Signed, sealed, and delivered. If only it were that easy to nail your email marketing campaigns. If results aren’t going your way, there’s no need to start pulling your hair out. Every marketer and founder for startups and eCommerce companies are consistently looking for better ways to improve performance.
Restructuring and testing your key eCommerce email automation flows or weekly/monthly newsletters can do wonders for your email statistics, particularly your open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.
As a matter of fact, just small fixes can make a big difference to results. It can be just as easy as fixing your subject headlines, pre-header texts, and sprinkling a little touch of emojis (yes, it’s not only for social media) that can lead to positive outcomes.
So, the next time you have a huge store promo, or perhaps your automated retargeting email metrics aren't strong, these 11 design tips for your emails will ensure to maximise your chances of conversions.
1. Get creative with your subject line
Time and time again, expert email marketers always recommend a better subject line.
It’s simple. The subject line as we know is the first thing that’s going to grab the attention of your subscribers and readers.
Interestingly enough, 47% of subscribers decide whether to open or not open emails purely based on the subject line.
That’s why you need to be creative and ensure it's personalised ideally using their name when appropriate (not for every single email) and sent based on the stage of the funnel and customer journey.
Too many times I’ve received emails that are simply not relevant or could be improved.
Instead of the usual and boring email subject lines, you’ll have to tap into your creative side. That’s the only way you can grab attention, and of course, with the help of emojis - if you’re in the right niche.
Keep it short & Personalised
Remember, mobile is where a lot of people open and check their emails, which means less space for your subject line. Ideally from my experience, you want to stick to around 6-8 words whenever you’re composing the text.
The length is just from my experience. To be honest, it comes down to testing.
Personalisation is also key. Using names within the subject line for me definitely helps increase open rates.
Use emojis (but sparingly)
Say what you want about emojis, but they can do wonders for your open rates. Kinsta reports 3% higher rates compared to emoji-free emails. As with anything, emojis are not for everybody, particularly if your brand and your audience don’t align with it.
Make it a thrilling teaser (with a hint of urgency)
Want higher open rates? Capitalise on human’s natural curiosity. If you’re having a sale, add a sense of urgency too. It’s harder to resist when there’s a 50% discount only sale TODAY. That’s just a high level example.
Email service providers like Mailchimp have a subject line helper, which basically tells you if you have a great subject line or not. It also offers recommendations like minimising the use of emojis and word count.
If you want to generate email subject lines, Active Campaign offers a FREE email subject line generator. It’s a pretty cool and neat tool. Just input your desired keyword and set the right category. Then, it will automatically give you the results. It’s not perfect, so you’re still going to do some work, but it’s great to spur ideas.
Pros of better subject lines:
- Increases open rates
- Gives recipients a teaser on what to expect
2. Nail your pre-header text
What is the subject line’s backup? It’s the pre-header text and in my opinion, it’s equally important because it gives context to your subject line. Don’t add a narrative here. Your pre-header text should be between 85-100 characters. Anything that is longer will disrupt the email’s design, especially when viewed on mobile devices.
To nail your pre-header text, here are my tips:
- Don’t repeat the same idea in your subject line - make it unique!
- Use pre-header text to support your subject line
- Short and simple yet engaging
- Don’t summarise - give your subscribers to open your email
- Increases open rates
- Offers context on the subject line
3. Include a table of contents or easy to find information
If you’re releasing a new collection in your store, or perhaps you’re sharing a lot of useful content, it needs structure.
Divide them into sections that will be easy to find. If you’re insistent on making a long email, consider adding a table of contents.
Make sure that you hyperlink it into the appropriate section of your email, though.
- Easy navigation for your subscribers
- Increases CTR
4. Use Bullet points and headers
This is related to the previously mentioned tip. Again, no one likes reading a long email, regardless if it’s personal or business-related. It’s a quick fix, though. Instead of writing paragraphs after paragraphs, convert your message into digestible, easy-to-read sections - like what I’ve done here in this article.
