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The basics of good email creative don’t change

January 5, 2012

This post was originally posted on the DMA Email Marketing Blog

Early last year the DMA’s Legal and Best Practice hub and I published a whitepaper on Email Creative. It was never meant as a definitive guide to creating great email campaigns but more a collection of ideas to consider during the design process. The world of email is constantly changing both from the sender and the recipient’s perspective and as such we always need to be adapting how we design our emails for the best results. A template that worked well last Christmas may not achieve the same results this year, although that may not all be down to the creative.

The way in which people read their emails has evolved. New browsers, desktop clients and mobile devices are always being released along with upgrades to existing readers. Subtle changes can make a big difference in way your email is received by your audience. Since Apple launched the iPad the tablet market has rocketed and more people than ever are reading their email on a tablet. Why carry your laptop when you are travelling when a lightweight tablet will do the trick ?

We are seeing more evidence that the first open for many emails is on a mobile device. This may not be the only device they view the email on but could be the most important. Whether they can delete your email from their mobile device and never see it again or whether it will still be in their inbox on their desktop really depends on their email setup. In the B2C marketplace many users will only ever read their email on a mobile device and might never access their email from a desktop.

It’s also worth remembering that the timing of your emails can greatly affect the device used to read it as well as the length of time you have to grab the recipients attention. An email sent early in the morning might catch people on the way to work. They could be on a bus/tram/train and reading their emails on a mobile device. The chances are they have more time to read emails that might normally just get deleted if it were to arrive in their inbox on their desktop.

You can use historical data to get a good overview of how your recipients are reading your emails and what tools they are using. This will give you a better idea on which areas to focus your attention when designing your email.

In the past ISP’s have been keen to limit what you can do within the content of an email in an attempt to give the user increased confidence about their inbox security. Now users are demanding more functionality in their emails and ISP’s such as Hotmail and Yahoo are expanding what you can do. Hotmail has Active Views and dynamic content is the next step. Embedded video in email is now also a real possibility. This new functionality can really enhance your email but to use it you need to have a clear understand of who your audience are.

Having said all this, some of the principle of good email creative will always be the same.

1.  Test ! Test ! and Test again

Decide on what you want to achieve from the campaign and using these metrics to create a testing plan to get the best from your campaign. Use split testing to compare different options.

2.  Design and Content

Think about the images you use and keep your calls to action clear even when images aren’t displayed. Validate your html to make sure there are no mistakes.

3.  Rendering

Preview your email in as many different clients as possible focusing on the clients you expect your clients to be using.  You want to give the recipient the best possible experience whether on desktop or mobile.

4.  Personalisation

The aim of personalising a message is to demonstrate you know and understand enough about the recipient and their interests to have deduced that your email is relevant to them.

5.  Relevance

Segment your data to make the content more relevant to the indiviual. Take a look at the DMA whitepaper The Guide to Segmenting your Emails.

Posted by Simon Hill
Email Design


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