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3 Most Effective Email Design Strategies

By Matthew Caldwell
SVP, Creative

Email is a highly effective channel for marketers - if properly executed. Email is capable of many things including reaching consumers across generations, easy measurability or generating a strong ROI. In fact, in Q4 2017, each $1 spent towards email marketing generated over $50 in ROI.

In a time where consumer’s inboxes are flooded with emails, how do you ensure your brand’s emails are noticed? The answer is simple - start by evaluating how engaging your current email design is. By shifting focus to creative, content and coding -- the three C’s of email design -- marketers can optimize email engagement (i.e. open, click and click-to-open rates), and ultimately conversions.

Take note, the top three strategies must be applied equally, and if you skip a single a step, you risk missing out on fully boosting your brand's engagement.

1. Creative

A highly effective email creative is raw and to the point. This means that there are minimal design elements (i.e., white backgrounds and few images). For this reason, some of the most effective emails dive directly into the copy with nothing in the header beyond a simple logo.

While 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, leading to increased engagement and conversions. Keep in mind that emails should be designed for the inbox, not the browser. Unlike browsers, inboxes are smaller and serve as places of dialogue.

Take Bed Bath and Beyond for example, it recently launched an email design overhaul. Prior to the change, the retailer’s emails included blue backgrounds cluttered with an overabundance of information and images. The new design now features a plain white background, fewer images and a very clean layout -- a strategy that aids in the overall performance of the brand’s email campaign.

2. Content

Another highly effective strategy for email design involves using value-added content. Creating emails with short, entertaining, repeatable pieces of information subscribers to open emails regularly.

Statistics, recipes or outfits of the day are all great examples of value-added content. For example, Dictionary.com sends subscribers word-of-the-day emails that do not include any calls to action -- they’re designed with the sole purpose of getting subscribers in the habit of opening the company’s emails. Olive Garden recently launched an email campaign that also experienced a boost in open rates. It contained tidbits of information about wine pairings, menu items and new ingredients.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to the type of information you use. What matters most is that the content is relevant to your brand, provides entertainment value and encourages subscribers to engage with your email.

3. Coding

The final element for a highly effective email design is coding. You can send beautifully designed emails with interesting content, but that means nothing if your emails lag. If your email takes even a second too long to load in the eyes of the subscriber, you will miss out on engagement.

Coding your emails with a mixture of HTML words and HTML-based buttons -- not images -- is one way to reduce load times. Image-based layouts take a few seconds longer to load than coded mails which can be detrimental when your subscribers are impatient and overwhelmed by clogged inboxes. For instance, Marriott Hotels modernized their 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 not performing to your expectations, you’re probably due for a design refresh. Tweaking your creative, content and coding strategies with an equal focus on each area will maximize your email design’s potential.

As a marketer, you have a lot on your plate, and the redesign of your emails might seem like a project for the backburner when, in fact, it is the opposite. Prioritizing quality email design will not only help you now but will also drive engagement in the long run.

Author Bio

Matthew Caldwell

Matthew Caldwell is a 10-year veteran of email marketing design and is consumed with creating energetic layouts that look great and are impulsively clickable. An email designer since 1999, he is the founder of Yes Marketing's award-winning Creative Services group (clients include HP, Coca-Cola, Black & Decker, Calphalon). Matthew received a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Indiana University and studied Art/Graphic Design at The Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon College of Art & Craft. Matthew was formerly the Creative Director for ThrustMaster, Labtech, Logitech and @Once.

SVP, Creative

Matthew Caldwell

Matthew Caldwell is a 10-year veteran of email marketing design and is consumed with creating energetic layouts that look great and are impulsively clickable. An email designer since 1999, he is the founder of Yes Marketing's award-winning Creative Services group (clients include HP, Coca-Cola, Black & Decker, Calphalon). Matthew received a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Indiana University and studied Art/Graphic Design at The Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Oregon College of Art & Craft. Matthew was formerly the Creative Director for ThrustMaster, Labtech, Logitech and @Once.