Every tip is divided into headers, and every related information is broken into a bullet-point list. So, how do you use this tip?
Again, when using headers, give it to the most important details of your email, like the discount code. For the bullet list, you can apply it to the promo information. You can also use the bullet list trick if you include a product description in the email.
Want to check if your email will be tagged as spam? Go ahead and copy your email’s content to the Postmark Spam Check Tool.
- Divides the email into digestible and easy-to-read sections
- Easier for the reader to read through your email
5. Include relevant, beautiful images
Sure, product images are given in an eCommerce email. But instead of adding your standard product shot behind a white background, you can always go for pictures that show how your product can be or should be used.
Called lifestyle shots, this type of photo is more engaging to your subscribers because they can imagine how they’ll use it. Consider it as a movie trailer but in static form. If you do proceed to have lifestyle product shoots, make sure that they are relevant. And, don’t forget that it should be aligned with your branding - use brand colors and style for your pictures.
Don’t have the budget for a lifestyle shoot? You don’t have to worry. Change up the angles of the product and show off the key features!
If you’re struggling to make an enticing visual photo, you can always use Canva. Pre-built email templates are already available - it’s just a matter of dragging and dropping even if you don’t have email designing experience.
If you’d like to access premium pictures and other features, the annual subscription of $164.99 for one user is worth looking into.
- Showcases your products
- Makes your email more visually enticing
6. Make sure the font is clear (and ensure to set a fall-back)
You don’t have to be extra fancy with the font type in your email. I suggest avoiding cursive fonts at all costs because they just make it harder for your subscribers to read your email - just imagine if they’re viewing it on mobile!
Stick with the basics, like Verdana, because it is clear and looks professional, regardless of screen size. What if it fails to load? You don’t have to stress yourself out here. Most email marketing service platforms include an emergency font style fall-back.
- Cleaner and more professional looking email copy
7. Include video (s) or use GIFs
I like plain text emails usually for startups and B2B SaaS businesses, but they’re not so effective for D2C/eCommerce.
Creating engaging emails is key for D2C brands.
“Well, I have pictures in my emails!.” That’s great, but you need to change things up.
By adding videos or using GIFs, you can make your campaign more engaging and more likely for subscribers to read the entire copy rather than hitting the delete or archive button outright.
Afraid that you’re hitting a rock here? Don’t be. 51.28% of marketers are doing it.
You can use videos or GIFs to simplify complex ideas or wanting to show off how your product works - which is really better than having a static image, to be honest.
The tradeoff? The transition (smoothness), accessibility, and loading speed.
I would strongly recommend to ensure you compress your files before adding it to the email using a tool like compressor.
And if it fails to load, you’ll need to prepare alternate text.
For custom-made GIFs, you’re looking into using programs like Adobe Animate. Or, you can have someone else do the creation but ask to follow these:
- Flat colors
- Minimise or limit frames
Once you have those sorted out, it’s time to test your GIFs. Using the built-in preview function of your email marketing platform, send a test email to your inbox. Check the loading speed when you’re connected to Wi-Fi vs Data.
Pros of GIFs & Videos:
- Engages readers to read the entire email
- Grabs the attention of your subscribers
- Adds personality and style to the design
- Builds brand authority and personality
8. Make sure your CTA’s & buttons are clear
This tip seems common sense, but you’d be surprised how many eCommerce email campaigns are not doing this correctly. Let’s dive down what needs to be done here.
Whenever you’re adding call-to-actions (CTAs) in your email, make sure that it stands out from the rest of the design. I definitely recommend to play around with the HEX (color code) of the button and/or increase the font size. Whatever you do, your goal here is to point the reader in the right direction - because the last thing you’d want is to have a willing paying customer unable to locate the buy button.
Pay special attention to your CTAs or buttons’ text. What do I mean by this? If you intend to make a sale, use “Buy Now” or “Shop Now.”
