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Consumers expect more engaging and unique emails than ever before, and strong email design is critical to sustainable success. While many examples of email marketing offer a variety of pre-built templates, these can make your messaging appear too generic to readers. That said, creating your own emails can be confusing or even overwhelming.
With that in mind, this article will cover some of the most effective design strategies for increasing your email marketing ROI. Keep in mind that different tactics are better for different businesses—you need to understand your unique audience in order to provide more relevant and interesting content.
4 email design best practices for ecommerce
Email design is all about building emails that will resonate with readers and help you achieve your marketing goals. This encompasses both the elements themselves as well as how they’re combined to form a cohesive whole. Developing an interesting brand involves trial and error, but implementing a few email design best practices can have an immediate impact on performance.
#1. Attract your customers with a great subject line
The subject line is the first thing readers see while viewing your email from their inbox. A captivating subject line can substantially increase your open rate. You only have around 50 characters to make an impression, so it’s crucial to make every word count.
We generally recommend mentioning the call to action in the subject line in order to achieve a better open rate. If you’re running a promotion, for example, you should emphasize the top discounts along with the day the sale ends.
Phrases like “ends soon” and “limited availability” add a sense of urgency and give your readers fear of missing out. The email below contains a short subject line that gets right to the point.
Remember that the first few words of an email are often displayed along with the subject line. When writing the beginning of a message’s body, think about how the opening will look in a reader’s inbox. Your goal should be for each element to maintain your audience’s interest and keep them moving through the sales cycle.
#2. Use visual content to keep them interested
An email’s copy is obviously important, but visual content like images, video, and GIFs can break up the text and make your messages easier to skim. It’s important to capture distracted subscribers’ attention quickly, so you should try to avoid long paragraphs and walls of text whenever possible.
Of course, visual content can be used in a virtually infinite number of ways, and the best marketers are constantly experimenting with new approaches to using email template builders. Begin with simple concepts such as product images, tutorials, and demonstrations depending on the products involved.
Assess how subscribers’ attention distributes between text and visual content with AI-powered heatmaps.
In addition to visual content, it’s critical to separate text using subheadings for each sentence or paragraph. Subheadings summarize the content of each section and make emails much easier to skim. Try to make each email easily scannable in ten or fewer seconds—recipients shouldn’t have to read every detail in order to understand the key points.
Balancing text and visual content can be tricky, but each element needs to support the other. Note how the paragraphs in the email below complement the accompanying screenshots. Similarly, each subheading highlights an important feature of the new app.
#3. Use a call to action to tell them what to do next
The call to action is the most important aspect of each email, and the rest of the message should be designed to lead readers toward your CTA.
Increasing click-through rate is one of the most powerful ways to improve your email marketing results.
Every email should therefore include a prominent call to action that draws attention away from other parts of the message. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that the CTA needs to be at the top of the email.
It’s sometimes better to add a call to action later on so that users can click through once they’ve read the rest of the message.
While you can sometimes repeat the same call to action more than once, it’s almost never a good idea to include different ones in the same message.
Multiple CTAs will only distract from each other and make the content less clear. Try to organize every email around a concise call to action—you should create a separate message for each desired action.
This example perfectly illustrates how to develop a strong call to action that leads subscribers to the target behavior. “50% off” is written very clearly at the top, and a large “Come Back” button links to the website or app.
Everything that isn’t directly related to the CTA has been edited out of the message.
#4. Create A/B tests to fine-tune your emails
These tips can help you start moving toward a more effective approach, but it’s also important to keep optimizing your strategies over time. The best marketers are always looking for new ways to upgrade their content and differentiate their brands from the competition.
A/B testing allows you to compare different elements against each other and identify your best ideas. A variety of contemporary email marketing platforms offer helpful tools to help facilitate split tests and get more out of each campaign.
It’s critical to tie each test to a specific metric that’s relevant to what you’re testing. For example, you might test two different subject lines to determine which one leads to a higher open rate. Testing too many elements at once will only make it more difficult to get actionable results.
Instead, use a single measurement such as open rate or conversion rate that’s easy to compare side-by-side.
5 email design templates for inspiration
Email templates give you a clear structure for each email and streamline the process of developing new content. Building each new message from the ground up isn’t an efficient use of resources for most businesses, and most templates provide more than enough room for customization.
Rather than using the same generic email design template for every message, it’s important to adjust your design based on what you’re trying to achieve with each email. Adding new templates to your email marketing strategies helps you meet subscribers at any point in the customer journey.
These are just a few of the top templates—you can always start experimenting with other newsletter templates once you’ve mastered the basics.
#1. Welcome emails: How to onboard new customers
74% of all subscribers expect a welcome email, making this one of the best templates to start with. A good welcome email introduces new readers to your brand and makes a positive impression at the beginning of each customer relationship. This is one of the few templates that’s absolutely essential for almost every type of business.
Welcome emails should be sent soon after a user subscribes to your newsletter. The longer you wait, the less likely they are to come back and read the message. Some marketers prefer a short delay, but it’s best to start the welcome sequence within 24 hours of each subscription.
While almost all welcome emails offer some information about the brand, there’s some flexibility when it comes to the call to action. If your website includes user accounts, for example, you could simply invite them to complete their profile.
On the other hand, blogs and content-based platforms might link to a few top posts to give new subscribers a feel for their voice. The example below contains some basic brand information and invites readers to learn more on their website.
As with all marketing emails, it’s crucial to keep the body concise and write only as much as you need to get your point across. Adding too much text is one of the most common mistakes in email marketing, both in welcome sequences and at other stages in the sales cycle.
#2. Promotional messages: get your sale out there!
