Then & Now – How email has changed between World Cups

A lot happens in four years, between World Cup tournaments. Apart from the rise and fall of football personalities, technology and marketing can change a whole bunch! Our Head of Studio, Ger Ashby, took time out from crafting awesome emails to assess the state of email over the past four years.

The last time that football took to the world stage, email was a very different state of affairs.  While some old school players were still heavily dominating the game, a few bright sparks were just shining through.  I have pulled a selection of the Top Ten B2B & B2C email open stats to take a look through the last 4 years of email, and will look at how the game has changed for marketers, designers and coders alike. In understanding how far email has come, and how people continue to engage with it, we  can get a better idea of what the future holds – and better optimise our present campaigns.

Email client open rates by device

device breakdown 2010 - 2014 (stack)

dotmailer’s email client breakdown stats (copyright dotmailer 2014)

The iPhone made its debut splash way back in 2007, and to this day has always rendered email well.  This is a great testament to Apple in general – as seen within the latest client breakdown, the open rate on the iPhone has nearly quadrupled. The most telling statistic, is the drop in opens on Outlook. Are the B2B Outlook users of 2010 now viewing their email on a smartphone instead? Given the rise in opens on mobile clients, let’s hope those emails are optimised well for easy reading and clicking.

A quick little tip – When designing, if you’re not using responsive email code in your templates, shrink your desktop screen’s visual to 50%; if you can’t read your text easily then it is time to increase your font size and call to actions, and space out your links.

If you took the market share of all smartphones sold, Android comes out the clear winner.  But unlike the beautiful email rendering of Apple, the Android smartphone will have images natively turned off, or push people directly to the Gmail mail app (depending on the user’s settings, of course).  Also, some manufacturers like Samsung have their own native mail app.  However, even with images off, we can see a clear growth in the rate of opens on Android devices.  When you imagine the percentage of Android users looking at their emails without images, you can only hope in an images-off scenario your emails look professional, have clear sections and a strong call to action.

How your email design *should* look with images off

How your email design *should* look with images off

Tablets – not a hard pill to swallow


ipad with pie (low)

Tablets have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, represented here with iPad making a huge dent on the face of email.  The statistic may be even higher due to results being skewed by the Android’s ‘image off’ preference.  The standard width recommendations of a desktop and webmail template lend themselves well to the standard tablet canvas. In most cases a regular, non-mobile optimised email design will look fine.  However, you’d be mistaken to think that the user is receiving the same experience. Ask yourself: Has your email been optimised for the tablet user experience (UX), or does interacting with it leave the reader all fingers and thumbs?

Is the Outlook grim?

Outlook’s presence is still strong, and in many cases these same recipients often receive on multiple devices. Sadly, marketers can’t just ignore that it still exists.  With Outlook 2010 becoming the preferred client for many businesses, designing your email with both background imagery on and off is a must.  With careful positioning and dissection we can use the vector-based mark up (VML) to force these backgrounds – but you need to be aware of the restrictions here, so let’s just say testing is a must.

Outlook is based on the MS Word engine (yes, really!) and its many versions have always been a bane to the humble email marketer and digital designer alike.  Sometimes the version upgrades take baby steps forward, and other times giant steps backwards. All the little things build up like limited styles, table breaks, padding properties and with more recent versions you may need to add extra code here and there to deal with any cells containing images smaller than 20px in in height. In short – it’s a pain, but it still exists so we can’t ignore it.

The shape of growth

Great to see we still have a strong presence of the webmail clients, despite Yahoo and Hotmail’s decline, in favour of Gmail.  All web clients do come with a fair share of code tricks, like pre-header text, background colours, emoticons and padding.  Growth is not such a bad thing when Gmail are playing ball with marketers – and with their most recent additions of the promotions tab and gallery view, it seems that they are.

dotMailer Gmail

It’s not just about the subject line, pre-header or inbox call to actions any more.  It’s now also about your hero section and creative, huge news for designers and marketers (need to know more, please see my recent blog with Gmail layout and creative tips below).

Paradigm shift happens

For me, the pie looks a little tastier these days and is not just puffed out with pastry. Audiences are actively choosing to have good rendering or to view it away from their normal Outlook desktop.  Not only does this allow for increased diversity and control over general coding features, but also encourages things like Progressive Disclosure Content, Proximity Marketing, and video. Along with other factors, the fact that Apple Mail’s use is consistently growing, shows me that they value the importance of great design, UX and rendering regardless of its medium in the same way that the majority all email users do.

It’s not just even thinking ‘Mobile First’ anymore, it’s a must; and our great travels with you.  With innovations like Google glass, promotions tab, smart gear and the abilities to add modern coding techniques; where next.


Outlook has traditionally dictated the email landscape, but now that people can view their required MS Exchange accounts on other devices. I personally think it’s time that Microsoft Outlook shapes up or ships out.  Once upon a time there were fears that mobile would ‘kill email marketing’ – however, with an increase of 5 fold, our stats show the opposite. But hey, every turn of the century we fear life will implode and face an apocalypse of some sort  …did you know, the world was once flat and the web was coded with HTML tables; how strange.

It’s time to start humanising and connecting with your readers and consumers.  Start refining your data, analyse the performance of your layouts & design, play with your code, cultivate your dynamic content and automation  …I think this place we call email is going to get really REALLY interesting!

Ger heads up the Creative Services here at dotMailer.  To add an extra striker to your squad, team up with the skilled professionals in the Managed Services team today – Get in contact! 

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