If you want your subscriber to join an upcoming event, obviously, you should use “Sign up here.”
My recommendation would also to change up the text of these CTA’s from time to time. It can be exhausting seeing these consistent CTA buttons. It’s important to be creative with CTA’s.
So, where do you place these CTAs? Most eCommerce emails have their CTAs or buttons underneath the product, especially if you’re running a store-wide sale. But, if you’re only focusing on one particular item, you can put the CTA at the end.
This design is what you call an “inverted pyramid.” All the important details on top, in this case, the product image, name, and the discount information. Followed by the description of the product and the sale, and then the button or CTA.
- Points your subscribers in the right direction
- Easy to implement - a matter of changing the design and relocating
9. Use dynamic content based on user events (segmented lists)
By now, you’ve probably heard of “segmented lists.”
Many founders I’ve met think this is a lot of work. Don’t panic, it’s really not.
Segmentation is really just dividing your email subscribers and customers into separate groups based on certain actions or events.
Popular email marketing platforms for eCommerce such as Klaviyo make this fairly easy.
According to Campaign Monitor, applying a segmented campaign can increase revenues by 760%! Got your attention? Great, now let’s find out how to use segmentation and how to apply the right content.
First, group or divide your email subscriber based on their activity. To give you an example, here’s a scenario: You have 1,000 subscribers, 25% bought a top, and 50% of them clicked on shoes.
What do you do with the 25%? You create an email that includes shirts, long sleeves, and anything else related to their purchase. The same thing goes with the 50% - provide them with content related to shoes. It can be sandals, walking shoes, and even socks!
Suffice to say, customise your campaigns based on your segmented lists’ interests or user events. Instead of sending out one email campaign to all your subscribers, you’ll have two separate individual campaigns.
We know it’s extra work, but the possible chance of a revenue boost should be convincing enough to do. Sometimes, you can have the same and very similar designs but just change the email copy and headlines.
- Increase conversion rates
- Provide valuable content based on subscriber’s interests
10. Use UTM tracking to test which areas of emails perform best
Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, Klaviyo, among many email marketing platforms, have their own built-in dashboard for monitoring email conversions.
At the end of every campaign, you’ll be provided with open rates, click-through rates (CTRs), and which of the pages you’ve included in your email received the highest number of visits.
If you want to take your email performance tracking to the next level, add UTM codes. We’re not going to be overly technical; UTM just stands for Urchin Tracking Module. You add it at the end of the URL, and the next time you open Google Analytics, you’ll know where those visits came from.
How do you generate these codes? And would it take hours to implement? It’s a matter of seconds. I'm not kidding. You just head over to the Campaign URL Builder and input the URL, Campaign Source, Campaign Medium, and Campaign Name. You can also add the Campaign Name and Campaign Content to drill down your email content’s performance further.
The generator will automatically add the UTM codes. Then, you just have to use the generated URLs with UTM codes to your email.
- Next level email tracking performance
- Find out what part of your email needs sprucing up
11. Ideal dimensions of mobile and desktop
The last thing you’d want is going to the effort of doing a well-designed email, only to find out that it doesn’t display correctly! So, to avoid this heart-breaking scenario, always use the right dimensions for both mobile and desktop. Check out this great post on email dimensions.
However, if you’re using the built-in email builder, you don’t have to worry that much. There’s a strong chance it’s already optimised for mobile and desktop viewing.
How can you avoid making mistakes with dimensions? You need to send test emails.
A good precautionary measure is always to send a test email to your inbox and view it on both desktop & mobile devices as well as various internet browsers such as Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and others.
- Avoid incorrect email display
- Reach and convert mobile users to paying customers
See, quite a few of these tips and many are fairly easy to implement.
My guess is you’re already doing a majority of these 11 tips. It’s just a matter of continually optimising and running A/B split test for best results.