No matter what statistic you believe — 4.7 hours, just under 3 hours, all day and night — consumers are spending more time on their phones. 

And as the time spent increases, so too does the demand for good content. So it should come as no surprise that email newsletters are experiencing a comeback, attracting new subscribers for publishers. With higher readership comes a great opportunity for publishers to drive traffic and grow revenue, and a new responsibility to deliver great emails.

From designing emails that readers love, to taking advantage of triggers, publishers need to carefully build and execute strategies that create a foundation for excellent user experiences. Focusing on the user experience gives publishers the highest ROI from email programs. 

So as publishers consider ramping up their email programs, keep in mind a few tactics to ensure success.

Optimize for Mobile

According to Litmus, 53 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device. Think about it: more than half of your readers are likely reading your newsletters on their smartphone or tablet. Optimizing for mobile should be table stakes. 

Responsive templates ensure that no matter where or on what device the subscriber reads your email, it looks great. You can preview how your newsletter looks on different devices by running render tests. Properly formatting your emails is important to driving engagement.

Adopt Personalization

While you could send out a daily digest email to everyone on your list with the top stories of the day, you will deliver a better customer experience if you personalize these digests for the reader. 

Rather than taking the mass mailing approach, consider sending targeted emails based on a subscriber’s behavior on your site. Begin by segmenting your subscriber list into different personas and start targeting those, and then work up to using automated personalization.

For example, if they have clicked on celebrity interviews on your site in the past, be sure to include related stories in their newsletters. By tailoring the message to each individual subscriber, you increase your chances of engaging readers.

Send Triggered Emails

Publishers should look to their favorite retailers and take notes when it comes to triggered messaging. Retailers excel at getting customers to return to their site when they have added something to their cart but abandoned it. 

Publishers that offer paywalled premium content can use these same kinds of triggered emails to promote subscriptions to engaged users. For instance, after a reader has read free content on your site, send a triggered email offering a limited time discount on your subscription. These consumers have shown interest in your brand and are prime candidates to become paying subscribers. As ad blocking becomes more prevalent and more publishers shift to freemium models, email offers a great way to promote your products.

Design for Email, Not the Web

Don’t just take what is on your website and stick it in an email. Think about the email experience and decide which content fits best. 

Your website might have a text-heavy story under an image, but space is a premium in email. Tell the story you want to tell within the alloted space and create a powerful call-to-action to bring the reader in. Consider a headline and image followed by a brief synopsis of the story. 

Hook the reader without bogging them down with too much content or making them tap too many times. A headline alone may not be enough to get someone to click, so consider what would compel someone to open an email. You could even try putting expandable content within the email. Experiment, but make sure that the email is designed for email, not the web.

Apply Testing

You’re not going to nail the perfect email user experience on the first try — no one ever has. So before you send to your entire list, A/B test on a small group to see which subject lines drive more opens, which content/format/design drives the most clicks, whether people are clicking on images or text, etc. Then use this data to build the best email possible. By testing these elements, the final email will be in optimal form for engagement.

Newsletters offer publishers an excellent opportunity to connect with readers, but if your newsletters aren't engaging, you could do more harm than good. It isn't hard to create good email newsletters, but it requires focus and attention to detail. Focus on creating the best user experience possible in your emails, and you’ll be rewarded with deep engagement from a lasting audience.