2016_Litmus_State_of_Email_Design_flattened

DESIGN 2016 STATE OF EMAIL How marketers go from inspiration to email design to landing page

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2016 State of Email Design

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Design gives structure, weight, and feeling to our messaging. As its own discipline, email design has unique limitations and considerations that marketers must master.

In the inaugural State of Email Design report, we take a detailed look at marketers’...

Search for email inspiration …………………...………………...…….…………...…………………………………….. 3

Use of brand guidelines ……………...………………………...…………..…….................……………………….…. 7

Approach to email design …..……………...………..............…....................…..……………………..…………. 9

Use of various design elements …………….……………………...….……………...….............……....………. 13

Use of one-off email designs ………………………………………...………..…….…………………..............….. 20

A/B testing targets ……………………....……………………………...………..………...…………………….............. 22

Email redesign schedules ……………………………………...………..……...…………...…..….……………….... 24

Landing page responsibilities …………………………………………...………...………...…….....………….….. 26

Use the results to benchmark your own email designs and design processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and use this report as evidence to argue for the need to experiment with new email approaches, elements, and tactics. All of this is made possible by the more than 900 marketers who took the time to take our Email Production Survey and share their insights with the industry—and the thousands of marketers who participated in the polls on the Litmus blog. Thanks! We couldn’t have done this without you.

Together, we can make email better!

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2016 State of Email Design

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FINDING EMAIL INSPIRATION Inspiration is often the first step in email design, and email marketers have a steady supply of it in their inboxes, with a quarter of marketers subscribing to 50 or more brands. Marketing luminaries Amazon and Apple top the list of brands email marketers watch most closely. Beyond their inboxes, email marketers find inspiration on a variety of blogs and websites, as well as Pinterest, Twitter, Dribbble, and other social media sites. Really Good Emails and Campaign Monitor were cited as the best sources of email marketing inspiration.

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2016 State of Email Design

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4.9%

5.0%

Number of Brands Email Marketers Follow

15.1%

38.1%

How many brands’ emails have you subscribed to, either for personal or professional reasons?

853 respondents

36.8%

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Fewer than 20

20-49

50-99

100-199

200 or more

While 62% of marketers follow 20+ brands, only 9% of consumers receive promotional emails from more than 20 brands, according to our joint consumer research with Fluent. Learn more consumer email habits

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2016 State of Email Design

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Brands that Inspire Email Marketers

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Which brands do you think have the most inspiring email marketing programs?

1. Amazon

2. Apple

3. Campaign Monitor

4. MailChimp

5. HubSpot

6. ActionRocket

7. InVision

8. J.Crew

9. Uber

10. Bonobos

11. Patagonia

12. Airbnb

13. REI

14. Warby Parker

15. Starbucks

16. Email on Acid

17. Code School

18. Evernote

19. FitBit

20. Gap

21. ModCloth

22. Really Good Emails

23. Sephora

24. Asos

25. BarkBox

*Respondents said Litmus was more inspiring than Amazon, but we thought they were a little biased... delightfully biased.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Sources of Email Inspiration

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When looking for email inspiration, what channels do you turn to besides your inbox?

Free websites and blogs

72.8%

Pinterest

31.5%

Twitter

19.4%

Dribbble

10.5%

Facebook

8.9%

Instagram

6.2%

Paid web service

4.5%

Google image search

2.2%

Other

5.9%

0

10

20 30 40 50 60 70

80

820 respondents

US email marketers were more likely to find inspiration on Pinterest and less likely to find it on Facebook than their non-US peers.

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2016 State of Email Design

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BRAND GUIDELINES Every brand has guidelines that codify various design decisions so that their brand has a consistent look in print, on the web, and elsewhere. Brand guidelines typically include approved logo designs, indicate which font faces can be used and in what situations, establish a color pallette, and more. You should also have brand guidelines for your emails that recognize the limitations of the channel as well as the special elements only found in email. For example, the need to use HTML text and the limited support for fonts means that you’ll need to have button designs and font selections for your emails that differ slightly from your usual graphic designs.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Brand Guidelines for Email

47.4%

52.6%

Does your company have design or brand guidelines specifically for email?

