Responsive Email Testing Yields 10% Higher Click Rate for Deckers

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With numerous different mobile strategies to choose from — fluid layouts, scalable, responsive and more — it’s hard to choose the right option for you. When Deckers, a footwear manufacturer with several brands, realized that between 35% and 65% of their subscribers were opening their emails on mobile devices, they knew that had to start thinking about how to approach mobile email optimization.

While the percentage of mobile opens varied by brand, in some cases more than half of their customers were opening on mobile. They knew they had to start adapting their communications to be more appropriate and impactful for these viewers. Andrew Coss, Email Developer at Deckers, stated that “It’s important to develop mobile-friendly emails just as much as it is to develop mobile-friendly websites. With such high mobile user percentages, it was crucial that we targeted these customers and provided a mobile optimized experience for them.”

With up to 65% of Deckers’ subscribers opening on mobile, it was crucial to target these customers and provide a mobile-optimized experience.

In 2012, with their Litmus Email Analytics data in hand, they decided to create two different versions of their emails — a desktop version and a mobile version — and segment their list based on subscribers’ past opening habits. While they did see some great results with this method, it wasn’t completely accurate: “mobile” subscribers were opening the desktop version, and vice versa. Turns out people don’t always open emails in the same environment!

Deckers decided to “go responsive,” so that their designs were optimized in real time and subscribers were always receiving the “right” email.


Before fully committing to a responsive design strategy, Deckers did some testing with subscribers of their Tsubo brand, which has approximately 37% of its subscribers opening emails on mobile devices. As part of these A/B tests, they sent the same emails, but one version of the emails contained media queries, while the others did not.

The results of these A/B tests definitely leaned in favor of using responsive design. The emails that used media queries saw a:

  • 10% increase in click-through rates
  • 9% increase in mobile opens (iPhone opens went from 15% to 18%)


Two of Deckers’ brands, Tsubo and Ahnu, are using responsive design elements in their emails and they look great! Let’s take a look:


Tsubo was able to tie the “Year of the Snake” nicely into this email without being over-the-top. The subtle tan and brown colors, paired with the light gray background, make it a very visually-appealing email. In addition, those shoes aren’t too shabby! The shoes stand out nicely against the light background color and are displayed in an attractive manner. There is also a nice hierarchy to this email — the women and men’s sections are clearly split up, which makes it easy to browse for which product you are interested in. However, I wonder if those interested in men’s shoes wouldn’t have taken the time or even known to scroll down the email to see them. While some of their subscribers may be interested in shoes for both sexes, Deckers should look into segmenting their lists based on interests.


Okay, enough of that — let’s get to the responsive design! The very top of the email scales and centers for easy viewing on the small screen of a mobile device. In addition, the social sharing links found in this area of the “desktop version” are removed in order to free up space and remove unnecessary content. The large image of women’s footwear remains unchanged in both versions of the email. While it’s still legible on the small screen of a mobile device, the image map used to link each shoe to it’s corresponding landing page no longer worked. Instead, each shoe went to the same page. This was definitely confusing and not the most pleasant end-user experience — another reason why testing is so imperative!

The men’s shoe display switches to a single column design, which enables them to be better showcased on the small screen of a mobile device. This one-column layout is sleek and easy for mobile users to interact with. However, the footer text of the email is not very mobile-friendly. Since it’s only 9px, it’s nearly illegible on a mobile device. We recommend using a minimum of 14px for optimal reading on the small screen of mobile devices. In addition, the links to the Privacy Policy, Update Your Account, and Unsubscribe are only 10px and somewhat close together so they aren’t very touch-friendly.


To be frank, triggered emails usually suck. While they have higher response rates than regular commercial email campaigns, they often lack design and personality. It was a nice change of pace to see this great welcome email from Ahnu. Not only does it include great content and an attractive design, but it’s responsive, too!


Rather than being a boring, plain text email thanking the subscriber for subscribing to their emails, this email is visually appealing and organized. The design elements add warmth and personality to the Ahnu brand (and they even showcase some of their products!).

In addition, all of the “important” information in the email (ie. thanking subscribers for signing up and informing them of the content they’ll be receiving via email) is live text so it’s present regardless of whether images are disabled or not. Such a nice touch! However, I wish that that they specified how frequent their subscribers can expect to receive emails, since that isn’t clear on the signup form either:


And how about that responsive design? It’s fantastic! The entire email switches to a one column design, which enables subscribers to easily read the email. The enticing imagery, bulletproof button and live text make this email a winner in my book!


The images-off optimization of both of these emails is great! They use background colors, bulletproof buttons, live text and even styled ALT text to maintain hierarchy and important content regardless of whether images are present or not.


However, I noticed in both the Ahnu and Tsubo emails, they do not use ALT text for all of the major imagery in the email. ALT text can help communicate the message in cases where images cannot, and many mobile devices that block images by default will also display ALT text. I’d suggest using ALT text on all of the major imagery in their emails.


Since Tsubo has some of their lowest percentages of mobile openers, Deckers was excited to see the impact that responsive design had on brands with more mobile subscribers. They are currently working on creating responsive designs for UGG Australia, which has over 60% of its subscribers opening on mobile. Deckers predicts that they will see much more drastic results with those mobile optimization campaigns!

Additional Resources

  • Allyson Steffey

    Responsive email always gives you better results in the form of subscribers or conversions. Mobile email plays vital role in your email marketing campaign.

    • Justine, Litmus

      Hi Allyson! Have you done any testing where you saw better conversions with responsive design? We’d love to hear about it!

  • Tim Watson

    This is one of the few (only?) published A/B test results around. I’ve run such a test but the client won’t allow me to publish the result…

    Do you know the sample sizes in the A/B test of normal to responsive?

    Are the email designs used in those A/B tests available to see?

    I’m sure mobile optimization can help some brands, as this post shows. Also particularly when the email is not a good experience on mobile.

    The scale of the problem of badly performing mobile emails is not as high as industry focus on this would imply. Analysis of 377 million emails led to this conclusion here

    • Justine, Litmus

      Hi Tim! I agree, there’s not been a ton of publicly available data or true A/B testing done around responsive designs. It’s a shame that more marketers aren’t willing to share their success stories!

      Deckers submitted their story for inclusion in our inspiration series—we weren’t involved in the testing process. We’ve asked our contact there if they have more data they’re open to sharing.

  • Brian Graves

    DEG just posted a Case Study on a Responsive redesign we did for Crocs. Check it out here:

    • Justine, Litmus

      This is awesome! Thanks for sharing, Brian.

  • Sebastian Kreuz

    When some people consider that sending an email with mostly plain text can be responsive enough, there’s some that put a lot of effort into their templates. I’m starting now in the email marketing and I’ve found so far good opens but few clicks with just a basic template. Testing is always important but in terms of design, it all depends on your business’ needs.

    • Justine, Litmus

      Very true, Sebastian! Each business is going to have different goals, different metrics for success, and different audiences with varying needs. Testing can help you figure out what will work best for you!

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