This category encompasses everything from product launches to new discounts, and many of the same design strategies apply to all promotional messages. These emails need to focus on a specific value, so everything else should be limited to just the essentials.
If you’re trying to increase sales on a new promotion, for example, the rest of the email’s content should be designed to maximize conversions. It’s much easier to create a cohesive design when you’re working toward a single goal. The bold email font and large button in this email make it perfect for driving sales.
As mentioned above, a sense of urgency is vital to getting readers to pursue your desired action. Try to think from your audience’s perspective in order to identify the strategies that they’re most likely to connect with.
Editing to the bare minimum is crucial for all marketing content, but it’s especially relevant for messages that prioritize sales. While you should still include a greeting and other basic elements, at least 75% of the email’s body should focus on the product, discount, or other value involved.
#3. Order confirmation: Instill trust with your customers
Like welcome emails, order confirmation notifications are routine messages that many users expect when shopping online. You can use this touchpoint as an opportunity for further sales, but try to avoid making the message appear overly promotional.
Every confirmation message needs to communicate a few key pieces of information. Start with a list of items in the order, the order number, and a shipping address (for physical shipments). You should also include an expected delivery date if possible. Customers should be able to return to this email for reference.
Order confirmation is the perfect time to take advantage of cross-selling opportunities. Make sure to include one or two similar or relevant products based on the items in the original order.
Keep in mind that these should be secondary to order information—any promotions should be below or to the side of the most important parts of the email. This order confirmation message is a great example of cross-selling without distracting from the email’s main purpose.
And above all, don’t forget to say thank you.
You can configure order confirmation messages to send either directly following the order or after a set delay. One advantage of an immediate notification is that customers may have time to adjust or cancel the order.
Each email should contain a link to any relevant return, exchange, and cancellation policies.
#4. Cart abandonment: Recover lost sales
Cart abandonment is one of the most lucrative automation workflows, and it’s also one of the easiest strategies to overlook as a digital marketer. This tactic targets users who add an item to their cart but don’t follow through with the transaction.
More than half of all online carts are abandoned before the sale, making this a critical source of lost revenue for businesses of all sizes. Brands often offer additional incentives to bring customers back to complete the purchase. This reminder contains a small discount along with some user reviews to emphasize the product’s quality.
It’s vital to pursue abandoned carts quickly while your brand is still fresh in their mind. The longer you wait, the more likely they are to move on from the purchase or find another option. Send the first message within 30 minutes or an hour, and don’t be afraid to follow up the next day with another offer.
While sales have a negative effect on your bottom line, offering perks like discounts and free shipping to individual customers can be a great value. Just 10 percent off can be enough to make a user reconsider and come back to your online store to finish the purchase. Don’t forget to A/B test different offers to see what your audience is most interested in.
#5. Re-engagement: Bring back inactive customers
Your goal should always be to keep readers consistently engaged, but every company gradually loses some readership. In fact, a large percentage of your subscribers will stop reading or opening your messages for a variety of reasons.
As with abandoned carts, the important thing is to follow up on these leads and try to lead them back to your brand. It’s substantially cheaper to re-engage an existing lead than it is to attract a new one. Effective re-engagement requires thorough personalization and robust customer data.
The right way to retarget disengaged leads depends on the factors that lead your readers to lose interest in your content. You can gain a better understanding of your audience’s outlook by asking users why they’re leaving when they unsubscribe.
Sending too many messages or too much generic content are two of the most common reasons people unsubscribe from email newsletters. If you think you’re sending emails too often, for example, you could re-engage inactive users by giving them the option to fine-tune their subscription preferences. They’re more likely to come back if they feel like they have more options.
Of course, you can also increase retention by responding to issues earlier in the customer relationship. Once you’ve identified email frequency as an issue, you can add frequency options to the subscription form and prevent it from coming up again later on. It’s crucial to take a more proactive approach toward optimizing the customer experience.
Email eesign inspiration
Now that you understand the basics of email design, you can start using these strategies to develop emails that fit your unique brand image. These examples will demonstrate a variety of ways in which marketers effectively differentiate their email content.
First, notice how this email only includes the most important information for anyone interested in the event. There isn’t any extraneous text that could distract from the call to action, and every element is visually conspicuous. The entire message would be easy to scan in as little as ten or fifteen seconds.
Similarly, the early sections of the email contain basic information about the event, leading readers to the RSVP button at the bottom. This is an intuitive design that matches the way subscribers will read the message. While the email looks good, there’s also a web link at the top in case users have trouble reading it on their email platform.
This is another great idea for your newsletter using a clean design with a distinctive yet simple color scheme that matches the brand’s image. The entire message focuses on two playful colors, and the pink call to action is perfect for drawing the audience’s attention.
Product images, a description of the promotion, and a clear call to action are often enough to drive sales, so resist the temptation to add new elements and potentially make the email too complicated.
The end of the message also includes a note displaying how much longer the discount will be available. Countdowns, deadlines, and similar elements are incredibly effective when it comes to increasing urgency and giving subscribers a reason to click through to your website.
This email conveys a lot of information in a few short sentences, and it introduces subscribers to the brand’s processes. Readers can quickly understand exactly how the buying cycle works, and the numbered list format makes the message even easier to scan.
There’s also a “contact us” link that allows customers to make a purchase even if they don’t live close to a physical location. At the bottom, readers can either find more information on the blog or connect with them on social media. These elements prolong the customer interaction and add engagement across channels.
Improving your brand’s approach to email design is an ongoing process, but these ideas can help you start looking for ways to optimize upcoming email campaigns. Remember to consistently evaluate your own strategies and perform competition research to stay in front of the latest trends and practices.