As competition in the email marketing space increases with the rising use of email as a measurable and engaging marketing platform, it's becoming more and more critical to outshine the competition. You only have to look at your own inbox to realise that it's a fairly busy place. Each email is competing for your attention and the same is true for your customers' inbox.
Effective email design is therefore becoming one of the most important factors in delivering results from an email campaign. Up to 76 percent of email marketers say one of their top priorities is to develop creative copy and designs that work.¹
Only now are marketers realising that investing more resources, both time and financial, into getting a design right will pay dividends. I think I speak for many when I say that taking the attitude of "just copy the DM design" is a recipe for failure.
Once a customer opens your email (this includes viewing it in the preview pane) you only have 3 seconds in which to capture their interest while they decide whether it's worth reading or not. Once they decide to read it you need to ensure it's easy to comprehend, navigate and has a clear call to action. It is clear that the need for great creative is principal to email marketing success and thatthe unique parameters of email design require special attention during the creative process.
Over 10 years of focus on achieving great email creative at Permission, we have devised the following basic guidelines to maximise the chance of successful email design:
Beware the width
Designing your emails any wider than 600 pixels will most likely result in the need for horizontal scrolling . Apart from affecting the readability of your email and the annoyance factor, it also means that some of your important content might be cut off by the scroll.
Effective email design requires finding the right balance in the text to images ratio. Images can make your emails more engaging for a reader and help to communicate your messages but beware of overuse. A good balance is 60% content to 40% images. This allows you to maintain engagement and visual appeal while at the same time delivering your message through your content.
Another point to remember is that a large number of email recipients have their images turned off. Designing an image heavy email or having a large image taking up all of the space at the top of your email can mean that your recipient may just see a gray box when they open your email.
To ensure that your email is effective in delivering your message and achieving your goals, preview your email with images turned off. You might find that some design changes may be necessary if grey boxes cloud your message.
Email clients such as Microsoft Outlook and Gmail don't show images by default and readers will need to click a button to download them. Many don't even bother so it's important that your key messages are not contained in any images.
Always remember to use Alt tags if you are using images in your email. Alt tags provide your readers with text if images are disabled. For example if you have 20% Off Sale within an image, your Alt tag should also state the same phrase so that your message is still delivered.
Design for preview panes
New versions of Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail both offer their users the capability of preview panes which means that B2C email users will increasingly view their emails through this format.
Despite this evolution in email technology marketers are failing to pay more attention to their preview pane design. Designing for preview panes means that the most important information and your key messages should be located at the top of the email and in text format. Avoid cluttering up the key real estate with images in case they are disabled.
An engaging preview pane design will entice readers to open your email and at the same time ensures that even if they view your email only through the preview pane, as many do, your key messages will still be delivered to the recipient.
The way in which your email is coded and built is crucial to the success of your email being delivered and displayed on screen the way it is intended. For example Inline styles are the only Gmail supported CSS and most email clients don't support forms within emails.
As an email marketer it's important to understand how you build your email and what you include in it will affect the way it is delivered and displayed to your recipients. It is important to consult your email production team when constructing the content of your emails to ensure your goals can be achieved.
Test across email clients
Testing that your email renders appropriately across all email clients is one of the most important steps in executing an effective email campaign. How your email displays in one email client may not necessarily be the same way it displays in another. This is why testing is so important. This step can be one of the most time consuming in the process however is essential to email campaign effectiveness.
Follow these tips to ensure that your next email marketing campaign bowls over the competition and most importantly engages your readers to help you build stronger relationships with them.
1 "2006 Email Marketing Summit Planning Questionnaire," MarketingSherpa, September 2005