They say change is the only constant in life. That might make one wonder why some marketing tools, such as emailers, for instance, are still in vogue.
It turns out that the last two years have been good for companies who used email marketing, with 75% of all business owners claiming to have seen an increase in customer engagement using this channel. It is, therefore, no surprise that almost 85% of all markets use emails as a primary lead generation tool. (Content Marketing Institute, 2020)
However, when you look at these numbers more closely, you’d realize the open rate for marketing emails is only 17%, while those that actually respond to the call for action, or the click-through rate, is a mere 11%. Not very impressive, is it?
That being said, there are ways to make sure that an email marketing strategy is stronger and yields better results. One of those ways is to keep up with the latest in creative email design trends and to change with the times.
Email design trends can show businesses a lot about the environment they work in. They can show what customers like and what they do not. This data, in turn, can help marketing strategy to remain more in line with customer behavior, eventually leading to better conversations and conversions.
Top Email Design Trends of 2022
Here are 9 email design trends that businesses ought to consider while planning their email marketing campaigns in 2022.
1. Keeping it personal
While personalizing marketing emails is not a new trend, the level of customization expected has just gone through the roof in 2022. People are no longer falling for generic content and mass marketing.
There are already brands and businesses that send out emails that address customers by name and offer them discounts based on past purchase history. However, this year demands that the content, nay, the entire experience be more personal and emotional.
That means customizing things beyond just addressing a customer by name in an online newsletter. If the customer does actually click on any links on the email that leads to checkout or even a landing page, fields such as the name, email, phone numbers, and other data ought to be auto-filled.
It also helps to track browsing activity on a business site and send personalized email blasts based on that behavior, offering specific discounts, early access benefits, gift cards, and more. Birthday and anniversary wishes with discount coupons are a great way to strengthen that personal bond.
Now that brings up the next question, what is the best way to go about doing this? Writing personal emails is extremely painstaking, especially if the customer base is extensive.
Then, there is the use of personalization tags. For the uninitiated, these are codes, also known as mail merge tags, that are entered into emails to personalize certain fields, such as the name of the customer. A lot of bulk mailing service providers, such as GoDaddy, provide this option.
The ideal solution, however, would be to use an Artificial Intelligence-enabled platform to work with customer-centric data for the business. These platforms are capable of analyzing customer behavior, preferred products and/or services, frequency of purchase, etc., and link that with how often they’re likely to open an emailer, what their click-through rates are, and use all of this to offer hyper-personalized email content.
That way, your email is a direct, personal conversation with your customer and not a random marketing email.
2. Using AI
Let’s take a deeper look at the use of AI in email design, and why it is especially relevant in 2022.
To begin with, data privacy leaks have been in the news a lot in the last couple of years, and this has made people a lot more cautious about sharing personal information with businesses. In fact, the only time they do share this information is when they subscribe to a service or purchase a personalized product.
This has also prompted the advent of extra security features on mobile phone operating systems, making it even more difficult to study customer behavior.
This puts the onus of sifting through customer-centric data in the background and deriving much-needed information for businesses on AI platforms. These platforms can analyze staggering amounts of data from multiple sources in seconds and glean from it information about subscription behavior, help businesses time their marketing emails right to optimize open and click rates, keep mailing lists current, predict future trends and help design new strategies to increase customer engagement.
And here’s the really interesting part. All of this is not sci-fiction. There are already existing AI platforms such as Zeta Global and Validity by Return Path already doing this for businesses. In fact, businesses that used these platforms in 2021 have reported an increase in customer engagement, reach as well as revenue. So it is definitely the right time for businesses to use these platforms as a part of their email marketing mechanism.
However, it may be too early to trust entirely in new technology. After all, AI tools are still developing, albeit at an extremely rapid rate. Business intelligence calls for the use of both artificial intelligence tools as well as old school methods, such as the use of email testers and spam checkers, to strike a balance and ensure the success of an email marketing campaign.
These testers are crucial to ensure that the email doesn’t end up in the spam folder, does not affect your reputation negatively, is bereft of malware, and reaches the correct users.
Other automated emailing tools like Mailpost help businesses enhance marketing strategies to resonate more with customer preferences and to find alternate lead generation tools. They offer subscribers choices in customizable email templates, enable them to send out large email blasts, and most importantly, generate reliable reports of the efficacy of these campaigns.
3. Visual trends
The time of the millennial is drawing to an end. It is now the age of the centennial. As ‘Gen Z’ comes of age, businesses are transforming their email marketing strategies to be more in line with the younger generation’s sensibilities.
Emails are no longer just about creating interest and getting customers to respond to a call for action. These newsletters now tell stories and create personal, emotional connections with subscribers. This, in turn, leads to positive engagements, customer retention, and improving the brand’s image.
