10 Email Marketing Design Best Practices to Follow in 2019

In 2019, marketers will witness growing trends of personalized and interactive emails. Companies that want to uplevel their email design will be including more interactive design elements such as live content (IE: countdown tools, weather data, etc.), AI-driven content and a more simplistic style of design. Additionally, there are other email marketing design trends that are climbing up the chart and will be important to consider in email marketing best practices such as CSS animation, use of GIFs, coordinated email designs with other marketing campaigns, inclusion of progressive enhancements in email when possible, scaling email build systems through partials, modules, templates, snippets, better email accessibility for visually impaired audience, email designs for dark mode, one-off email designs instead of templates, AMPHTML Email formats and so on.

Here we have picked 10 email design trends and best practices (in no specific order) which will rule the email marketing industry in 2019.

1. AMP Email   

Ever since Gmail announced its support for emails powered with AMP using an open-source technology, which is built to improve the security and performance of digital content, with Gmail support marketers can leverage a separate MIME-type to use AMP to include interactivity in emails. As the trend of interactive email grows, marketers should implement interactive email tricks and use AMP for email in order to create big opportunities for engagement and conversion.

The AMP HTML Email format will give email marketers components they can use in messages to let their subscribers view interactive content and interact with those components straight from the email message. To embrace AMP, marketers need to consider the following:

  • AMP for email requires including a new MIME part. Marketers need to code a completely new MIME part for the email along with creating a plain-text and HTML MIME parts.
  • Brands need to train their marketers and email developers on the AMP for Email which is a new coding language that they need to learn to be able to implement in their emails.
  • Though AMP for Email is known as open standard, however, the only email client to support this standard is Gmail.

2. More dynamic and personalization content

Focus on personalization of dynamic email content is growing as email marketers are gearing up for AI content. AI-backed email personalization enables marketers and brands to customize their email content on a greater scale, which was impossible earlier. Bridgette Darling, the Product Marketing Manager of Adobe Campaign has predicted the impact and use of artificial intelligence in email marketing will be consistent. As she says, “Email marketers will continue to become more comfortable using artificial intelligence and machine learning features to help scale their campaigns.” She also stated that special features of artificial Intelligence such as, predictive offers or predictive fatigue will be found integrated in various aspects of email marketing campaigns as these features will help marketers create more impactful user experiences that will be closely aligned to their customers’ behaviors, interests, intentions and actions to perform.

3. Enable machine learning and AI systems to control email content

As personalization continues to grow in popularity among email marketing, machine learning systems will come in handy in to determine and personalize content, send frequency, suggest product items for promotion, and suggest subject lines per subscribers’ prior reactions to diverse words/phrases/offers. Many email marketing experts expect that AI systems will be crucial in placing content autonomously in existing emails based on rules set and assigned by email marketers and developers. It is also hinted that there will be a greater dependency on machine learning by email developers in order to deliver more relevant and personalized content on a larger scale compared to their prior methods of designing and developing emails. Marketers should be specifically cautious about the security of communications and having a stringent QA process in place to ensure that they deliver contextually relevant and personalized emails to their subscribers.

4. Designing interactive experiences for subscribers

Interactive email designs are expected to continue increasing in demand for 2019. Industry experts concluded that email recipients can now check out real-time ecommerce in email. However marketers should wait for the technology which will support 1-click embedded in emails to enable their mails to retain customers’ logged in state for their brand store. We recommend brands to start developing engaging, interactive and uncomplicated user experiences by leveraging interactivity elements. For example, brands can incorporate interactive product reviews and rating requests in their emails to ask subscribers to choose the rating from a given range and/or even write a review, right within the email. The conversion point in these emails will be marked by when a subscriber finally clicks the ‘Post Rating’ or ‘Post Review’ CTA in order to submit their review. Overall, in 2019 marketers are expected to add more improved and impactful interactive elements to their emails for personalized and interactive experiences. Experts predict that adoption and integration of interactive email elements in the form of content use and design functionalities will increase in popularity in 2019.

5. Use of Live Content

Another trending email design feature is the inclusion of live content during email open instead of the time of send. Emails with live content allow for content to be more up to date and relevant to subscribers who don’t open the email immediately, or who open it more than once.

Common uses of live content include:

  • Real-time countdown clocks (e.g., end of sale)
  • Up-to-date weather information and forecasts
  • Live sports scores and medal tallies
  • Current inventory data

In addition to interactivity, live content is one of the primary capabilities of AMP for Email.

Whether your goal is engagement, entertainment, or education, interactivity and live content can “work well together,” according to Patrick Colalillo, Associate Creative Director at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting.

6. Simplifying email designs for both easier consumption and creation

Email attention spans are short—about 11 seconds according to research done by Litmus. Brands are starting to create email content that is more concise and to the point in order to fit this short attention span by most consumers.

Mobile has been the principal driving force behind simpler email designs. According to Laura Flores, Regional Director at Oracle says, “With the increase in mobile usage and advances in usability on mobile devices, mobile-only design just makes sense. We always recommend clients keep their emails concise and drive customers to ‘Learn More’ on a landing page. A mobile-only design forces you into that best practice.”

Flores says this approach makes even more sense if your audience is heavily comprised of Gen Z subscribers. According to Fluent, 81% of people between the ages of 18 to 24 check their email on a smart phone most often.

7. Using more animation, whether gifs or css animation

Movement is attention-grabbing and is becoming a more common email design element. Animated GIFs are considerably more popular than CSS animation but both can be effective ways to add motion to emails.

Keeping animated GIF image sizes small, limiting the number of frames, compressing the file size and ideally using just one animation per email can all help keep emails interesting while also keeping the email load time down.

8. Sync email designs with campaign designs running in other channels

Email marketing campaigns are no longer standalone marketing efforts. Marketers are adopting all-encompassing marketing campaigns through multiple channels including, but not limited to, advertising, events, direct marketing, social media, organic and paid search marketing, and content marketing. These days emails aren’t the only campaign marketers have running, they are part of an overall, holistic marketing campaign that spans a variety of outreach.   

Despite the opportunities to integrate email into multi-channel marketing campaigns, according to the Litmus 2018 State of Email Survey results, more than 30% of brands are yet to make this transformation in their marketing campaign strategy. Yet on the other hand, around 66% of organizations are in the process of either planning to implement the coordinated email practices or have already made the changes.

9. Scale build programs systems through templates, modules, snippets, partials, etc.

Email campaign designs are growing to be ever complex with the advent of marketing technology tools. In order to gain control and manage the complexity of design, organizations can create emails by adopting email modular builds and templates that consist of various snippets and partials.

10. Adding progressive enhancements to create richer experiences where supported

Email marketers have long abandoned the goal of creating “pixel-perfect” emails. That goal causes marketers to play down to the lowest common denominator, to limit their designs to what the least advanced email client supports. While it ensures a consistent brand experience, that experience is uninspiring.

Savvy marketers are now fully embracing the goal of creating “platform-perfect” emails that play up the capabilities of more advanced email clients. Email interactivity, AMP for email and responsive email design are all part of this trend to use progressive enhancements to take advantage of advanced email clients.

Along with ‘platform-perfect’ emails, “Hybrid or fluid responsive code is also part of this trend, “ says James Wurm, Manager of Email and Web Development at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting.

Final words…

Along with our many other tips for email design, marketers need to give thought to designs that will improve email accessibility for people with disabilities. Email accessibility has been a rising concern for several years. For 2019, email marketing experts recommend organizations and marketers heavily cater and/or enhancing experiences for subscribers who have visual impairment, partial blindness, color-blindness and other disabilities.