3 ‘Cs’ of Quality Email Design: Creative, Content and Coding
Email can be a highly versatile channel for marketers: It reaches consumers of all ages, it’s measurable and it generates great ROI. In fact, for every $1 spent on email marketing in Q4 2017, marketers generate over $50 in ROI.
However, in an age when consumers have an overwhelming amount of emails in their inboxes, how do you make your brand’s emails stand out? An engaging email design can make all the difference. By focusing on creative, content and coding — the three Cs of email design — marketers can boost email engagement (i.e. open, click and click-to-open rates), and ultimately conversions.
Keep in mind that the three Cs need to be applied in equal measure. If you skip even one element, you won’t see the boost in engagement you're hoping for.
Creative in Email Marketing
The most effective email creative is fresh, simple and to the point. That means it features minimal design elements (i.e., white backgrounds and very few images). In fact, many highly effective emails dive right into the copy and include nothing in the header except a logo.
Although a no-frills design is easy on the eyes, streamlined creative is not just for aesthetics. A simple email creative is easier for subscribers to navigate, which increases engagement and conversions. Keep in mind that emails must be designed for the inbox, not the browser. Unlike browsers, inboxes are smaller and serve as places of dialogue.
For example, Bed Bath and Beyond recently launched an email design overhaul. The retailer’s previous emails included blue backgrounds cluttered with an overabundance of information and images. The new design features a white background, fewer images and a very clean layout — a strategy that helps improve the performance of the brand’s email campaigns.
Email Marketing Content
In addition to simple creative, the most effective emails include value-added content — short, entertaining, repeatable pieces of information designed to train subscribers to open emails regularly.
Statistics, recipes or outfits of the day all fall under the definition of value-added content. Dictionary.com sends sends subscribers word-of-the-day emails that do not include any calls to action — they’re purely designed to be informative and get subscribers in the habit of opening the company’s emails. Olive Garden also experienced a boost in open rates after launching an email campaign that contained tidbits of information about wine pairings, menu items and new ingredients.
Any type of information can work here, as long as the content is relevant to your brand and provides entertainment value. You want busy subscribers to stop what they’re doing and read your email knowing it won’t waste their time.
The last piece of the email design puzzle is coding. You can send beautifully designed emails with truly interesting content, but you won’t reap the benefits if your emails are slow to load. If your email takes just a fraction of a second longer than a subscriber wants to wait, you’ll miss out on that potential engagement.
To reduce load times, code your emails with a mixture of HTML words and HTML-based buttons — not images. Image-based layouts take a few seconds longer to load than coded mails. Those few seconds are crucial, especially when your subscribers are impatient and overwhelmed by full inboxes.
For example, Marriott Hotels modernized its email layout with a template design that included HTML headlines floating over background images, custom web fonts and 100 percent “images off.” The new design is not only modern, but it also loads faster.
If you feel like your email marketing campaigns are in a rut, you’re probably due for a design refresh. Consider tweaking your creative, content and coding strategies, remembering that you need to approach your redesign with an equal focus on each of these areas.
As a marketer, you have a lot on your plate and the redesign of your emails might seem like a project for the backburner. It’s not. Take the time to prioritize quality email design now and your engagement metrics will thank you for it later.
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