Insert yourself in this little daydream: You’re sitting at the airport and the guy next to you digs into his laptop bag to pull out his iPhone 5s. He absently browses around, checking his email one handed. The guy next to him whips out an iPhone 6 Plus—and he uses two hands to do the same compulsive checking. The dude next to him trumps them all, whipping out a ginormous Galaxy Note, ostensibly needing an extra hand to find out if he’s leading this week’s Fantasy matchup.
There’s no contesting that mobile screen sizes are getting bigger and bigger—sometimes humorously so. Despite Steve Jobs holding firm beliefs about the manageable size of the iPhone screen, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus broke records by moving 10 million units in the first three days. And, yes, that’s when the iPhone screen size moved into larger territory. (And let’s not forget that iPhone makes up 29% of the email client market share, crushing the next largest client, Gmail, with 16% of the market share.)
These oversized devices affect how we should be acting as email marketers right now. More specifically, they push us to throw out our tropes about writing short for mobile in some very particular cases.
It is still required that we tighten our headlines and shorten up our body copy for a distracted, browsing audience (and always, always have short, actionable, clear CTAs). But the all-important subject line and preheader are actually getting more breathing room with larger screen sizes.
Consider the rough number of characters (that’s words, punctuation and spaces) you can fit on these screens before your subject line or preheader gets truncated:
|ROUGH # OF CHARACTERS||Subject Line Length||Preheader Length|
|Yahoo Mail on Desktop||46||Depends on length of SL|
|Outlook 2010 on Desktop||54 (compact view)||0 – no preheader text displays|
|Gmail on Desktop||70||Depends on length of SL|
|iPhone 5||38 (portrait), 80 (landscape)||74|
|iPhone 6||41 (portrait), 63 (landscape)
|iPhone 6 Plus||45 (portrait)||150 – 3 lines long! (portrait)|
|Samsung Galaxy s5||33 (portrait), 72 (landscape)||64 (portrait), 142 (landscape)|
What That Means for You
- The sweet spot for subject lines is still 40ish characters. But, go ahead, write a little longer if your audience and subject dictates.
People have written at length about the psychology of seductive subject lines. And they have repeatedly found that 40 to 60 word subject lines have higher action rates. (It’s hard to argue with analytics from 300 million sends.)
Certainly, larger screen sizes mean you shouldn’t feel like you have to write shorter for a mobile audience when it comes to subject lines. And if you’ve got more compelling info that is going to entice an open and you know your audience is mostly on mobile, test into longer lines.
- Definitely experiment with longer preheader text.
The preheader plays a valuable supporting role with the subject line. Larger screen sizes (remember those 3 LINES on the iPhone 6 Plus?!) mean you can feel free to take your preheader to 60 or even 90 characters. The future is now, email friends!
A few other considerations while you are running wild with preheader text:
– Don’t waste this space with the “turn on images” or “view in browser” links. Just don’t.
– Don’t repeat yourself in the preheader, but instead see it as another opportunity to entice the open. This often works by showing a completely different value or benefit than the one mentioned in the subject line.
– Treat your preheader like a more fun version of your subject line. Personalize, use emoji, take risks that you might not in the subject line.
- Front load your keywords in both your subject line and preheader to ensure that you get your most powerful messages across first.
If you choose to respond to the new giant-screen realities and extend your subject lines and/or preheaders, it’s essential that you load all of the important info in the beginning of the subject line. That way any portion of your audience that is, say, on a work email in Outlook will still get the gist of your email and know what they need to do (open it!).
- Test. Test again.
The caveat is as true here as it would be anywhere: Every single audience is different, so all of these theories should be tested. But that’s the fun part, amiright?