The Importance of Email Preview Text on Mobile Devices

|by Amy Birch

Email marketing success relies on getting subscribers to open and then click on your emails.

In fact, email success can be boiled down to 4 key stages:

  1. Getting the email delivered to the contact’s inbox
  2. Getting the contact to open the email
  3. Getting the contact to click through from the email
  4. Delivering a consistent and optimised landing page experience to get a “conversion”

More often than not, email marketers focus on the content and design of their emails (which falls into stage 3), but pay little attention to the important step of getting the email opened.

They rush the creation of subject lines, pay little attention to the 'from' name, and seldom consider what the email will look like in a contact’s inbox.

If you think about this for a moment, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Why spend so much time focusing on the click-through, when the first thing that a subscriber must do is open the email?!

Getting subscribers to open your email

Getting the contact to open the email factors on 3 important pieces of content:

  1. The subject line
  2. The 'from' name (sender name)
  3. The preview text

Let's take a look at each one.

The subject line

We each receive numerous emails on a daily basis, all asking for our attention. Whether we choose to open and read the email or not relies heavily on the subject line.

So, as a marketer, how do you create click-worthy subject lines that cut through the noise? Download our Subject Line Swipe File to get access to loads of useful examples and advice.

The 'from' name

The 'from' name is usually something that your brand guidelines set. Sometimes you can only use your company/brand name. If possible though, use a name that the contact will trust and with which they are familiar. 

If the contact immediately recognises and trusts the company/person that has sent the email, there is a much greater chance of the subject line then getting the contact to open.

The preview text

Sometimes referred to as the “second subject line”, the preview text, or as some people call it “pre-header text” is a snippet of copy that is pulled from the content of your email. It is usually displayed underneath the subject line and 'from' name in the contact’s inbox.

Here's an example of preview text:

Sky TV has given a compelling reason to open up the email and have even managed to get in enough content to explain what the email is about (Box Sets).

Rick Mulready, the email below Sky, has also tried to support the subject line with the preview text. The subject line has been cut off early in this email client, but the preview text seems to move on and support the fact that the content of the email is about “Ads tip of the Week = Month“.

Why is preview text so important?

The preview text gives you the ability to support the subject line, to summarise the content of the email, and more importantly to add a CTA to the text which populates in the inbox.

The preview text is one of those 3 important pieces of information that a subscriber will use to decide whether they open your email or not.

When it comes to mobile devices, preview text is especially important

How do we create and set up preview text?

Preview text is taken from the first few lines of content in the email.

Depending on the design and layout of the elements in your email campaign, this may result in certain elements appearing in the preview text that don’t support your activity.

How to optimise email preview text

Each email client responds differently to preview text. For example, the IOS email app will usually display 90 characters of preview text, whereas android native mail app only shows 40 characters.

To truly optimise your preview text, you need to start digging into your subscriber data to find out which mobile apps and devices are being used. You can then create tailor-made preview text for each of those individual segments. Learn more about email list segmentation here.

Optimising preview text may be taking segmentation a stage too far, but if you want to ensure that you are testing absolutely everything to increase email open rates, then it's something that you might need to consider.

Here are some tips on optimising preview text:

  • Remember that it's the “second subject line” - Support your chosen subject line with the preview text. Consider creating a sense of urgency or scarcity if it suits the purpose of your email too.
  • Keep keywords at the start - Character counts are different across all of the email apps and clients. To ensure that the important parts of your preview text appears in all inboxes, put the important information at the start.
  • Don’t repeat yourself - Make the most of the additional space and be creative. Use this opportunity to highlight the reasons why the email should be opened. Think of it as its own call to action (CTA) and consider even split testing your preview text.
  • Personalise - If you are using personalisation elsewhere in the email try using it in your preview text too.
  • Sum up the purpose of the email - Explain the purpose of your email, but remember not to repeat yourself.
  • Honesty is the best policy - Just like subject lines, you need to be honest. Don’t use preview text as “click bait”.

And finally, a word on split testing

As with all email marketing approaches, split test your preview text. You might find that certain types of preview text will generate more opens, whilst other formats will produce more clicks.

You will only find out what works and what doesn’t by testing your preview text, just as you do with your subject lines, content and messaging in the email campaigns.

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