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Email Marketing: Graphic design elements lift clickthrough 11.97%

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

Graphic design.

It is a phrase often thrown around without much thought. What does it actually mean to be a graphic designer, and what does that job title entail?

I graduated from the University of North Florida with a BFA and a concentration in graphic design and digital media. While in school, I worked for the school newspaper (The Spinnaker) where I started as an illustration artist, which led to a layout designer position and, eventually to art director.

Later, I helped transform this newspaper into a glossy magazine. This was a big transition because, generally speaking, photos and graphics need to be of a higher quality for a magazine than they need to be for newsprint. This transition also required an entirely new layout and art direction. The new magazine received Best in Show at the Associated Collegiate Press conference in New Orleans. 

I have also traveled to Brazil where I offered pro bono design work for various non-profits working with children in poverty-stricken areas.

I say all of this not for the ego boost, but to give you some background as to who I am and what my trade is.

Merriam-Webster defines “graphic design” as this:

The art and profession of selecting and arranging visual elements — such as typography, images, symbols and colors — to convey a message to an audience. Sometimes graphic design is called ‘visual communications.’ It is a collaborative discipline: writers produce words, and photographers and illustrators create images that the designer incorporates into a complete visual message.

In a perfect world, the designer would get the best words, the best photos and the best illustrations and arrange them all into the most appealing and effective visual message pertaining to the target audience’s motivation levels.

However, all of those things don’t always fall into place. Even if they do, how can you be sure?

 

The control

Below is an email that was created in the same manner that Merriam-Webster uses to describe “graphic design.” There are words on the page, given to a designer, which speak of the company and its product’s value. There is also a professionally-shot photo that shows a couple enjoying the product featured in the email. All of these elements have been combined into a visually pleasing design: 

 

From a design perspective, this is an appealing email:

  • The main headline is a very legible sans-serif (a proven category of typeface for headlines)
  • There is plenty of contrast between the headline and background
  • The email layout itself is dynamic, leading the viewer’s eye from left to right and then down the page to the rest of the message
  • Overall, best design practices have been used (color, proximity, scale, etc.)

Now, I’m not going to go into the details of the rest of the email because the base of my argument centers around the top panel.

Is the top panel of the email necessary? Would the audience’s reception change if it wasn’t there?

If I were to argue in favor of the top panel, I would say it may draw the viewer in, attracting the viewer’s eye to the couple’s faces before calling attention to the next available message, “Better sound to go.” This may spark enough interest for me to read the rest of the email and read the details of what is being offered.

However, we were curious: “Is the best way always the best design?”

The MECLABS’ conversion heuristic helps to shed light on what is happening with the email:

C=4m+3v+2(i-f)-2a

The biggest factor in the conversion heuristic itself, and this email particularly, is the motivation of the customer — also known as the 4m.

The prospect has just opened up this email, and depending on how much they like this company’s products, will determine how motivated they truly are.

Either way, the top panel with a visually appealing design and headline “Better sound to go” takes some mental processing before the prospect reads onward through the email to the core of the product offering.

Does the second it takes to interpret those visual elements add any perceived value, or does it hurt the process? Is this design the best option?

 

The treatment

To answer these questions, we ran a test. We wanted to see if the pleasant design treatment impacted perceived value and, ultimately, clickthrough rate.

Here is the treatment email:

 

The only two changes that were made involved removing the top panel and switching the image and text in the black panel to lead the viewer’s eye from the woman’s face to the text (a general design rule of thumb: always have photo subjects facing the content).

 

Control and treatment side-by-side 

 

What were the results?

The treatment outperformed the control by a relative 11.97% in clickthrough with a 99% level of confidence.

This confirmed some of our suspicions — sometimes the best approach is not always the one with the best design.

Being a designer myself, I would have opted for the control. However, this test shows that as designers, or creative experts in general, we must always keep in mind the true interest of the customer.

As soon as someone opens an email, they are looking for a reason to close it and move on to the next one. We need to continually ask ourselves, “What is it that the customer is looking for?”

In this case, the prospects were looking for information on these products upfront, and the design treatment (top panel) of the control proved to be not only irrelevant but also harmful for clickthrough rates.

 

Takeaways

  • The best design is not always the best approach
  • Do not let design conflate the objective of an email or message
  • Every unnecessary piece of content is waste and reduces your chances of getting a click

 

You might also like

Email Marketing: Combining design and content for mobile success [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing: 24% higher CTR for CareerBuilder’s responsive design [MarketingSherpa case study]

Email Design How-to: 5 insights to improve open and clickthrough rates [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Threats that Make Email Testing Dangerous and How a Major Retailer Overcame Them [More from the blogs]

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Email Optimization: Testing best time of day and day of week for email interaction

September 22nd, 2014 6 comments

When do you check your personal email? Do you let it build up throughout the work week and go through it during the weekends? Do you check it on Monday when you’re also sorting through your work email? Or do you check it while you’re at lunch or on a quick, but much-needed, break from work?

In today’s MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’re going to explore which times of the day and days of the week people are most likely to interact with their emails — two questions of optimal interest for any emailing campaign.

 

Testing  the time of day when people interact with email

In email testing, we focus so much on the content and landing page of the email, but that hard work won’t pay off if email recipients don’t open or clickthrough the email. We wanted to get a better understanding of when people interact with emails to determine the best time of the day and day of the week to send promotional emails.

