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How to make emails render perfectly across email clients

Email is like the Wild West of marketing sometimes: a lawless land that can be really hard to navigate. 

Believe it or not, there’s no consistency in how mail clients handle HTML. Even in 2021, we don’t have standards around HTML in emails, and that means that there are nuances between how an email shows up in Gmail vs. Apple Mail vs. Outlook. 

This alone makes delivering consistent, well-crafted emails a headache for most marketers. It’s also the reason why email creation takes up such a big part of marketing budgets. Meeting the variations across mail clients typically requires careful hand coding and rigorous testing – and that takes time and money. There has to be another way.  

In this post, we’re taking a look at mail client compatibility, the barriers that get in the way, why it’s important, and how you can mitigate any issues. Let’s get started.

Why mail compatibility is an issue

Today, email is still one of the most important and effective marketing channels for both B2B and B2C companies. However, mail client compatibility is one of the biggest barriers to getting the most out of your email marketing efforts. Not only are there rendering differences across mail clients, but there can also be variations between versions of the same product. 

Browsers and operating systems also play a role here. An email opened in Gmail can look different depending on whether you’re checking your email in a particular web browser, the iPhone app, or on an Android device. Every combination of browser and operating system can have variations.

Meanwhile, as more and more people adopt dark mode, this is another element to keep in mind. You likely don’t want your grey text to vanish against a dark background like it’s invisible ink – unless you do.

If you’re doing the math, that’s a long list of considerations to stay on top of. 

What happens when your emails aren’t compatible

The lack of consistency across mail clients, browsers, and devices means an email that looks perfect in Outlook might have significant issues when opened in Apple Mail. Rendering issues can present anywhere from formatting elements like text alignment or fonts, to hiding important legal information or unsubscribe options. We’ve also seen instances where links and CTA buttons don’t work, which ultimately makes the email ineffectual.  

Something to note is that you may never really know that things are going wrong. Unless they’re also an email marketer that understands what you’re going through, it’s unlikely that a customer will email you back to let you know that the formatting in your email is wonky or that your CTA button isn’t working.

At the end of the day, customers want seamless experiences regardless of the device or technologies they choose to use. As a marketer, you need to do the best you can to meet them where they are. 

It pays to be compatible – here’s why

Your team puts a lot of time and effort into making sure your emails reflect your brand and reach your target audience with the right message at the right time. But that doesn’t mean much if your email isn’t rendering properly across mail clients. Mail compatibility issues can impact you in the following ways:

  • Compromising your brand’s reputation and turning your target audience off from engaging with you.
  • Impacting the ROI of your marketing budget by making your content less effective.
  • Increasing the number of unsubscribed customers.
  • Reducing your ability to convert customers, which hurts your bottom line. 
  • Prompting your customers to mark your email as spam.

As we all know, if your email is marked as spam, you get flagged on global mail server delivery systems, and that could impact whether your email gets delivered properly in the future. 

Remember: email is often an early step in your customer journey, as it directs people to your landing page or product information page so that they can consider their options or make a purchase. If your email doesn’t render correctly in someone’s mail client, then the journey is over before it really begins. That’s why it’s so important to get it right. 

So, how do you cover all your bases?

Until now, to make their emails consistent across email platforms, many marketers have resorted to paying agencies exorbitant fees to hand code emails and then invest in specialized tools to test them extensively. That’s not cheap. Naturally, this also makes the lead time from idea to inbox much longer, and that gets in the way of writing emails that respond to current trends or address timely challenges. 

For marketing teams that want to reach their audiences quickly and proactively, this process just doesn’t make sense. It also puts an unreasonable burden on small teams that only have so much budget to put towards their campaigns. What marketers really need is a smart, efficient tool that streamlines the process of translating inputs into recognizable HTML for each mail client.

Unleash the power of your marketing team

The alternative for teams that are spending too much time and money on their emails is to invest in a platform that effectively removes all the variations for them. Knak is built on top of the MJML framework, a responsive open-source system that takes email code and renders it for every single mail client, across browsers and devices. The MJML project was started to bring consistency across mail clients, and it works. 

You should also consider a platform that makes it easy for your creatives to design emails in ways that are visually appealing, engaging, and brand compliant. Robust drag-and-drop functionalities for features that are automatically adjusted for each mail client are particularly helpful here. With this technology,  you can forget about addressing the needs of each individual email platform. Instead, your team can build beautiful, responsive emails and landing pages in minutes, without the need for manual testing or hand coding. 

With a platform that does the work for you, you can unleash your marketing team to think creatively and bring delightful campaigns to market quickly. And that’s every marketer’s dream. 

Say goodbye to cumbersome email processes that hold your team back. Book a demo to see how Knak makes email easy.

Sam Munro is Knak's Product Manager. With a background in software development, large-scale implementations, and consulting in the enterprise space, Sam made the switch to product management because he loves helping teams find technology solutions to solve real-world problems. When he's not working, Sam heads for the mountains with his snowboard, snowmobile, or bike.

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