For instance, the use of big and bold fonts is back in fashion to draw the reader’s attention to the copy. The reason we say it’s back is that this used to be the preferred way to grab attention in the 19th century as well.
Bright colors are also back in circulation, especially if the product in question is also youth-centric. This works particularly well with the ‘dark mode’ that seems to be the current trend. This trend uses neon colors for text in the foreground with a black or dark background.
The amount of text used has reduced in a lot of cases. The story-telling process now uses animations, short videos, and GIFs embedded into the emails along with static images.
However, an important thing to keep in mind while using these visual tools is that the email load time should not take too long. A recent study showed that most people lose interest in anything that takes longer than five seconds to load.
Another thing to keep in mind while designing a newsletter is the target audience. A lot of this, such as the use of bright, neon fonts or flashy animations may not really work for luxury products or for an audience that is elderly. Classic layouts and neutral pallets are the way to go in those cases.
The ideal email marketing plan would be to segregate the mailing list by age, location, gender, and occupation. Once that is done, it becomes easier to customize content and design based on these demographics.
Consistency is also key to building brand image and recall value. So once a business knows what elements of the campaign work in its favor, sticking to the formula for a while is prudent.
But does a brand know what is the best design to work with? The only way to arrive at that result is by running A/B tests. Once the ideal design has been identified, it is up to HTML designers to work their magic.
4. Interactive content
While an interactive email may have frowned upon a couple of years ago, it is a trend that actually sets the bar for customer engagement right now. One of the biggest reasons for this could be the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The multiple lockdowns people have had to endure have left them starving for interactions outside of their homes. And when an email offers them a chance to have that at some level, it is a step towards creating a bond between a brand and a subscriber.
Google evangelizing AMP opened up the doors to interactive email content. In addition, mobile phone operating systems have also made upgrades to enable interactive features.
In fact, a lot of subscribers expect entertaining and interactive content like galleries, sliders, quizzes, small games, animated GIFs, and more in marketing emails. However, a study by email marketing experts Litmus showed that while 91% of all subscribers appreciate and even expect interactive content in their newsletters, only 17% of all businesses are willing to go off the beaten path and deliver such content.
Here are some ways to use interactive content and bring about a spike in customer engagement:
- Use animated GIFs to display product features instead of a static photograph and text. For example, automobile companies could use GIFs of a particular car model and have customers use the mouse to check out different sides of it.
- Scrolling galleries are a much better way of displaying products than just photos are. In fact, sliders and galleries take up less space as well.
- Product functionality can also be explained using animated GIFs instead of just using words.
- Allow readers to choose a dark mode or a light mode, based on preference. Typography can also be similarly customized.
Examples of companies that have successfully used visual trends and interactive content to increase customer engagement and even revenue can be seen in the clothing and apparel industry.
A lot of big brands send their subscribers mailers with moving galleries of products. In a lot of these cases, subscribers can use these galleries to check out colors and even sizes without leaving the email and getting redirected to the business site.
The emails remove a lot of distractions that the customer might face otherwise on the website and redirect them to the checkout directly when they’re ready.
However, it might not be in every company’s best interests to go only in the direction of interactive content. What if a subscriber has no time for bells and whistles but only wants the brass tacks?
It is great business sense to have every email in two formats: static and dynamic. That is in itself an interactive option that gives the subscriber the power of choice.
It also holds true that not everything works for everybody. It is best to try one or two of these interactive solutions first, see the reaction to them, and based on that, add or change those features until a balance has been found.
5. Being accessible
A large part of increasing the reach of an email campaign is in making it accessible to everyone. Brands need to recognize that as many as 15% of the planet’s populace is differently-abled in some way. That is too large a percentage to be discounted when it comes to marketing success.
An important feature in email design this year is going to be making the formats accessible, so reaching out to as many of those differently-abled people as possible is a priority. By doing this, brands increase their conversion rates while building lasting relationships with their customers.
Here are some ways businesses can optimize their emails to be more accessible to their differently-abled customers:
- Optimizing images on mailers with alternative text in order to allow screen readers to read them. This is to reach out to those with severe vision impairment.
- Ensuring that the flashing rate of animations is at a minimum of 2 Hz and a maximum of 55 Hz. Anything beyond this increases the risk of seizures.
- Reading the newsletter should be easy. Font size should never be less than 14px. It is equally important to choose an easily readable font.
- To make reading easier for those with visual impairments, a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 ought to be maintained.
- Center aligned text is difficult for those living with dyslexia to read, and must be avoided.
6. Being responsive
A recent study showed that using responsive email templates increases click-through rates by up to 15%. And there is a good reason for this.
Most people read busy lives, and this makes it unlikely that anyone would open a laptop to read a single email. Instead, 81% of all people prefer using their mobile phones to read and respond to emails.