First, we began testing what time of day people are most likely to open and interact with emails.

Emails were currently being sent out on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7 a.m. EST. We hypothesized that by sending emails at various times throughout the day, we would learn the optimal times recipients are most likely to open and clickthrough their emails.

In an A/B split test, we sent a promotional email at 7 a.m., 3 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. EST on a Monday. We wanted to isolate the general times of day people may be interacting with their email.

3 a.m. was tested to determine if people were more likely to interact with their emails as soon as they wake up in the morning and before they start their day, while 3 p.m. would tell us if people were checking their emails in the afternoons.

Lastly, 7 p.m. results would show that recipients were more likely to check and interact with their email in the evenings or later at night.

By sending emails at 7 p.m. EST instead of 7 a.m. EST, we saw a 12% lift in open rate:

  

Read more…

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Email Marketing: 3 resources to help you optimize your next campaign

September 8th, 2014 No comments

Email by far remains the trusty pack mule for most marketers.

This is understandable given the growth within this channel (thanks in part to mobile), which continues to produce a solid ROI.

But, as they say, satisfaction is only the death of desire. There is always room for improvement. To save you from the pitfall of merely being satisfactory, here are three resources that will help you optimize your email marketing program and, hopefully, deliver a dynamic customer experience in your next send.

 

Watch: Subject Lines That Convert

 

In this Web clinic replay, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, reviews two effective approaches for building an immediate connection with customers through your subject lines.

How it helps

One big takeaway from this clinic you need to understand is that customers aren’t trying to open your emails; they are trying to eliminate them.

To prevent elimination, marketers must effectively transfer a customer’s attention into interest.

According to Flint, the transfer occurs when you “create a space in the prospect’s mind that can only be filled with what is coming next.”  

Read more…

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Email Marketing: Compliance-related re-engagement campaign messaging increases conversion 49%

September 4th, 2014 1 comment

A name in a database does not a customer make.

You need customers and potential customers who actually want to receive email from you. To do that with your current email list — either for legal compliance reasons, like the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), or to win-back unengaged subscribers (like CNET did) — it may make sense for your company to run a re-engagement campaign.

We recently ran a re-engagement and reconfirmation campaign for our Canadian subscribers of MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa. The challenge for me when writing these emails was finding which messaging would be most compelling to subscribers.

At MECLABS, a challenge like that is a great opportunity to run a test, and then share the results with you on the MarketingExperiments Blog to help with your own campaigns.

To the splitter!

 

Treatment #1. Value of subscribing to the list only

Treatment 1 offered a reminder of the value our newsletters provide before asking the recipient to continue receiving these emails:

 

Treatment No. 1

  Read more…

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Email Marketing: Does your copywriting accomplish these 6 key objectives?

August 11th, 2014 3 comments

When writing an email message, it’s easy to break the goal down to one thing – just trying to write compelling enough copy to get a click.

But how do you actually earn that click?

If you really want to optimize your email marketing, you have to think like the customer and walk through the cognitive process that potential customers subconsciously go through when interacting with your email.

To achieve that click, your email copy must accomplish these six key objectives.

6-objectives-email

 

Objective #1. Arrest attention

Once you’ve captured an email subscriber, and gotten them to open the email, the next thing you have to do is stop them.

Basically, you need to stop them from quickly deleting. Stop them in their tracks to an extent.

By stopping them and grabbing their attention, you’re buying a few moments of their time to make a case for your conversion goal.

You can arrest their attention with a striking visual (although, with image blocking technology in many email readers, this can be reduced to a big blank space with a little red X) or a compelling headline.

Our testing suggests two effective strategies for writing a compelling headline.

email-headline-test

The first is making a promise. For example, this headline was one element of an email that increased conversion 181% (the headline has been anonymized). 

email-headline-test2

The second is identifying a problem. For example, this headline was one of the elements that generated a 75% higher clickthrough rate.

 

 

Objective #2. Build a connection

At this point, you’ve basically shouted, “Hey!” and stopped the prospect in their tracks.

Now you must build a connection with that prospect. You can start by bridging the gap between the headline or visual that caught their attention, and something that is meaningful to their lives.

This is why it is so important not to overpromise or mislead with a headline. If you’ve caught their attention but failed to connect with the prospect, you have only alienated him.

Read more…

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Email Marketing: Copy test increases clickthrough 37%

July 24th, 2014 3 comments

Converting attention into interest is really the sole purpose of copywriting.

How you approach that task in your marketing efforts can make a huge difference in the results.

In this MarketingExperiments Blog post, we’ll look at how some tactical copy changes increased one company’s clickthrough rate by 37% to help you craft effective copy of your own.

But first, here are a few snippets on the test.

 

Background: Company selling audio equipment and accessories.

Goal: To increase clickthrough rate.

Research Question: Which email copy approach will generate the highest clickthrough rate?

Test Design: A/B/C variable cluster split test

 

Controlemail-copy-test-control

 

In the control, the MECLABS research team hypothesized the email utilized a headline that was not immediately clear, thus undermining the value of the offer.

 

Treatments 

email-copy-test-treatments

 

Here is a simple breakdown of the differences in the treatments:

  • Treatment 1′s email tweaked the headline to focus on the aesthetics and performance value of the product.
  • Treatment 2′s headline was centered on the overall value proposition of the product.

Read more…

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