Looking Your Best for Users on Outlook

When you think about the most influential email platforms among your target audience, Gmail, Yahoo, and the various iOS (iPad, iPhone) apps probably all come to mind fairly quickly. However, with 400 million active users between Outlook.com and the Outlook app, there’s a strong chance that a healthy portion of your email marketing audience falls into the oft overlooked Windows-centric categorization.

Unfortunately, failing to give these users their due during the email optimization process can lead to plenty of lost leads and missed conversion opportunities. If you’d rather not let these potential sales fall through cracks, here’s an in-depth review of how to truly look your best for users on the Outlook platform.

Get Comfortable with Utilizing Tables

As Christine Ianni of the HubSpot Blog explains in her piece covering email optimization with Outlook in mind, the best way to start this conversation is by covering the importance of tables in this process. In fact, Ianni goes so far as to claim that a mastery of coding tables is the single most important tactic to have in your arsenal when it comes to winning on this front.

“Hear me out: In the world of Outlook, tables are single-handedly the most important instrument in your toolbox.” – Christine Ianni, The HubSpot Blog

So why is including tables in the framework of your Outlook-oriented templates so important? The big key here is that Outlook strips styles – including positioning – from incoming emails and leveraging these instruments guarantees that your content will render on this email platform correctly.

When using table codes, make sure that the width of your table data doesn’t exceed the maximum width of the overall email. Otherwise, the end result can come out as distorted and improperly rendered for outlook recipients within your email marketing contact list.

Go Deep with Your Body Content Style Details

Another major piece of this puzzle comes in the form of specifying the various style details related to the actual content held within your email. Ianni goes on to note that if you don’t, Outlook’s client heuristics will be more than happy to apply its default styling to this offering on your behalf.

When developing an Outlook specific template, Ianni suggests honing in on these style details:

  • Line-Height
  • Font
  • Font Size
  • Color

Hammering out the exact codes for each of these details does require a little extra work on your end of the equation; no one’s going to tell you otherwise. However, taking the time to handle this portion of the optimization process boosts email deliverability and gives your content a far greater chance of generating a significant impact within your target audience.

Build for Outlook First, Then Scale Up

Much like developing emails for mobile screens and then expanding this content to fit desktop variations, the team from the Zurb blog points out that the same design principle also applies to developing messages for Outlook. This email platform often has trouble rendering many elements of modern web and content design, so it’s best to start with a “core” email template developed exclusively for Outlook. From here, your brand can increase the functionality and experience of this content as it tackles email platforms that offer better support for modern design functionality.

The opposite approach, degrading an advanced template to fit within the limitations of the Outlook platform, is generally viewed as a substandard way to tackle this problem. As with most other digital projects, building upward with your email template is almost always easier to undertake than stripping down a template to its “bare bones” functionality.

Commit to a Healthy Dose of Testing

Finally, testing should always hold a place of prominence in your brand’s development process. Whether you’re sending a prototype email to a “dummy” account as a way to root out any technical glitches, or testing the finalized product with a small cross-section of your audience to gauge user reactions before a wider release, “testing the waters” in this manner shields your brand from avoidable deliverability problems and a substandard viewing experience.

As you can see, optimizing for the Microsoft Outlook platform isn’t always the easiest thing to do when it comes to advancing the reach of your brand in the inbox. In fact, winning on this front requires going above and beyond the basics of email marketing in many ways. Fortunately, with what you’ve learned here leading the way, you can make this process far more manageable and ensure that you start building a strong bond with this highly desirable portion of your contact list today.

About Victor Green

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