Apple Watch: Implications for Email Marketing

Apple Watch

Apple Watch: Implications for Email Marketing

Adam asks, what is in store for email marketers, designers and coders with the introduction of wearable devices?

by Adam Maidment  @adamleemaidment  adamleemaidment 1st July, 2015 read time: 3 mins

In years gone by I used to spend a lot of time moaning about Outlook and how terrible it was at rendering HTML email marketing campaigns. Why couldn’t it be like Apple Mail or Gmail or anything else (sit down Lotus Notes)?! However, after I attended one of Litmus’ Email Design Conferences a few years back, my perception of Outlook changed. Rather than worrying about building for Outlook and making emails work in other clients, I started to shrug my shoulders more and relax; I started to build email campaigns the best they could be for mobile. As long as Outlook users got the key message, I was happy. 

Over the last few years we have had an almost endless combination of devices and software on which to consume HTML email content. But now, we have a new kid on the block in the form of ‘wearables’ and more specifically, the Apple Watch.

So what is in store for email marketers, designers and coders with the introduction of wearable devices?


HubSpot state that 88% of people prefer to receive HTML email over the plain text alternative. That said, those super vigilant amongst us will be producing a text based version of their HTML content for each email marketing campaign. Admittedly a lot of the good campaign providers like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp will automatically generate a plain text version based on your HTML content – which is great, if albeit just a carbon copy of the text. However, the Apple Watch is going to change that mentality for us email specialists.

The Apple Watch displays the plain text alternative of your HTML campaigns, so we can forget about images, layout and the awesomeness we create with media queries – these are all irrelevant. Instead we’re going to need to focus on the copy like it’s 1999. 


If we can’t display HTML content with images, we’re left with just the words. But there’s only a finite number of characters we can fit on that 38mm screen (42mm for the larger face) so we need to be ultra-efficient. Concise and calculated is the way to go, certainly with the first 140 characters or so, else you risk the user just swiping delete if you’re expecting them to read your entire ‘ode to sales’ email on their wrist.

Think of email on an Apple Watch as a notification. Catch the reader’s attention fast and hit them quick with a solid call to action. They can read more of the email on their phone if they choose to via the ‘Handoff‘ function linking Apple Watch and iPhone. 


Actually there isn’t much new to be said here as the subject line (being plain text itself) still holds as one of the key areas for attention if you are looking to secure solid open rates. So continue to make sure the subject line is the root of your campaign, not just the ‘bit you write at the end’. It really is the main thing to affect your open rates – regardless of device.


Another family of devices, ones which only display text content, will dilute the ‘device pool’ with less engaging and harder to navigate content, so you would naturally assume the stats may well drop.

However, without images and hyperlinks, campaign platforms can’t properly track open and click through rates, so you will see a drop in stats as a result of tracking hurdles as well.


As mentioned above, wearable smart devices such as the Apple Watch will ultimately create a new category within the email marketing space, alongside Desktop, Webmail and Mobile (although some may argue wearables are a subset of mobile). So as we may see a drop in overall results, as this market share becomes more popular, we would expect to see an increase over time for wearables – assuming we are ever able to track stats for plain text content.

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