Source: Litmus poll of 1,235 visitors to its blog between Feb. 3 and Feb. 11, 2016

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Yes

No

Possible items to include in your brand guidelines for emails:

Header size and logo sizing and placement

Navigation bar sizing and possible elements

Image styling, formatting, etc.

Color palette

Font sizing for headlines, subheads, body text, etc.

HTML font family

Button formatting

Footer details

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2016 State of Email Design

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DESIGN APPROACHES Emails can be designed using a variety of approaches that range in complexity and favor certain environments over others. We grouped these approaches into three major buckets:

(1) Desktop-centric design that favors large screens

(2) Mobile-aware design that favors small screens

(3) Responsive design that uses media queries and other advanced techniques to create emails optimized for both large and small screens Based on the other results in our State of Email research series ( Production , Salaries , Agencies ), our survey respondents are significantly ahead of the curve in terms of embracing responsive design. That said, most of our respondents use responsive design to make only modest adjustments to their emails depending on whether they’re viewed on large or small screens.

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2016 State of Email Design

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7.6%

Design Used for Broadcast & Segmented Emails

20.1%

Which type of email design approach do you typically use for your broadcast and segmented emails?

72.4%

738 respondents

Desktop-Centric

Mobile-Aware Responsive

17.1%

Design Used for Transactional Emails

19.5%

59.9%

Which type of email design approach do you typically use for your transactional emails?

674 respondents

Desktop-Centric

Mobile-Aware Responsive

Design Used for Triggered Emails

11.8%

22.3%

Which type of email design approach do you typically use for your triggered emails?

65.9%

669 respondents

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Desktop-Centric

Mobile-Aware Responsive

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2016 State of Email Design

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3 Major Email Design Approaches

Mobile-aware design: Deferential to smartphone and tablet viewing by using single- column layout, large text and images, and large and well-spaced buttons and links

Responsive design: Optimized for both desktop and smartphone viewing by using media queries and other techniques to adjust email content and layout to subscriber's screen size

Desktop-centric design: Deferential to desktop viewing by using 2+ columns, small text and images, and tightly clustered buttons and links

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2016 State of Email Design

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Responsive Design Philosophy

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When using responsive email design at your company, to what degree does the content in the desktop and mobile versions need to match?

The content differs only in the header, nav, and footer.

Content differs significantly between the two versions.

44.7%

13.8%

33.2%

8.2%

The exact same content is in both versions.

Small changes are made to hide elements in mobile.

Source: Litmus poll of 1,104 visitors to its blog between Mar. 15 and Mar. 31, 2016

Using responsive design for the header and footer and then mobile-aware design for the rest of the email is a growing trend because of the production efficiencies. Learn more about responsive-aware design

Desktop

Mobile

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2016 State of Email Design

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DESIGN ELEMENTS We looked at the design approaches that provide the framework of email messages. Now let’s look at the design elements that sit inside that framework. While use of dynamic content and ALT text was fairly strong, the usage of some design elements like retina-optimized images and animated GIFs were surprisingly low. These findings indicate that marketers have some easy opportunities to provide more engaging email experiences.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Use of Dynamic Content

19.0%

24.0%

What portion of the emails that your company sends include dynamic content or scripting to use data- driven personalization? (Note: We’re not referring to first-name merges, but more advanced types of personalization.)

29.0%

27.9%

730 respondents

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All or most

Some

Few

None

Our State of Email Salaries & Jobs report found that email marketers who use advanced design tactics like dynamic content make significantly more than those who don’t. Learn more about email salaries

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2016 State of Email Design

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15.6%

Use of Retina-Optimized Images

11.3%

47.8%

10.5%

How frequently does your company use retina- optimized images in its marketing emails?

14.8%

Source: Litmus poll of 1,223 visitors to its blog between May 23 and June 8, 2016

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Always

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Never

Optimize your images for Retina and other high-DPI displays by creating images that are twice the intended size then setting the image’s width and height attributes to the intended size. Learn more about Retina images

Non Retina

Retina

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2016 State of Email Design

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12.4%

Use of ALT Text

8.6%

51.5%

How frequently does your company use ALT text for images in their marketing emails?

