The importance of design in email marketing

Did you know the email turned 46 years old this year? It wasn’t long after email messaging was born in 1971 that marketers figured out its potential for driving business sales, and now it’s an essential marketing channel that your small business can really take advantage of.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing includes all forms of promotional email communication, such as e-shots, digital magazines, product updates, invitations, welcome and confirmation emails and straight-forward sales messages. Anything you send from your company to the world via email is classed as email marketing, and it can be incredibly effective if you do it right.

Why is design important?

Research by Mailigen shows that 89% of marketers use email as their primary channel for lead generation, so inboxes are getting crowded.

As a consumer, if you like the look of a subject line and you recognise the name of the company or person sending the email, odds are you’re going to open it.

But then what?

As a marketer, you’ll want to ensure the person who has opened your email is going to take the next step and engage. This is where the design of the email becomes important. These are the four key things you need to consider to ensure your email stands out:

It needs to be responsive

According to the Litmus 2016 State of Email report, over half of all email opens occur on a mobile device. That’s a huge chunk of your audience who expect your email to work and look good on a mobile screen. If it doesn’t, odds are it’ll be deleted immediately. When you’re designing your email, make sure you’re working with mobile users in mind. Condensed text, bigger buttons, fewer images and the ability to hide, stack and collapse content will help your mobile users consume your content more easily.

It needs to be on-brand

Familiarity and trust; two very important factors in small business marketing success. Your email marketing is an extension of your company’s values and voice, so it needs to have a design to match. Your logo obviously needs to be present, but your choice of colour schemes, layouts, imagery and tone of voice also need to reflect your existing brand to avoid confusion, build your reputation and encourage engagement. Creativity is important, but don’t stray from your identity.

It needs to be scannable

In a world where consumers make visual judgements within 1/50th to 1/20th of a second, your email sure as heck needs to be both visually pleasing and convenient to read or you’ve had it. The layout of your email needs to be simple, easy to follow and have a clear hierarchy and call to action. Bold headings and subheadings, tiles or blocks and a small dose of enticing imagery help break up the design and lead your customers to the point of conversion. Too much text or a generally unclear message will lead to rapid loss of interest and a lost customer, so pay attention to this important stage of design and don’t be afraid of white space!

It needs to be compelling

With so much technology at your beck and call, you can get really creative with your email marketing these days. Rather than just saying ‘hey, buy our stuff’, you can use design to tell stories and convey a lot of information in a very small space. If you’ve got a lot to say, consider using infographics to condense it. If you don’t have access to any professional photography, a well-designed GIF can grab attention and be just as aesthetically pleasing.

And remember to really consider your use of copywriting. Copy and design are deeply intertwined and must work together to form the bigger picture. Sometimes just one line of expertly crafted copy is all it takes to connect with a customer and make a sale, so make your words count.

Lastly, remember to keep up-to-date with the latest news on the marketing rules that will be taking effect in May 2018. Find out more. The number of ways in which we are able to interact with potential and existing customers is constantly increasing; it is vital that anyone within the marketing team at your company knows the rules and regulations that help to maintain order across these communication channels. 

Ready to launch your next email marketing campaign but not sure where to start? Here at (hug) we provide design and small business email marketing services that drive big results, and all on an SME budget. Seeing as we’re on the subject of emails, why not ping us a message on and tell us what you’ve got in mind.