Did you know that nearly 81% of emails are opened on mobile devices?

More and more, your subscribers are using mobile to read and engage with your email content. And while you already know that this means your emails have to be optimized for mobile through features like subject line and preheader length, image sizes, and layout, there’s more to excelling at mobile email marketing than just the obvious stuff.

Case in point: mobile eye-tracking, an emerging way to track and optimize your emails that sounds like science fiction but is already here and ready to go to work for your brand.

So what’s it all about? Here’s what you need to know about mobile eye-tracking — including how it can inform your email marketing strategy and make it a whole lot more effective.

What is Eye-Tracking?

eye-tracking, sometimes referred to as eye tracing, is a process that measures how a user’s eyes navigate a page. 

By analyzing both the position of the eyes and their movements, this tool can tell you exactly how users are engaging with your email. Equally important, eye-tracking can tell you how people are responding to certain key features, such as your email’s visuals, text, and layout, as well as responses to things like faces and numbers.

Considering that so many people are using mobile to open emails and 80% of them will delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their device, it’s clear why a tool like this would have so much utility. If you can accurately measure how your emails are being perceived, you’ll have a lot more insight that can be used to ensure that not only do more users hold on to your messages, but they navigate them in a way that leads to a conversion.

What Mobile Eye-Tracking Tells Us

The goal with mobile eye-tracking isn’t just to tell you what’s working and what’s not. It’s to give you benchmarks that you can use to make your email marketing strategy better, resulting in emails that meet the expectations of both your readers and your marketing department.

A while back, we partnered with Edisonda to help establish some of these benchmarks. Using some high-tech glasses from SensoMotoric Instruments, Edisonda presented readers with email campaigns in 15-second intervals and measured their eye movements on the page.

Here’s some of what we learned from their research:

  • A short summary paragraph at the top of your email is critical for catching your reader’s attention and informing them of what’s to come. Place it above a photo to catch the most eyes.
  • The smaller the text of your summary paragraph, the less likely it is to garner attention. In our research, Georgia 14 px attracted attention and held it for longer than Georgia 11 px.
  • Long paragraphs are distracting to readers. Keep the overall length of your content short to ensure more readers make it to your CTA, and aim for several short paragraphs instead of one or two longer ones.
  • Instead of centering your text, align it on the left to hold engagement for longer.
  • Numbers attract more attention than words, especially in headers. “50% off,” for example, is more effective than “half price off.”
  • Put your CTA button close to a photo to get the most eyes on it.

View the full report to learn about these and additional findings.

Getting Started with Eye-Tracking

There’s good news, and there’s bad news when it comes to using mobile eye-tracking in your strategizing. The good news: it can do wonders for your email performance outcomes. The bad news: it’s not quite as simple as downloading a widget to track your existing subscribers.

eye-tracking requires the use of specialized glasses that are designed to trace eye movements, which means you’ll have to set up a unique study with human subjects as part of your more general usability testing process. As such, this isn’t something that you’ll be able to do all of the time or as you seek to modify features (though there are plenty of testing processes that you can use for those things).

We recommend scheduling one comprehensive eye-tracking study where you can broadly evaluate the major features of your mobile emails and take away lessons you can use in the future. It’s also a good idea to piggyback on the research of others, like the report we collaborated with Edisonda on. While the results won’t be unique to your emails, the takeaways are just as relevant since they speak to general human behavior and not anything hyper-specific to one brand.

The more ubiquitous mobile eye-tracking becomes, the more data we’ll have. Use that information along with other testing modalities (heat mapping, general analytics, etc.) to inform your mobile email strategy and create emails that track in all the right ways.