The benefits of responsive design in email marketing

Responsive web design is all about improved usability for the consumer – the benefits of this in the email marketing sphere are hugely significant and numerous.

Before delving into how responsive web design could improve your email marketing campaign, it is worth defining what this means in simple terms, as well as what sort of factors have influenced the growth in importance of this concept.

Responsive web design

Data from Google Trends indicates that responsive web design started to gain real traction around 2011 but spiked in a massive way in 2012 and beyond. What it means is that the way the website is built means that it will look different depending on the type of device being used – effectively ‘responding’ to this factor – with the goal being to create an ideal user experience on all devices. It is essentially built in a fluid manner, breaking pages up into blocks that are ordered in a distinct manner according to the screen size.

The reason why this has become so important may be fairly clear nowadays due to the sheer number of devices that are capable of accessing the internet and the varying screens sizes that accompany them. Where once websites were only accessed on desktops and later on laptops, suddenly netbooks, tablets, smartphones, video game consoles and everything in between (eg. phablets) had entered the fray. Marketers seeking to engage with ALL users needed a way of presenting their sites in a way that suited all devices, which is where responsive web design comes into its own.

Email marketing

So how does this relate to email marketing? Well, the fact is that people do not only browse websites on their mobile phones – reading emails is actually one of the most common online activities for mobile device owners. Figures differ depending on who is doing the research but in 2013 it seems between 40-50 per cent of emails are read on the move, with Forrester Research predicting that 78 per cent of US mobile device users are going to do so by 2017. This is a huge number of people opening emails on all sorts of screen sizes – large, small and tiny.

If you are trying to appeal to as large a pool as possible of consumers, ensuring your content is able to be read easily no matter which device is being used must be a priority. In fact, there is a school of thought that marketers should be designing their emails first and foremost with mobile devices in mind, as the world is shifting increasingly to such platforms. Not convinced?
Reasons to be responsive…

Poor formatting prompts deletes: In many cases, the modern consumer will not think twice about deleting an email if the formatting is off. Granted, if it is obviously something important then they may save it for when they are at a desktop computer, but a sales/marketing message will doubtful be so lucky.


There is a degree of awareness among consumers that email formatting can be a problem, so by ensuring that your messages render properly you paint your brand to be a progressive and technologically competent outfit.


Navigating on a small screen can be difficult, so a responsive design at least allows calls-to-action and scrolling to be arranged with the mobile user in mind.


The growth in the number of internet connected devices is unlikely to let up in future, with items like smart watches and Google Glass already appearing and many other ideas sure to surface soon. By opting for responsive design, you can future-proof to a certain extent.

Remove content

The larger screen on a desktop computer logically allows more information to be included, but on a smaller screen you would not the impact of your calls-to-action or other messages to be diluted. What responsive web design can do is remove unnecessary content for those accessing on smaller screens.


A related point to the previous one is how data affects mobile use; if you are paying for a certain allocation of data then you do not want a ridiculously long or data-heavy message to sap your account. With responsive design, you can sidestep this issue.

There are many more reasons to be responsive, but the key takeaway at this point in time is that people use all sorts of devices in the modern world: you need to respond to this trend by ensuring your email marketing campaign looks great on all of them.