Why Embracing Email Design Is Critical for Retail Marketers

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Why Embracing Email Design Is Critical for Retail Marketers

By Colby Cavanaugh, SVP of Marketing, Emma - 09/22/2017
According to a survey by Strongview and Selligent, email marketing typically represents about 20 percent of retail traffic and often a higher share of orders (as much as 25 percent to 30 percent for some retailers). Retailers must innovate in the inbox partially because that’s where their customers are and partially because it’s so competitive: if your email design doesn’t stand up to the biggest brands out there, you’ll get left behind.

We live in an increasingly visual society: Our brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and forward-thinking design plays a crucial role in forming the type of brand impressions that last with today’s consumers. This applies even more to retailers — when it comes to design, they are often the ones that drive trends forward. So why are more retail brands not applying that same emphasis on elevated design to the inbox?

According to a survey by Strongview and Selligent, email marketing typically represents about 20 percent of retail traffic and often a higher share of orders (as much as 25 percent to 30 percent for some retailers). Retailers must innovate in the inbox partially because that’s where their customers are and partially because it’s so competitive: if your email design doesn’t stand up to the biggest brands out there, you’ll get left behind.

Based on conversations we’ve had with marketers from a recent roadshow stops in Austin and Denver for email marketing platform Emma, we’ve found that consistently producing effective email design can be a struggle for many retail marketers. In fact, according to our 2017 Industry Report, 20 percent of marketers say design is their biggest challenge when it comes to email marketing. The following are takeaways retailers need to keep in mind when it comes to designing for the inbox.

Your audience is increasingly mobile.

Mobile is an integral piece of our day-to-day lives, so it’s unsurprising that that’s where most people are spending time in their inboxes. In fact, according to Litmus, mobile opens rose to more than 56 percent in 2016, and we’ll only continue to see that number grow with time.

Be sure to test your emails to make sure images look great on mobile, the text is large enough to read, all the links work properly, and that it renders well on multiple devices. Then, extend that great mobile experience beyond the inbox: Think of your email, call to action, and the path your recipient takes after they click through as one cohesive brand experience. If your email is mobile-optimized, whatever landing page your call-to-action directs people toward should be, too.

Email design is an extension of your brand.

Retail brands spend an inordinate amount of money on every facet of their brand when it comes to design, so why should their email programs be any different? When it comes to email, design tends to get overlooked. However, as a marketer, it’s your responsibility to tell a story and maintain consistency across all of your channels.

The remnants of our caveman brains tend to crave things that are well-made over things that aren’t, and design creates value both on a conscious and subconscious level. You also have to remember that no matter how big or small your brand is, you’re still going toe to toe with companies that devote a lot of resources to design.

Use email templates that help amplify — not distract from — your branding elsewhere. While they don’t necessarily have to mimic your brand guidelines for other channels, make sure your emails establish visual credibility and instant brand recognition.

So, what does good email design look like?

Consistent branding across channels is crucial, but great email design is much more than having a branded template. Here are a few strategies to consider when designing your next campaign.  

Let your content breathe. White space (or negative space) gives your recipient's eyes a break from constant stimulation and draws attention to what’s really important in your message. Plus, increased white space improves reading speed by 14 percent and comprehension by 20 percent.

Make your emails easily scannable. Bold headlines make it easy for your subscribers to scan your email and glean the most important information in a matter of seconds. Eighty percent of people are only scanning your email, so make it easy for the scanners to find what is relevant to them.

Use GIFS and graphics to increase conversions. Graphics should be used to complement your text, not overshadow it. The human brain processes images 60,000x faster than text, and animated GIFs in email can increase click rates up to 26 percent and conversion rates by 103 percent, according to Email Institute.

Show more with video. Just using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates 19 percent, boosts click rates by 65 percent and reduces unsubscribes by 26 percent. We recommend hosting the video on a landing page so you can control the viewing experience and provide more targeted information when the video is complete.

What’s on the horizon for email design

Our prediction: Soon, we’ll see interactive email really start to catch fire. Whether it will be done well, with purpose, or poorly as the hot new thing to imitate (likely both), you’ll see start seeing it more and more in your inbox.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to hop aboard growing design trends such as interactivity, however, remember to stay abreast of the latest updates in email design and rendering across clients. One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) that comes with designing for the inbox is that the industry is constantly changing, so keep an eye on these changes as they occur to stay ahead of the game, beat out the competition and win the one of the most effective marketing channels for retailers: the inbox.

 

Colby Cavanaugh is senior vice president of marketing at Emma, an email marketing platform.