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Which Should Businesses Use? [Marketing Professional Data]

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Which Should Businesses Use? [Marketing Professional Data]


Remember Vine? Despite its huge initial growth, the six-second looping video app was discontinued by Twitter in 2016 — only four years after its launch.

Since then, we’ve seen apps like Snapchat, Instagram’s Reels feature, and TikTok fill its void. They allow users to express their creativity with short mobile videos while attracting Gen Z and millennial audiences. They also feel more niche and non-traditional than older platforms, like Facebook or Twitter.

Snapchat, which launched in 2011, allows users to create video-based stories about their lives and send video or image-based messages to their friends. Unlike most other apps, Snapchat content expires either immediately or after 24 hours. This platform leads to users creating content that is more lighthearted on uncensored than other more public-facing platforms.

Meanwhile, TikTok, which launched in just 2017, is similar to Vine in that it allows users to create 10 to 60-second looping videos that can be seen on their profiles or can be algorithmically placed on feeds of users with similar interests or demographics.

Instagram Reels, launched in late 2020, is the platform’s answer to TikTok. The similarities between the two are many — they both allow users to quickly create short-form videos and add filters, effects, and music. However, the most noticeable difference between the two is the length of videos. A Reel is capped at 60 seconds, whereas a TikTok video can reach 3 minutes.

At the moment, all three apps continue to grow. Instagram has 500 million daily users globally, closely followed by Snapchat with 306 million. Not to be outshined, TikTok hit a big milestone towards the end of 2021 — 1 billion daily users.

Despite each platform’s growth, marketers in the social media realm are wondering, “Are any of these worth the hype? Or will they just become another Vine?”

It’s no secret that short-form videos are dominating the social media landscape, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. 31% of marketers currently leverage short-form video and 29% plan to leverage it for the first time in 2022. But where, exactly, do they plan to invest?

To learn more about the strength of these three apps, the HubSpot Blog surveyed 1,000+ marketers to find out where they’re investing their time and money.

When asked which platforms marketers plan to increase their investment in this year, TikTok came out on top (62%), with Instagram following closely behind (54%).

But how do these apps fair for ROI? When asked which platform resulted in the biggest ROI in 2021, 18% of marketers responded with Instagram, earning a second place spot. Meanwhile, TikTok landed in fourth place at 12%. As for Snapchat, it didn’t make the top five — but you shouldn’t cross it off your list just yet (more on that later).

Below, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of TikTok, Reels, and Snapchat, their distinct differences, and the marketing opportunities that each app could provide you now and in the future.

Snapchat vs. TikTok: A Head-to-Head Comparison

User Base

Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok claim to have predominantly Gen-Z and millennial audiences. In fact, a recent study found that Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok were the platforms of choice for Gen Zer’s.

According to 2019 data from Snapchat, 90% of 13 to 24-year-olds use Snapchat. Similarly, more than half of TikTok’s global audience is under 34. Meanwhile, Instagram holds nearly equal sway with both Gen-Z and millennial audiences.

The three platforms also have incredibly global audiences. While Snapchat has a large number of users from India, TikTok has such a large user base in China that it has a Chinese version of its app called Douyin. As for Instagram, India and the United States hold the top spots as the countries with the highest number of Instagram users.

Platform and Features

Snapchat’s format includes three main pages: a Friends page, the camera, and Discover. The Friends page shows a list of the user’s friends where it allows them to open Snaps or see each user’s Story. The other two pages are its camera and Snapchat Discover.

While the camera is pretty straightforward to visualize, here are screenshots of the Friends Page, Camera, and Discover:

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Discover is specifically for brands and publishers to post Stories. While the Friends page allows you to access Stories that have been filmed or created by friends natively in the app, Stories published by brands on the Discover page are often high quality and include graphic designs, edited imagery, animation, or production quality video. Here’s a detailed post about how brands are leveraging Snapchat Discover.

TikTok also has a few central pages. One is a feed that allows people to see videos from their followers or that TikTok algorithms will think a user is interested in.

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Aside from the feed, users can click on the Search page to see both a search box and highlights of all the trending topics on TikTok. The other two major pages are the app’s camera and the user’s profile page.

Here’s where Instagram Reels is different — while TikTok and Snapchat are standalone platforms, Instagram Reels is just one feature within the app.

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Instagram Reels has a few central pages — the camera, the feed, and the Explore page. When users record a Reel, they can share it with their friends on their private feed or, if they have a public account, make it available to the broader Instagram community through the Explore page.

Regardless, your Reels will live in a designated tab under your profile. You can also share your reel to your Story, close friends, or in a direct message.

Want to learn more about how to navigate and create posts on each app? Check out our guides on how to use Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram Reels.

Content on Each Platform

Snapchat is primarily an app for friend-to-friend content which includes text and video-based messages that people post to their daily Stories or send specifically to friends.

However, on the Discover area of the platform, marketers can create advertisements and Story editions with videos and graphics to promote their own products or services. Here’s an example of a Story from Snapchat Discover that highlights a Los Angeles-based manicurist:

Since TikTok allows you to instantly publish public videos, the platform is great for both branded and non-branded content. Much of the content you see on TikTok is short, looping skits, mini-music videos, or vlog-styled clips.

Like Snapchat, Instagram Reels can be shared amongst friends or made public to the larger community. But in order for your Reel to go viral, you need to be picked for the Explore page. When this happens, you’ll receive a notification letting you know that your video has been selected. This can happen anywhere from immediately after posting to a few days after publishing.

Plus, with the integration of Shopping and Branded Content features, we’re seeing businesses use Reels as a tool to promote products and partner with influencers to create branded content.

Which platform is better for content marketing?

Each platform has its pros and cons for content marketers. Here’s what you should keep in mind about each.

TikTok

If you’re aiming to target Gen-Z and on an incredibly limited budget, TikTok’s app might be worth experimenting on. Because of the way the app is formatted, users can more easily find your company page, follow you, or search for your content than they can on Snapchat. You can also further optimize videos with hashtags and keywords.

However, if you’re looking for website traffic, or don’t have time to experiment with TikTok, you’ll want to hold off for now. The platform is still highly experimental and only allows certain brands to link their videos to web content.

Snapchat

On Snapchat, marketers will mainly thrive on the Discover page. While partnering with Snapchat to become an official Discover publisher might be inaccessible at the moment, you can still purchase ads on the platform that similarly allow you to tell users a visual Story about your product. These ads can even get high placement within Discover feeds.

One thing to note is that Snapchat Discover-based ads are much shorter than the Stories of Discover publishers. This means that if you want to create long-form Story content to highlight a product, service, or brand, you might want to try Instagram Reels or consider TikTok experimentation.

Aside from Discover, creating an individual account has not proven to be hugely beneficial for brands because users still have to friend them to see their content. Brands also can’t add links to this content like they do with ads.

However, if you’re looking to create short, bite-sized content for web traffic, conversions, or high placement on a social app that’s popular with Gen Z or millennials, Snapchat’s ad program still might be right for you because although the Stories you’re allotted are shorter, you can still flex your creative muscles to quickly promote a product.

Instagram Reels

We like where Instagram Reels is going when it comes to branded content. With Branded Content Tags, influencers can disclose when they’re creating branded content which increases transparency and makes it easier to create and share branded content.

Further, as Reels continue to earn its place on the app, we expect to see more video editing tools and insights.

User Behavior

Each of these apps have one primary goal: to keep users entertained on their respective platforms as long as possible. And, based on stats below, these applications do successfully keep users engaged.

Snapchat users spend an average of 26 minutes daily on the app and users create an average of 2.1 million Snaps per minute. Meanwhile, TikTok users spend an average of 52 minutes on the app daily as 90% of its user base logs in more than once a day. On average, Instagram users spend 53 minutes per day on the app — although we don’t know how much of this time is spent on Reels specifically.

Although Snapchat is an app that encourages connecting with friends, more and more users are beginning to use it as a part of their shopping process. According to a 2019 Snapchat report, Snapchat users involve Snapchat in their buyer’s journey 35% more than Twitter and 58% more than Facebook.

Instagram Reels is also involved in the buyer’s journey. By integrating Shopping features, businesses and creators can tag products when they create a Reel, making them fully shoppable. When a viewer taps the “View Products” button, they can either buy, save, or learn more about the products.

Instagram Reels also integrates with Instagram Checkout — a feature that allows users to purchase products without leaving the app.

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When it comes to TikTok, there aren’t many public stats related to advertising engagement just yet. However, brands have gone viral on the app, especially when creating hashtag challenges related to new product offerings. One example of this was Guess’ #InMyDemin challenge. During the challenge, people posted videos of themselves in Guess’ new denim clothing line. These TikTok videos then reportedly racked up a total of 3.8 million views.

As TikTok aims to gain more advertisers, you can probably expect to see more information coming soon about how users interact with advertisers.

Which user base is better for marketers?

While Gen Z is flocking to TikTok, there’s a broader age group of both Gen Z and millennials on Snapchat and Instagram Reels.

Although users spend more time on TikTok and Instagram, they also use Snapchat as a utility app to connect with friends and log into it multiple times per day. This might mean that people see value in the app, other than entertainment, which is the pure mission of TikTok’s platform.

Marketing Opportunities

Instagram Reels, Snapchat, and TikTok are trying to make their applications more enticing to advertisers. Here’s a breakdown of each.

Snapchat

At this very moment, there are only two marketing options for brands on Snapchat and they’re both more accessible to mid-sized or large companies than smaller businesses. The first, and seemingly most profitable, is advertising. Snapchat advertising has been seen to provide ROI related to both in-store and online store purchases.

Snapchat ads also allow you to present your ads in Snapchat’s Discover, similarly to branded publishers. However, unlike Snapchat Discover publishers, you can link ads or paid mini-Stories to your website, which could be beneficial to your traffic or online conversions.

Posting Stories as a publisher on Snapchat Discover is the other option. However, to become a publisher, you need to have a specific contract with Snapchat rather than simply signing up online. You also need to create Story-styled, original content that really engages with users. Discover publishing is also meant to keep users in the app, meaning that you won’t be able to place links into this type of content.

To learn more about how brands are leveraging both ads and Stories on Snapchat Discover, check out this blog post for a detailed list of examples and takeaways.

TikTok

TikTok only launched in 2017, but it’s already expanding its advertising options. It’s become a viable option for brands willing to get creative with their digital marketing. So much so, it launched TikTok for Business in 2021, allowing marketers to create and manage ad campaigns on the platform.

That said, TikTok ads come at a premium cost compared to other platforms. Reports from AdAge in late 2019 show that TikTok’s cost of advertising can be between $50,000 to $120,000 depending on the ad format and duration.

Although these costs are steep for small businesses, the good news is that there are many different ways to advertise on the platform besides its native paid advertising program.

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels earns a gold star when it comes to marketing opportunities. Despite being criticized as a “TikTok copycat,” its rolled out numerous Shopping features that separate it from the pack.

Further, it may be more cost effective than TikTok. Creatopy, an ad design platform, published a case study comparing the performance between TikTok and Instagram Reels. It ran identical campaigns on both platforms — both had a total spend of $1,000 on each, the same video, ad copy, and landing page. They also targeted similar audiences.

The results were staggering — reach on Instagram Reels was almost double than on TikTok and impressions were almost triple. It cost them $2.60 to reach 1,000 people on Reels, compared to $5.03 on TikTok.

Of course, there are a lot of factors to consider when comparing two platforms, even when you use the same ad. It’s also important to remember these apps are continuously updating their algorithms and features. This study could have very different results a few months from now.

Weighing Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram Reels

Although Snapchat is more mature, TikTok’s newness makes it a great place for side experiments — especially when targeting Gen Z. Not only is content creation free on the app, but the platform is so new that nearly everything is experimental.

If your goal is to increase conversions and work with influencers, Instagram Reels is your best bet. Instagram is the platform of choice for influencer marketing, and its shopping and branded content features enable visitors to engage and convert without leaving the app.

That said, if you’re more interested in marketing to professionals or those in B2B industries, table these platforms and focus on the more traditional social media networks.

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

Up until now, any “promotion” your customers have done has been passive. But in the promotion stage, your customers actively spread the word about your brands, products, and services. They tell stories, make recommendations, and share your offers because they truly believe in them.

Active promotion may be an affiliate or commission relationship—or just a free offer for sending some new customers your way. The point is, it’s a win-win for both of you.

One thing worth mentioning before we dive in; Happy customers don’t promote, SUCCESSFUL customers do. 

Our biggest question in the Promote stage is: How are you going to turn your BEST customers into your marketing partners? 

If you don’t have a referral program, an affiliate program, or a valued reseller program … who is willing to drive your message to the organization you need to build out these programs? This is word of mouth marketing, and it is very important so start thinking about how you want to build this. 

Look to your most successful customers, they’re going to be the people who actively promote for you. But then, let’s think about our customers who already have our prospects but are offering a different product or service. 

At DigitalMarketer we are a training and certification company, we are not a services based company. What that means is we don’t compete with agencies or consultants. This also means that there is an opportunity for us to work with agencies and consultants. 

When we realized this we decided to launch our Certified Partner Program, which you can learn more about at DigitalMarketer.Com/Partner. This program lets us work with the largest segments of our customer base, who have customers that we want but they’re providing a solution that we’re not providing. 

When we train our customers, they are able to use our company frameworks to work with their clients. If their clients want to learn to do their marketing themselves? We’re the first education company they see.

So who is that for you? Remember, it’s not the happy clients that refer, it’s the successful clients. If you want to create more promoters, make sure that you’re doing everything that you can as a marketer to ensure that you’re marketing great products so you can see great results. 

How can our example companies accomplish this?

For Hazel & Hems, they can add an ambassador program to grow their instagram following and increase credibility with viral posts. 

Ambassadors can earn affiliate commissions, additional boutique reward points, and get the chance to build a greater following by leveraging the Hazel & Hems brand.

For Cyrus & Clark, they can offer discounted rates to their existing clients if those clients are willing to refer them to their strategic partners. 

For construction companies, this could be a home builder recommending Cyrus & Clark services to the landscapers, real estate developers, and interior designers that they work with to serve their customers.



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11 Email Marketing Design Tips to Drive More Revenue

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11 Email Marketing Design Tips to Drive More Revenue

When you think about what factors and processes are needed to get the most out of your email marketing campaigns, you might consider these first: more sophisticated personalization, leveraging first-party data more effectively, or more precise targeting and timing. 

While those are all important, there’s another more fundamental aspect of email marketing that’s just as critical to success: email design. 

With more than 333 billion emails sent and received every day, and adults logging more screen time than ever before, it’s never been more crucial to have well-designed emails that can quickly cut through the overflowing inbox clutter, capture recipients’ attention and compel them to take the desired action. 

Whether you’re looking to supercharge your email newsletter or inject new life into your lifecycle email campaign strategy, here are 11 email design tips and examples that can drive site traffic, purchase intent, conversions and revenue.

“All aspects of email design – including accessibility, readability, layout and responsiveness – have a huge impact on open rates and conversions. In reality, email marketing design is the gatekeeper to campaign success.”

Samantha McGrady, Tinuiti Strategist, Lifecycle Marketing

 

Essential Elements of an Email

 
You might not consider all these quote-unquote “design” components, but they all play a central role in how an email is perceived and consumed. 

  • Subject line
  • Pre-header text
  • Header/headline
  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Images
  • Body copy
  • CTA(s)
  • Signature and footer
  • Unsubscribe button

 

The Eleven Keys to Effective Email Design

 
All elements of an email come together to create an overall design. Whether that design is cohesive or advances the objectives of the email depends on how well the individual elements are executed. Here are 11 tips for making email design work for you.
 

1. Responsive Designs Pay Off

 
Mobile-friendly email design is a must. While the exact percentage of emails opened on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets vary by source, it’s estimated that over half of all emails are accessed on mobile. That means ensuring an email displays correctly and can be read easily across devices, screens and resolutions are essential. If an email displays poorly, it’s likely to be deleted in under three seconds

Utilizing a responsive email template will automatically adjust your email to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, whether that’s a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Most drag-and-drop email builders feature built-in responsive design templates, but you’ll also want to keep mobile formatting in mind when considering image size and the length of copy blocks within the email.  
 

2. Keep Accessibility Top-of-Mind

 
One key aspect of email design that goes hand-in-hand with responsiveness is accessibility. Accessibility refers to an email’s ability to be received and understood by persons with disabilities or using assistive devices. So just as responsive design ensures that emails can be accessed across device formats, good accessibility practices preserve an email’s usability regardless of the recipient’s circumstances.

An accessible email will have a logical flow and high readability in terms of descriptive subject lines, links and headers, and larger and well-spaced typefaces. It will also use high color contrast and utilize alt-text liberally. Perhaps most importantly, an accessible email will not lean too heavily on visuals or hide information in images, as adaptive tools like screen readers can struggle to convert them.  

Keeping accessibility top-of-mind is important for reaching the maximum percentage of your subscribers or target audiences and contributes to good overall email marketing usability.
 

3. Customize Your Pre-Header Text

 
Pre-header text used to be an afterthought, and many marketers defaulted to the first few words of email body copy. Now, because of the way emails are displayed in mobile and desktop inboxes, pre-headers are widely recognized as the second-most important text element after the subject line. Pre-header text indicates to the reader what the email is about; it’s essentially a visible meta-description of the email. 

As such, the pre-header text should complement the subject line and reinforce the critical call-to-action within the email. It should, like the subject line, entice the recipient to open the email and keep reading while also reading while offering an informative preview of the email itself. And it needs to accomplish all of this concisely in an abbreviated space. 

Crafting a compelling subject and pre-header pair can feel like writing poetry, but getting it right can significantly impact open rates and conversions. 
 

4. Use an Effective Layout

 
The layout is the most recognizable aspect of email design and likely what most people think of first when considering the design elements of an email. Layout determines the flow of your content and the order in which your readers consume information. The most basic principles of email layout are maintaining organization and logical consistency, capturing attention through aesthetics, and manipulating the recipient’s eye where you want it to go.

  • Organization: In essence, this means establishing a clear visual hierarchy. Try to display the most important information and convey essential details early on (higher) in the email.
  • Aesthetics: incorporate white space to give your content breathing room and lend a more elevated look. Clutter and “walls” of text are difficult to read and lead to email abandonment. Instead, utilize negative space to accentuate key points and keep the recipient reading. 
  • Guiding the eye: Use directional cues to draw attention to the most essential part of your email. Effective layout templates leverage natural reading and eye movement patterns to focus the recipient on desired email elements. 

 
Many email templates use the following common layout patterns, each of which guides the reader’s attention in specific ways:

  • Z-pattern layouts place a zig-zag of content within the reader’s typical sight line, starting at the upper left corner. 
  • F-pattern layouts emphasize the left side of the email, inviting readers to return their eyes to that side for most information. 
  • Inverted pyramid layouts, perhaps the most familiar layout, load critical information at the top and create a visual funnel toward a CTA at the bottom.

 
These principles are laid out in the following two wireframe examples of common email layouts. Notice how both lean on the reading path of the human eye while maintaining a recognizable hierarchy and putting vital information up top:

two examples of email design template wireframes

Remember to rotate your design layout to avoid using the same framework repeatedly – otherwise, your emails will be perceived as stale by your subscribers.

 

5. Choose Colors Strategically

 
Color scheme is an essential element in any design, and emails are no exception. The right combination of colors – or the strategic limitation of a color palette – can elicit emotion, direct attention to important content, reinforce brand image or distinguish a single email from a series or campaign. 

There is plenty of room for experimentation with color in email marketing. Still, good general rules of thumb are to avoid clashing colors or using too wide a variety of colors, use bright colors sparingly, and stay consistent with color usage across branded marketing assets. And as with accessibility and responsiveness, it’s also important to consider how an email is being viewed; for example, if being read on a mobile device in “dark” mode, pure black text can appear illegible. 

It’s important to remember that color isn’t limited to graphical elements or iconography in the email; the text color used and dominant color in embedded images or photographs should also be considered. These colors should work in harmony to support your content, brand and the purpose of the email.
 

6. Use Clean and Clear Text

 
An organized layout and strategic use of color will go a long way toward making an email readable and effective. Ultimately, though, the information you want to communicate stems from the email copy itself. One hard and fast rule for text in an email is to be clear and concise

Remember the 333 billion emails sent and received last year? Your target audience received some of those, and they almost certainly didn’t read every word of every email they received. So many of those emails were probably never opened, thanks to poor subject lines.

Emails should draw the eye with an attractive design but be easy to skim. Get to the point quickly, or risk ending up in the trash.

 

example of clear and concise email marketing design from Hyperikon

 

When in doubt, follow these guidelines:

  • Maintain a good text-to-image ratio
  • Keep the headline to two lines or less
  • Keep text on a simple background so that it’s easy to read
  • Bold or highlight keywords or phrases

 

“Reduce the cognitive load. We really want to create our emails to be clean and concise.”

Sammi Nutsongtat, Klaviyo Design Specialist

Portrait of Sammi Nutsongtat
 

7. Treat Email as a Brand Opportunity

 
Of all the potential touchpoints a recipient might have with your brand, the email you just sent them is unlikely to be their first. That makes it very important to keep email design consistent with your overall brand design. 

Incorporating strong branding – not just a logo or a tagline, but brand-specific colors, imagery, typography and content tone – helps email recipients identify the message’s source and provides a more cohesive experience from the inbox to the landing page. That can reduce your bounce rate as users interact with your brand across different channels.

A good branding evaluation question to ask: If I removed our logo from these email designs, would our subscribers identify our company?

 

example of good branding in email design from Bryan Anthonys and Diff

 

Your brand’s identity tells your story, so it’s important to be conscious of your email branding. Branding should remain consistent across all channels, whether email-to-email or email-to-website. 
 

8. Your Typography Style Matters

 
Using a consistent typeface in email design can reinforce your brand image and identity, though, like color, there is some opportunity for experimentation. The most important thing to remember about typography is that it should be easy to read at a skimming pace and shouldn’t detract or add confusion to the message.

Emails can also contain more than one kind of typeface, for example, one font that looks better at a larger size for headers and another that looks cleaner for entire sentences of body copy. That said, too many different fonts in an email can make it hard to read. A limit of three fonts per email is a good common-sense rule. Again, a drag-and-drop email builder usually has several typeface options and suggestions for specific email elements or sections. 
 

9. Personalize Elements of Your Emails

 
Personalization is one of the dominant themes across the marketing and advertising industries right now, as technological advancements and the rise in importance of zero- and first-party customer data have made true one-to-one, brand-to-customer engagement possible. Email marketing, which was perhaps the first marketing vector to make widespread use of basic personalization (think mail merge and auto-filled salutation lines), can also incorporate more sophisticated personalization techniques – and should. 

The goal of personalization should be to make an email meaningful and valuable to the recipient. That means incorporating bespoke, custom content blocks based on customer data, including insights like purchase history or position in the customer lifecycle or buying journey. Narrow segmentation can help target specific customers, and personal touches like incorporating profile information or preferences can help humanize your brand and create stronger relationships.

In short, you should seize every opportunity to include more personalized elements in your emails.
 

10. Always Use a CTA

 
This might seem like email marketing 101, but no list of email marketing optimization tips would be complete without addressing calls to action or CTAs. Usually rendered graphically as a button, a good CTA should concisely describe the exact action the email reader can expect upon clicking and be placed at a point in the layout where the next step is logically implied. 

Effective CTAs typically appear at the bottom of a section in a contrasting color to the email’s overall color scheme. Multiple CTAs can be used – some research suggests that having more than one CTA increases click-through rates – but only where the natural progression of the content suggests they appear. As with many of the design tips presented here, CTAs should be used in a cohesive, consistent manner. 
 

11. Avoid Abrupt Design Changes

 
Consistency isn’t just important within an email; it’s also important across campaigns. Design shock, or suddenly presenting drastically different creative to an existing audience like your subscriber base, can impact the success of an individual email or an entire campaign.

When updating your email designs, consider rolling out the changes in an iterative fashion or testing the new creative out on a small group of subscribers before rolling it out to your entire audience.

 

example of avoiding email design shock from Ritual

 

As the example above illustrates, gradually transitioning to a new layout while keeping many other design elements consistent helps minimize the effect of design shock. Keep this in mind as you embark on new email campaigns or make universal changes to your email marketing approach.
 

How to Use A/B Testing to Improve Your Email Design

 
 You can put as much thought and preparation into email design as possible, and the email might still fall short of performance expectations. The only way to ensure a successful campaign and maximize conversions is to engage in A/B testing by sending slightly different versions of an email to distinct segments of your audience. It’s a straightforward process that many email platforms support, but sadly, nearly  42.9% of marketers don’t know what to test.

When assessing an email design’s impact on an audience, there are various things you can test to help drive higher clicks, conversions, or overall performance. These include:

  • Call to action button styling
  • Overall layout
  • Number of products featured
  • Lifestyle vs. product imagery
  • Cheeky vs. simple copy
  • Animation vs. static

 

Once you know what to test for and have identified what you’re trying to prove, run a few test emails to sample groups, isolating one variable at a time over a series of weeks. Evaluate which works best for reaching, resonating with, and converting the most recipients, and you’ll gradually improve your conversion rates.
 

Resources & Tools to Improve Your Email Design Game

 
There is no shortage of email design tools available to help you get the most out of your email marketing strategy. Some are full-service email-building platforms, while others are helpful stock image sites or graphics libraries. Here are a few of our favorites:
 

Klaviyo 

 
Klayvio is a well-established, full-service email marketing platform optimized for ecommerce and featuring sophisticated personalization tools. Klaviyo’s robust library of customizable, responsive templates, support for A/B testing, and dynamic content capabilities can help users of all levels put email design optimization tips into action.
 

Tinuiti Performance Creative 

 
Need a more comprehensive and data-driven approach to email and lifecycle marketing? Our own Performance Creative offering is based on moments that matter and features integration with multiple channels and touchpoints throughout the customer journey.
 

Adobe Stock

 
It’s perhaps unsurprising that one of the biggest names in design software also has one of the most robust stock image catalogs available. Adobe Stock allows users to search for specific image types or browse by category, ensuring you’ll find the perfect photos or images for your email campaign.
 

Figma

 
Any design process – including email design – can be collaborative. Figma provides a platform to facilitate that collaboration that includes several email-specific features, including a library of visual assets teams can build themselves.
 

Final Thoughts

 
Design is a central aspect of email marketing performance, and getting it right can be the difference between a positive ROI campaign and a forgettable brand encounter. You can probably think of several marketing emails in your inbox that slapped a basic template together with uninspiring (and uninspired!) copy and called it a day. Or maybe not, because you deleted them without getting past the subject line. 

Your email campaigns can help solidify customer relationships and prospects through accessible designs that embrace solid layout principles, on-brand typography and images, a concise and catchy subject and pre-header, logical CTAs and compelling copy.  You’ll ultimately generate more opens, leads, conversions and revenue for your company, too.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Greg Swan in August 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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