11.0%

Source: Litmus poll of 1,133 visitors to its blog between Apr. 15 and Apr. 25, 2016

16.5%

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Always

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Never

You can also style ALT to change its font face, size, weight, and color to more closely mimic the graphical text in the image. Learn more about styled ALT text

Unstyled Alt Text

Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from hello@litmus.com 

Litmus

Styled Alt Text

 Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from hello@litmus.com

Litmus

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2016 State of Email Design

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5.5%

3.9%

4.7%

Use of Images-Off Mosaics

10.2%

How frequently does your company use pixel art or mosaics in its marketing emails to engage subscribers viewing its emails with images disabled?

75.7%

Source: Litmus poll of 1,069 visitors to its blog between May 2 and May 12, 2016

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Always

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Never

Best reserved for high-value campaigns and high-volume triggered emails, mosaics can provide unique experiences for subscribers who are blocking images. Learn more techniques for images-off optimization

guy from Pizza Express email example in the post

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2016 State of Email Design

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2.8%

7.5%

Use of Animated GIFs

19.8%

46.9%

How frequently does your company use animated GIFs in its marketing emails?

Source: Litmus poll of 1,087 visitors to its blog between Apr. 25 and May 2, 2016

23.1%

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Always

Often

Sometimes

Rarely

Never

Although animated GIFs aren’t supported in every email client (most notably Outlook), they are the most reliable and easiest way to add motion to emails. Learn more about animated GIFs

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2016 State of Email Design

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5.4%

8.6%

Use of Embedded Video

41.7%

Have you ever used embedded or streaming video inside an email (e.g., using HTML5 video, Liveclicker, Movable Ink, etc.)?

44.4%

Source: Litmus poll of 1,622 visitors to its blog between Jan. 15 and Feb. 3, 2016

Yes, and we plan on using it again soon.

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Yes, but we don’t have any plans to use it again soon.

No, but we plan on trying it soon.

No, and we don’t have any plans to try it anytime soon.

Consumers love video, but putting a playable video in an email is no easy feat because of poor support across email clients. Learn more about video in email

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2016 State of Email Design

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ONE-OFF EMAIL DESIGNS While sending emails that are consistent and look the same is brand- building, it can also be monotonous and boring. I say in my book, Email Marketing Rules : “Significantly changing your email design on a one-off basis every once in a while can deliver a ‘wake-up slap’ that gets your subscribers’ complete attention again.” Marketers have largely embraced this approach, with fewer than a quarter of marketers never changing their email designs for special occasions like major announcements and key seasonal campaigns.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Use of One-Off Email Designs

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Under what circumstances does your company use a unique one-time email design, rather than using one of your standard designs? (select all that apply)

For major announcements (e.g., new products, events, etc.)

49.6%

For key seasonal campaigns (e.g., Black Friday, New Year, Thanksgiving, etc.)

40.6%

For compelling or interesting new ideas

31.4%

21.9%

Never

0

10

20

30

40

50

Source: Litmus poll of 1,006 visitors to its blog between Mar. 8 and Mar. 15, 2016

Our State of Email Production report found that most marketers plan their email content out a month or less in advance during non-peak seasons and two months or less during peak seasons. Learn more email production processes

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2016 State of Email Design

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B

A/B TESTING Whether doing 50/50 splits, 10/10/80 splits, or multivariate, A/B testing is an important part of not only optimizing your emails, but listening to and understanding your subscribers. While subscribers’ responses to two different headlines, images, or calls-to-action are often the same, sometimes they’re very different—and finding those big differences makes A/B testing worthwhile. Thanks to improvements at email service providers, A/B testing is much easier than it’s been in the past. However, only subject lines are being tested by the majority of marketers. That means there are still big opportunities for brands to increase clicks and conversions through testing.

