Optimizing Your Email Program: Design Elements

It’s no surprise to most marketers that email is one of the most effective customer communication tools. Long gone are the days of declaring email dead as this powerful medium doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing yields an average 4,300% return on investment for businesses in the US and marketers consistently rank email as the most effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention (Gigaom Research).

Although many factors go into the success of an email (including brand reputation, subscriber loyalty, and compelling subject lines), having creative content that follows email best practices can make all the difference in effectively engaging and converting your subscribers. Whether you’re creating new email templates or looking to freshen up you’re current ones, there’s always something you can do better.

In this three-part series focused on creative optimization, I will outline some creative elements to keep in mind when designing your next email. This first post focuses on four key design components to consider when building your templates.

1. Preview pane. This is a critical element of the email, as it helps subscribers decide to delete or scroll down. Make the most of the space by including clear branding, compelling content, and actionable links.

This example from Tiny Prints highlights a fully optimized preview pane including many important elements such as a prominent logo and a strong, clearly visible call to action link:


2. Image suppression. With more and more email being read on a mobile device, be sure you know how your templates are actually rendering across varied environments, by using a tool such as Inbox Preview.  When images aren’t automatically displayed on a device, your message may not been seen at all. Use a balance of text and images, and include alt text descriptions along with each image to get your point across.

Looking at the same Tiny Prints example below. Even when images are suppressed, the main call to action is still visible:


3. Branding. Your email program is an extension of your brand and your website, so use  images, logos, and colors schemes that are consistent across both mediums. If emails vary too widely from your site or from each other, they are may be deleted or ignored due to lack of recognition and trust. 

Here you can see the header of Tiny Print’s website, which uses a similar design layout to their emails by including a navigation bar and black promotion box:



4. Footers. Sometimes overlooked by marketers when designing an email, this text which appears at the very end of your message  provides an additional opportunity to drive some of your marketing objectives without taking away from the message’s main content. Plus, subscribers have become accustomed to checking this area for other helpful information or website links.

Tiny Prints uses their footer as an opportunity to cross promote their family of brands, encourage subscribers to forward the message to friends, and highlight additional helpful links.


Next, stay tuned for the second part of this series focusing on ways to optimize your creative content. 

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