The important point about email client & mobile device detection

Being able to see a list of all the email clients and mobile devices people use to view your email campaigns is an interesting and sometimes insightful report of information.

Whether that report of information is useful to you in any way though is questionable.

Most people have a smartphone and/or a tablet and it’s common knowledge that mobile open rates are now pushing more than 50% on average.

Given this statistic, it stands to reason that every message sent in an email campaign should be designed with these devices in mind.

Using inbox preview tools like Litmus (which is integrated into Instiller) and the various reports available on the Internet that table the most popular email clients and devices massively helps marketers when planning, designing and testing email campaigns.

Confidently knowing that an email campaign is going to be displayed correctly and operate perfectly, regardless of the email client or mobile device, is the clear goal.

In most cases, emails should be using responsive design. If you’re already using a responsive design approach then that’s great and the reports you get from being able to see the email clients & devices for opens, clicks, conversions etc. justifies the extra effort that went into going down that route.

For those not using responsive design the questions is ‘Why not?’ – OK, so internally to your business there may be some ‘good’ reasons but in the majority of cases a large percentage of the emails you send will be viewed on mobile devices.

What about responsive design?

No doubt, it’s a challenge and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve spent the last 6 months building Aqueous to help design responsive emails without have to see a line of code.

The way responsive design works is very clever but at the same time, very simple. Going responsive shouldn’t cause any major slow-downs or issues in relation to campaign management.

It’s going to take a little longer to set-up initially but so long as you spend the time planning layout & content variations it should be plain sailing after that.

For the purposes of keeping this topic on track I won’t go on about the inner workings of designing for different email clients and mobile devices but we’ve written a more in-depth article here that explains and should help get you started with responsive design.

How does the detection work

Detecting what email client or device is being used to view emails and webpages is all done through something called a ‘user agent‘ string.

It doesn’t matter what hardware / application combo you use because Mac, PC, tablet, smartphone, gaming console or whatever else will always identify itself with a piece of information similar this:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_9_1) AppleWebKit/537.73.11 (KHTML, like Gecko)

Basically, it’s a structured string describing the operating system and application of the user.

From the example above we can tell that I use a Mac on OS X 10.9 with Safari. Or in more simple terms, i’ve used a web browser.

There are thousands of user agent variations and whilst a lot of information can be detected the most important part is determining if the user is  ‘Web’, ‘Desktop’ or ‘Mobile’.

Be practical

Of course, we all set out to be practical but sometimes it’s easy to get carried away finding out things just because we can.

Reports are great but don’t forget that every now and then it’s good to step back to see if the answer is staring you in the face.

  • Remember that on average mobile open rates are 50% an upwards
  • Use responsive design
  • Use an inbox preview solution like Litmus
  • Don’t think it’s feasible (or a good use of time) to send separate email campaigns to each type of device
  • Segmenting by ‘Desktop’, ‘Web’, ‘Mobile’ sounds reasonable but do you really need to target specific devices?
  • Don’t waste time proving nothing. Send emails designed that work for everyone

Need some inspiration?

If you’re looking for a boost in the right direction then you’re in luck because there’s lots of really useful resources available these days.

Here’s just a few of them…

After all that effort, don’t blow it by forgetting about your websites.

Responsive email design is a positive step but the last thing  you need is for people to drop out of the call-to-action process because after they’ve clicked the website displayed to them is impossible to use on a smart phone.

In the 3 months between November 2013 and 31st January 2014 we recorded 14% of all conversions as coming from mobile devices.


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