This brings a couple of distinct problems that businesses need to address while crafting an email campaign. To begin with, the email design will have to be compatible to render across multiple email clients.
Then, there is the matter of setting a vertical scroll limit, as well as making sure the text is optimized in such a way that it is not too large, but is still legible. Call to action tabs will still need to stand out and draw attention to themselves.
Fortunately, there are multiple service providers offering responsive creative email template designs that organizations can use while designing emails.
7. Respecting boundaries
In September 2021, Apple released iOS 15, and with it, unleashed a new era of privacy protection for its customers. With data leaks being a sore thumb staring marketing companies in the face, Apple addressed it by releasing three new security features:
- Hide my IP address
- Hide my email
- Mail privacy protection
Thanks to these new security features, it is now impossible to judge the reach and efficiency of email campaigns based on deliverability rates and open rates. This also means that customers are less likely to share personal information with businesses unless it is part of a transaction.
This makes it very important for brands and businesses in 2022 to retain the faith of their subscribers. One of the most important ways to retain that faith is to be as transparent as possible.
One step in the right direction is for businesses to adhere to DMARC and SPF protocols, assuring subscribers that their emails are from an authentic source and not intended as a phishing operation.
A more personal touch is to include a link at the bottom of every email that allows subscribers to unsubscribe or manage visibility options whenever they want to.
8. User generated content
A recent study showed that almost 90% of all online shoppers read product reviews, and more than 50% of them rely only on user-generated reviews to decide on a purchase.
This makes including social proof, or user-generated reviews, an important part of email design in 2022. So much so that a study conducted by eMarketer showed that user reviews not only had an impact on sales, it also influenced areas like brand image and brand loyalty.
The study showed that while a negative review may damage a brand’s reputation, positive reviews helped build that reputation back by as much as 88%. On the other hand, 75% of all people found brands that did not showcase reviews at all were not trustworthy.
This means that while social proof may have been instrumental in driving revenue in the past, it has now become an essential part of every brand’s email marketing toolkit.
The great part of using user-generated content as a marketing tool is free, and most people inherently love to be seen and heard. So as long as a brand is willing to feature a photograph or online avatar of a customer, their name, and a short bio, most of them will be more than willing to prove the business with a star rating as well as a review.
Featuring these reviews alongside product galleries tends to increase click-through rates as well as revenue, which explains why everyone from mobile phone sellers to online grocers and fashion brands uses this as a part of their email marketing strategy.
9. By data be driven
Building trust with a subscriber is one of the primary ways a brand can retain customers and increase revenue. After all, humans are nothing if not emotional beings who act on impulses. A great way for a business to tug at heartstrings and gain trust is by including business data as a part of creative email design.
What businesses need to remember is that today’s subscriber is smart and a lot more aware of what is going on in the market. So marketing tactics such as showing them inflated numbers will not work. So what kind of data should a business be sharing with its subscribers? Here are some examples.
- Number of subscribers that have increased over the last month/quarter/year.
- How many reviews the brand has received, including star ratings as well as positive and negative reviews.
- Depending on the vertical, the mailer could share sales figures as well.
But how would sharing this data affect the subscriber’s relationship with the brand?
- By sharing data, the brand makes the subscriber feel trusted and privileged.
- By sharing reviews, the brand showcases their reputation among the subscriber’s peers. As mentioned earlier, these reviews directly influence buying impulses and revenue.
- Data often portrays that the brand has authoritative knowledge in that particular field.
This actually is not really limited only to email design. It is actually something that retailers have been using in mainstream advertising for a long time now. Reading that an ‘X’ number of consumers buy a certain brand of milk or tea powder often convinces consumers that the product in question must be of superior quality and therefore, worth buying.
A great example of this being used in creative email marketing design is the way the Indian Government used this to their advantage to encourage people to take their Covid-19 vaccines on time.
By constantly sharing the number of people currently vaccinated with people on public emailers of any kind that they sent out, they made sure people were aware of both the Government’s proactive approach to dealing with the pandemic as well as the fact that a lot of their peers were already vaccinated, and therefore, better protected.
What to Keep in Mind
So far, everything that has been mentioned is just some of the global creative mailer design trends forecasted by experts for 2022. What needs to be remembered is that none of these are meant to work for everybody all the time.
For a business to decide which trends work best for them, practices like A/B testing and growth marketing experiments are of paramount importance.
It is also good business sense to keep an open eye on what the rest of the market seems to be doing in terms of email design. All of these trends, be it hyper-personalization of content, the preferred templates and color schemes that are currently trending, or the way interactive content is being designed, will keep changing and evolving constantly.
For any business, knowing what new innovations are being used successfully is the first step towards exploring the best ways to adapt to as well as to customize those practices and improve their relationship with their subscribers. Thus, appointing professional services to create emails and email writing services is the best way to stay ahead of trends.