Thank you for listening – have a wonderful E-mail Thursday!