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2016 State of Email Design

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A/B Testing Email Elements

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Which email elements does your company regularly A/B test? (select all that apply)

Subject line

63.2%

Email layout

37.7%

Calls-to-action

36.0%

Images

27.7%

Heads, subheads, other body copy

25.8%

Preview text or preheader text

17.3%

Number of content blocks in email

15.1%

Navigation bar

11.8%

0

10

20 30 40 50 60 70

Source: Litmus poll of 817 visitors to its blog between Feb. 11 and Mar. 7, 2016

When A/B testing, it’s important to judge winners based on bottom of the funnel activities like conversions and to ensure your results are statistically significant. Learn more about A/B testing

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2016 State of Email Design

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EMAIL REDESIGNS Email templates can get stale. Perhaps you haven’t been doing very much incremental A/B testing. Maybe your website or mobile app is being relaunched. All of those are occasions to seriously consider an email redesign. Most brands find a reason to do a major email redesign every year, and only a small percentage wait three years or more between major redesigns. Triggered and transactional emails, which have an unfortunate reputation of being “set it and forget it” messages, tend to only get reviewed once a year or less frequently. Alarmingly, nearly a quarter of marketers go two years or more between reviews of these emails. They are missing out on lots of opportunities for optimization and also likely missing rendering issues and other problems that crop up over time.

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2016 State of Email Design

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3.4%

5.9%

Frequency of Major Email Redesigns

33.7%

How often does your company typically do a major email redesign?

56.9%

590 respondents

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Every year

Every 2 years

Every 3 years

Every 4 years or more

If not pegged to a rebranding or the redesign of your website or mobile app, then most major email redesigns tend to happen during off-peak seasons.

10.5%

19.7%

Review of Triggered & Transactional Emails

13.2%

20.7%

How often does your company review the design and messaging of triggered and transactional emails?

35.8%

522 respondents

 Tweet this chart

Every 3 months

Every 6 months

Once a year

Every 2 years

Every 3 years or longer

We recommend reviewing all triggered and transactional emails quarterly to maintain quality assurance and explore optimization opportunities. Learn more about optimizing these emails

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2016 State of Email Design

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LANDING PAGES Most email marketers are responsible for designating or creating the landing pages behind the calls-to-action used in the emails they create. That’s a good thing, because email campaigns can succeed or fail on the landing page. As much as possible, email marketers should want control over the entirety of an email interaction—from open to conversion.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Landing Page Responsibilities

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Is the email team at your company responsible for designating and creating landing pages for email campaigns?

35.6%

64.4%

Yes

No

Source: Litmus poll of 1,026 visitors to its blog between Mar. 31 and Apr. 15, 2016

Engagement and conversions are maximized when there’s a smooth transition from email to landing page. Learn more about landing page optimization

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2016 State of Email Design

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START SENDING GREAT EMAIL Build and foster relationships with your customers and prospects by creating emails that marry great messaging with great design. With an HTML editor designed solely for email, Instant Email Previews, comprehensive checklists, and Spam Filter Testing, Litmus helps you put your best email forward.

Try Litmus free for 7 days

No credit card required.

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2016 State of Email Design

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Methodology

Unless otherwise noted, all data is based on the responses of more than 900 professionals involved in email marketing who took Litmus’ Email Production Survey between Aug. 27 and Nov. 24, 2015. All questions were optional, so the number of respondents is noted for each question throughout this report.

About Litmus

Litmus helps more than 250,000 marketers make email better. The web-based email creation, testing and analytics platform empowers marketers, designers and agencies to confidently deliver a superior subscriber experience. Litmus provides instant email previews and quality assurance tools across all major inbox providers, browsers, and devices, and features comprehensive analytics to help users quickly and easily build, test, troubleshoot and optimize every campaign. Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., with additional offices in London, Litmus has partnered with more than 250 major email service providers and agencies, including MailChimp, IBM Silverpop and BrightWave Marketing. For more information about Litmus and the latest email news and trends, visit www.litmus.com.

About the Author

Chad White is the Research Director at Litmus and the author of Email Marketing Rules and thousands of posts and articles about email marketing. A former journalist at Condé Nast and Dow Jones & Co., he has spent more than a decade researching email trends and best practices at the Direct Marketing Association, Responsys, Salesforce.com, and in his current role.

 

About the Designer

Amir Hamdi is the Content Designer at Litmus with a passion for doodling, good movies, nice cameras, and fast cars.     

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2016 State of Email Design

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2016 State of Email Design

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2016 State of Email Design

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2016 State of Email Design

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