Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing is constantly evolving to align with changing user behaviors and legislation, so if you feel like it’s been hard to keep up with the fast pace of change in the last couple of years, you’re not alone. Users are shifting to mobile devices for email communication at increasing rates every year, phone manufacturers are implementing new privacy technology, and email spoofing/spam/phishing is becoming part of our daily lives. It’s no surprise that the last 18 months have brought transformative changes to email marketing.

As we are known to do, savvy email marketers have found new ways to reach their audience, streamline email and content development, and evaluate email performance as new privacy protocols take hold.

Design Considerations

Dark Mode: Dark mode users have grown since Apple released the appearance option in 2019, and it has a direct effect on the way users experience the emails we send. While many email clients will render your email in light mode, as you would normally have designed it, it is clear there is user preference for dark screens – it’s easier on the eyes and on device battery life. Catering to this preference can curry favor among your audience. Emails can and should be coded with dark mode triggers and a suitable alternate design.

Accessibility: Developing email content that caters to all users has been a notable focus in the last year. With more than 25% of the population living with some form of disability, the importance of email accessibility cannot be understated. Including image alt tags, ample white space, and easily legible typefaces (sans-serif recommended) are great places to start. Smart, diligent design can help ensure that you aren’t potentially alienating 1 in 4 of your email recipients.

In short, design considerations for dark mode and visually impaired users are no longer “nice to have,” but essential.

Content Considerations

Emojis: Open your inbox – we’re willing to bet there are some subject lines in there with emojis sprinkled in. They’re certainly easy to spot. Emoji use has ramped up in the last year or two, for better or worse, and they tend to make emails stand out in a crowded inbox. While they may be popular, they aren’t always appropriate, and most often should be reserved for B2C emails. With that said, they’re worth a try in some instances – don’t be afraid to A/B test emojis to see how your recipients respond to them.

GIFs: Like emojis, GIFs have their place, but not necessarily the funny ones you send your coworker on Slack. GIFs can be used to draw the eye to important content, add life to an otherwise drab email, or even showcase multiple still images in a limited amount of screen real estate. Aim for GIFs that wouldn’t be considered flashy and ones with smooth transitions. Remember to include a static fallback image for instances where GIFs are not playable, and always include alt text so that all users can understand what is happening in the GIF.

Personalization: Email personalization is nothing new but is certainly becoming more common. Injecting personal info into email campaigns can help build brand relationships and trust, increasing click-through rates and improving engagement throughout the duration of a campaign. It doesn’t end there, though – many brands are increasing the use of email preference centers to improve their connection with the reader and the relevance of messages they receive. Rather than bombarding users with every marketing email you send, allow them to choose the topics and content they want to receive. This tactic can reduce the number of blanket unsubscribes while helping to build a relationship with the user and win their trust by giving them an active role in what enters their inbox.

Content Feeds: Growing in popularity every day, content feeds won’t be apparent to your reader, but they will make your life as an email creator much easier. These feeds dynamically pull in assets that reside on the sender’s website or other owned repository. These dynamic fields can allow for deeper email personalization, without the time-consuming work of individual email development.

What does this mean? If you have data showing that some customers in your auto dealership database love trucks, some love wagons, and others prefer sports cars, you can use content feeds to pull in different images that cater to your recipient directly. Personalized emails result in higher conversion, so why not take this opportunity to personalize with less effort?

Privacy and Fraud Considerations

Data Privacy: Undoubtedly, privacy has become a massive concern for email recipients, and the widespread implementation of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is proof of that. MPP is not a new development – it was announced by Apple in 2021 and hailed as a major step forward for user privacy. As a result, it is expected that about 50% of open rate data will be essentially worthless by the end of 2022, making measuring our success as email marketers just a bit harder.

While open rates were a helpful metric for gauging the success of subject lines and preview text, the most important metric remains measurable: clicks. Going forward, we’ll need to rely on clicks to assess the success of our marketing efforts and leave open rates behind us.

BIMI: Launched in 2019, Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is an excellent tool to fight the email spoofing experienced by email marketers and recipients alike. BIMI manifests as a simple brand identifier (such as a logo) in an area adjacent to the email in a user’s inbox. It helps the user identify that the email is coming from an official source and not a spammer or phisher aiming to steal sensitive information.

Implementing BIMI for your brand is not particularly difficult but can be technical and may require contact with your DNS provider.  It is important to note that not all email providers currently support BIMI, but the list is growing and currently includes Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and AOL Mail.

Email marketing best practices have been evolving for decades, and this year is no exception. Today’s best email marketers are those who keep up with the shifting expectations of their audience and the new ways they interact with emails. At the moment, the most effective email marketing campaigns will be created and deployed with the latest design, content, and privacy considerations in mind. Don’t get too comfortable though – as Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.”

By Ryan LaMarca

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels.