Like any great work of art, the best email design appears effortless – simplistic, even. It makes the course of action it’s built to inspire feel second nature: look here, read this, click here. 

Thanks to today’s intelligent email marketing systems, email’s ability to grow relationships with customers is only increasing – after all, 99% check their email daily. But how do you get recipients to open and act on yours?

People on phones

Look closely at any persuasive email marketing, and you’ll find that careful strategy lies behind both its design and copy.

The average customer takes around 11.1 seconds to consider whether or not your email’s worth reading. You have a tiny window to persuade them to persevere, and (hopefully), take action – in the form of a click. 

Worry not. We’ve created an 8-step guide to creating email design and copy that really does convert.

Let’s get started.

1. Design and write with specific personas in mind

Segmented email marketing campaigns can boost sales by up to 760%.

Once you start thinking of email marketing as an ongoing conversation with a specific customer persona, you can produce emails that exact a strong gravitational pull towards your end goal. Consider the following scenarios: 

Scenario #1: I tell my friend about a new beauty product. I have no idea whether they’re interested in or have previously bought beauty products.

Scenario #2: I tell a friend with a history of interest in beauty products about a promising new beauty product. I’m pretty sure they’d be willing to splash out, as they’ve spent money on similar products in the past.  

#2 is likeliest to end in a purchase, as the product I’m describing matches my friend’s interests and level of engagement. 

Customer using lipstick

Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes at all times. Take, for example, an inactive subscriber; they’re likely to be reached on a very different wavelength from your frequent, loyal customers. By segmenting your email marketing list, you improve your chances of targeting individuals with relevant messaging.

Bonus tip: as a first step, consider asking customers to fill out a preference form when they subscribe to your email marketing online; this allows you to tailor future communications to fit their personal interests.

2. Ensure your email design is responsive

You know it, we know it: it’s critical to ensure your email design is mobile-optimised. Up to 78% of email opens occur on mobile devices, so, opting for a responsive email design should be second nature.

Responsive design can switch format according to the device the email is being accessed from – smartphone, iPad, desktop – allowing for easy viewing.

Coffee and smartphone

Responsiveness goes hand in hand with minimalist design principles: uncomplicated single-column layouts, taut copy balanced with crisp visuals, and an avoidance of anything too HTML-heavy. 

Better yet, email design that’s centred on simplicity is highly impactful. It harnesses the power of space, solid colours, and geometric delight to train the reader’s attention on strategically embedded call-to-action (CTA) buttons. It makes click-throughs feel intuitive – exciting, even. 

Bonus tip: your email marketing platform should allow you to preview how your email will appear on multiple devices – smartphones, tablets, etc. Remember to check it looks good in every format before hitting ‘send’.

3. Never neglect your subject line

80% of customers scan their emails; this is why your email subject line and preheader text should sow powerful seeds of intrigue, pronto. The alternative? You’re ignored, marked spam, or deleted.

Keep both elements lean – ideally, your subject line shouldn’t exceed 60 characters. Avoid using words that misrepresent what the body of your email includes – people don’t like to feel tricked! Whenever possible, personalise your subject line.

Personalised emails achieve open rates 26% higher than generic emails, and with good reason: they point to something of genuine value to the individual – rather than Customer #10063.  

If you can, adapt your subject line to reflect a customer’s real-time journey – previous purchases, patterns of activity, and more.

Shopping online

You can also tap into your reader’s emotions by rousing their curiosity. Try asking provocative questions that highlight benefits rather than features (example B), and avoid going for the hard sell (example A). 

A) Buy our email marketing NOW or regret it!!!
B) Is email marketing dead? No way. Here’s why you need it. 

Finally, a little old-fashioned urgency always works well – think great deals and enticing offers – 70-80% of people cite promos and discounts as their favourite kind of email marketing. 

Bonus tip: ok, so the emoji isn’t right for every brand or email. Still, don’t be afraid to pop one in your subject line when appropriate – 56% of brands featuring emojis in their subject lines won higher open rates than those who opted not to. 🙂

4. Avoid ‘salesy’, sprawling copy

Many of the rules that apply to your subject line transfer to the body of your email, too:

  • Get to the point, but keep your copy engaging
  • Focus on benefits, not features – tell a story
  • Cultivate an emotional hook

It’s essential to craft excellent copy for your email marketing. Why? Because, when it comes to customer engagement, it’s rarely as straightforward as merely highlighting your product. 

Aim to inform and delight, rather than sell – 39% of those surveyed by Adobe said they’d rather brands send informational emails over sales-centric messaging. Try highlighting interesting developments and paint a picture of the benefits your reader could enjoy.  

Paintbrush on canvas

Bonus tip: after opening with a clear, compelling intro, consider using headers to keep your copy compartmentalised and avoid overwhelming the viewer. 

5. Encourage interaction with your email

As digital becomes ever more indivisible from ‘real’ life, it’s no surprise that 82% of email users favour interactive messaging over static templates. By taking the time to weave interactive elements into your email design and copy, you could potentially rake in double the conversion rates. Not bad at all. 

This can take the form of simple features the reader can tap on to reveal more information or go as far as questionnaires, infographics, and links to videos (which, incidentally, can increase click-through rates (CTRs) by 65%).

You want to point customers to your website, above all else. Try to include drivers to your website and social media accounts in every email, as this helps to grow brand engagement – and sales.

Bonus tip: remember to track recipients’ interactions with your emails. By analysing customer responses, then following up with relevant information, you can start to lay the groundwork for that all-important thing: brand loyalty.

6. Keep email design and copy consistent

It’s best to adhere to a consistent email marketing template whenever you contact customers – this includes design and copy. The body of an email should always feature your logo.

Resolution email design

If your website is governed by a palette of blue, white, and red, your email marketing should follow the same theme. If your content is usually rendered in a conversational tone and a specific font, your email copy should follow suit. 

In other words, remember to make sure that your email design and copy reflect the brand your customers know.

Bonus tip: to make life easier, create a selection of email templates for every purpose. This enables users across your organisation to send emails that are uniform in appearance and tone.

7. Remember your end goal

It’s best to design and write every email with your call to action (CTA) in mind.

While you want your emails to be nice and responsive, the CTA button is one of the most warranted uses of HTML. Why? Because, as we mentioned earlier, 80% of people scan emails. 

Always use a recognisable sender name and address. In most cases, this will be the name of your brand – eg. Resolution Design, hello@resolutiondesign.co.uk.

Using ‘noreply@yourbrandname’ or a standalone, unfamiliar name is likely to send you straight to spam or trash. 

Rubbish bin

A big, clickable button that’s beautifully designed and artfully worded gets noticed – and inspires action. 

While a good CTA tends to stretch to 5 words max, simple commands to ‘download’ or ‘order’ won’t cut it nowadays – customers expect more. 

A punchy CTA will mix action words with a personal touch – personalised CTAs perform 202% better than generic ones. This could involve the use of first or second-person words such as ‘my’ and ‘you’ or simply build on a customer’s previous behavioural patterns. Here are some examples… 

‘Shop new swimwear’
‘Start my free trial’ 
‘Book your slot’ 

Bonus tip: ensure you leave plenty of space around your CTA button, and opt for a colour that chimes with the feeling you want to instil – red for urgency, orange for excitement, and so on. 

8. Harness the power of persistence 

Your email design may be worthy of the Louvre and your copy Nobel-calibre, but results take time – whether you’re trying to win new customers or motivate current subscribers to shop with you. 60% of customers will reject your advances four times before being won over, so (tactful) persistence is vital.

Of course, the last thing you want to do is alienate potential shoppers with a deluge of irrelevant content. Include an easily accessible unsubscribe button in your email design, providing people with the option to stop receiving your messages.

Email design

Effective email marketing requires patience and expertise. If you need help with yours, drop us a line. We offer a complete email marketing solution that’s helped many brands grow their revenue streams – why not make it work for you?

Written by. Amalie Bleackley

Amalie Bleackley