4 Trends Revealed in the 2010 Email Design Look Book
Beyond their inspiring designs, the 20 emails highlighted in the recently released "2010 Email Design Look Book" from Responsys reveal several key trends in email design and strategy. I've chosen to highlight the following four:
1. Animation’s surge in popularity. Usage of animated gifs in the emails of major online retailers is up more than 100 percent this year. That’s because animation’s movement is eye-catching and offers up a variety of creative opportunities. In tests we’ve done at Responsys, animated versions of emails have generated several additional percentage points of clickthroughs.
The "2010 Email Design Look Book" includes examples of animation usage by Harry & David and the Email Experience Council. The former used an animated gif that shows a chocolate bunny’s ears getting eaten, while the latter used several to bring life to a winter scene and to guide readers’ eyes across the sidescrolling email.
2. Personalization and triggered emails. Along with segmentation and dynamic content, triggered emails are becoming critical to maximizing the performance of your email program. For instance, Responsys has a client whose triggered emails represent 3 percent of their overall volume, but they deliver 45 percent of their email marketing revenue. Another client gets 15 percent of its email revenue from transactional emails. Those clients demonstrate what’s possible with highly relevant triggered emails.
The "2010 Email Design Look Book" includes examples of triggered emails from retailers Pottery Barn and Amazon.com. Pottery Barn’s shopping cart abandonment email not only includes the name of the item abandoned, but also includes a large image of the product, which is sure to jar memories better than just the product name.
Amazon.com’s birthday reminder includes the birthday person’s name, how many days until their birthday, products that the consumer flagged as possible gifts, plus gift recommendations based on those flagged products. Both examples are highly targeted and packed with personalized information, which dramatically boost performance.
3. Rendering is critical. According to the latest research from MarketingSherpa, 67 percent of email users block images by default. That figure has done nothing but climb in recent years, so this is a reality that must be confronted when designing emails. Using preheader text, alt text and HTML text instead of graphical text when possible are all ways to convey your message when images are blocked.
The "2010 Email Design Look Book" includes a novel example from Nike of designing for blocked images. The retailer used several blocks with background colors to spur subscribers to enable images. Once enabled, the images worked seamlessly with the background color blocks.
4. Nontraditional interactivity. To help wake up subscribers who may be tuning them out, more brands are sending emails that deviate significantly from email norms. Horizontal-scrolling emails are perhaps the most visible and talked about example of this tactic at work, but there are certainly other approaches.
For instance, while the "2010 Email Design Look Book" includes an example of a sidescrolling email from British retailer Selfridges, it also includes novel emails from government agency Canadian Tourism Commission, Brazilian water park Beach Park and retailer UncommonGoods.
Canadian Tourism’s email asks subscribers to follow a treasure map of sorts by scrolling right, left, up and down across a massive email to get to the call to action. To deliver the experience of riding its 14-story Insano water slide, Beach Park uses an ultralong email design that has subscribers flicking the scroll wheel on their mouse to get to the call to action way at the bottom. And UncommonGoods’ sexy Valentine’s promotion is in the form of a “Do Not Disturb” sign that you can print, cut out and hang on your door.
Chad White is the research director at Responsys, a provider of B-to-B e-commerce solutions. Reach Chad at email@example.com.
Related story: 7 Design Tips for Email Newsletters
Chad S. White is the author of "Email Marketing Rules" and research director at Litmus, which provides email teams with powerful tools for email creation, testing, analytics, and collaboration. He has written more than 3,000 posts and articles about email marketing trends and best practices. A former journalist, Chad previously served as lead email marketing researcher at Salesforce.com, ExactTarget, Responsys, and the Direct Marketing Association.