It’s a mobile world in email. Don’t forget the preview pane.

How often do you read through your emails the way your readers do? Not often enough is the honest answer from most businesses. Taking that moment or two to experience your own email the way your readers will can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your campaigns.

What do they see first? What makes them open and read your email? If you don’t know or you’re not sure, you may be missing a real opportunity in the preview pane alone.

In the early days of email marketing, the subject line was the element that most marketers left until last, but most email experts advocated as the best component for lifting open rates in 45 characters or less.

Today, the preview text, or everything that appears in the preview pane, is where email marketers can make some of the simplest, most effective changes to their programs. It’s basically a throwback to direct mail techniques like the callout, the starburst and the Johnson box design to point out the highlights of a printed piece. The difference in an email is what you say in the preview pane can actually get your reader to take an action and click to open.

The preview pane is an email component on mobile and desktop alike, but considering that 66% of emails are opened first in mobile, it’s in that handheld format where the preview text story can make the biggest impact.

Best Practices Still Matter

It’s sometimes surprising how many of the best practice recommendations from the email stone age still hold true. One of these is to balance images and text in your emails. In those early days, the reasoning was that most email clients had images turned off by default and without compelling text, there was no reason for a reader to go on.

Today, image-only emails lose a valuable opportunity by not controlling the preview text that appears in the inbox on all devices from desktop to laptop to mobile.

If no copy is included in an email, it will be the image path that will display as the default preview text. This irrelevant preview note to readers not only detracts value, but it may actually result in your readers skipping over or deleting the email without opening.

Turning this weakness into a strength is decidedly simple. It’s often a combination of the story told in your from line, subject line and preview text that prompts your readers to open the email and putting that preview text to narrative use is an easy way to give your campaign a lift.

How does a reader experience the preview pane?

From Line – Your reader recognizes a trusted sender first.

Subject Line – They get a clipped promotional preview of what’s to come.

Preview Line – They see the first few words addressing them as individuals. This alone, can be powerful enough to generate an open.

On average an email client shows from 50-140 characters of an email in the preview text. For example, most email clients show 50-70 characters. The native Apple email client shows about 90 characters. Apple Mail shows up to 140 characters. As a result, to reach the widest audience, our recommendation is to utilize between 90-140 characters of preview text in support of your email messaging which should keep a string of image characters from being pulled into the email preview automatically.

At Movable Ink, we actually have an Image-to-HTML tool that addresses this issue head on. We include a Preview Text feature in the global options allowing our users to input specific preview text that will appear in the preview area on mobile devices optimizing that initial contact with your readers.

Often in communications, we concentrate so intensely on the message, we sometimes forget to think about the receiver. How does your audience absorb your message? Digital communications is in essence about getting readers to jump to the next link in the story. Optimizing the text message in the preview pane is a simple way to speak early and directly to your readers, piquing their interest enough to make that jump to the next step.