The Trends Guiding Great Email Design

Author: Chad White | June 18, 2013 | Media Post

We recently released “The Best of the Email Swipe File,” which identifies five trends affecting email design and highlights 20 examples that best exemplify those trends.

The Mobile-Friendly trend addresses the shift from wide screens and mice to narrow screens and fat fingers with mobile-aware design, responsive design, text-heavy emails — and the move toward hyper-minimalist emails like thisKickstarter one.

The Personalization trend shows that brands are going way beyond first-name personalization by collecting lots more data and using it in deeply personal emails like this Fitbit email.

The Triggered Sophistication trend demonstrates that marketers are using longer campaigns, smarter content and better triggers for their programs, as with this Foursquare email, which is triggered by check-in patterns.

The Editorial Voice trends shows that content marketing’s success is significantly influencing B2C email marketers, as in this Pandora email that mimics the infographics used so often by B2B marketers.

And the Inspired Fundamentals trend makes it clear that some design tactics have stayed evergreen, like the power of an intuitive image, as in this Anthropologie email.

While those five trends are what drove our selections, there are certainly more trends at play. For instance, social media and digital services brands have undeniably joined retailers as the most sophisticated email marketers around. That trend has everything to do with their use of their rich data sets to create timely and engaging emails. It’s also clearly the result of all the email talent that has left to join social media companies in recent years.

There’s also a definite trend toward simplicity in email messaging — or at least messages that appear to be simple. Short, text-heavy messages as well as image-based single-screen messages are being used more often. That’s a response to the tiny screens of smartphones, but also a consequence of the ever-increasing frequency with which brands reach out to their subscribers.
What was once one long email a week is now three short emails a week. In some cases, on the other side of that simple email is a very rich landing page, so there’s also a migration of content from emails to landing pages.

Even though mobile — and in particular, responsive design — is sucking the oxygen out the room when it comes to what design tactics are being discussed, we made a very conscious decision not to get lost in that trend. There’s lots more going on besides mobile optimization, as critical as that is, and we wanted to give a hype-free view of the design landscape.

One of the very real consequences of mobile dominating the conversation as it has this year is that there are worthwhile tactics that just aren’t getting much attention right now. For instance, I expect that next year’s “Best of” selections will include stellar examples of live content and HTML5 video.
Both are highly promising tools to help create more relevant and engaging emails. If you’ve already adjusted your email design to be mobile-friendly, you can get a jump on your competitors by exploring those tools now.

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