Recently, I received an interesting email from J.Crew. It’s in some ways unconventional and goes against one common best practice. Best practice would tell you the call-to-action should be “above the fold”. “The fold”, however, is an antiquated term and hard to define in today’s email universe. You can basically translate this to saying that the call-to-action should be visible without scrolling. This is a bit tricky considering the various monitor resolutions, tablets, and smart phones people view their email on. As a designer, this can be frustrating because if you truly stick to this best practice it can cause some limitations in your design. What I like about this email is the fact that it doesn’t follow best practice. There’s no clear call-to-action initially — you have to scroll down to see it. What this email did was make me curious. Not only did curiosity make me scroll down, it made me click to “find out why”. Now, I’m not saying throw caution to the wind and ignore best practices. They’ve been established for a reason. What I am saying is its ok to shake things up and break the rules now and then.
In case you’re not aware Gmail is currently doing a field trial that allows you to view image previews of promotional emails. It’s referred to as the grid view. I signed up for the field trial and it’s definitely something retailers will want to take advantage of. There was however an issue I noticed. Some of the emails did not have an image preview. With a little research I discovered there are a few things that can cause this problem. This article at FreshInbox provides some helpful information about fixes for the issue.
A little over two months ago Lane Bryant began sending emails in a slimmer format. They changed the overall width of their emails from 640 pixels to 480 pixels. This change is not limited to Lane Bryant either. This is a trend you’ll see with many other retailers. So what gives? It’s no secret that email opens on mobile devices is a big deal (currently about 50% are opened on a mobile device). This is another shift toward mobile friendly email design. Slimmer emails with larger text sizes and fewer navigation links are all practices that make email mobile friendly. This is not necessarily responsive design, it’s a “mobile first” mentality. I expect to see more retailers embracing this in the future.
Lane Bryant is also including mobile signup in the email footer. Engaging customers via SMS messaging is something that isn’t talked about much. If you have the capability it’s definitely something to consider. Customers that trust you with their phone number are typically your most loyal customers.
Cyber Monday is officially upon us. As I navigated my crowded inbox this morning one email in particular stood out. This email from J.Crew grabbed my attention because of its clever subject line and message. The subject line reads “Even your boss is shopping today”. This message speaks to the taboo activity of shopping while at work. The model in the email is even winking which to me subliminally says “its ok, no one will know”. By some estimates 49% of workers are expected to shop online while in the office this holiday season. This makes the message you communicate as well as the timing of the email even more important during the holiday season.
When I logged into my inbox Friday I expected to see a lot of black and I wasn’t disappointed. Black is naturally the go to color for Black Friday creative. However, when everyone is using black, how do you make your creative stand out in the crowd? Let’s take a look at some examples that did just that.
First let’s look at some examples that get lost in the sea of black. These examples from Staples and Fab are representative of the average Black Friday email creative. Not bad by most standards but they don’t exactly stand out.
This example from American Apparel uses black. However, they’ve created an eye catching contrast by using black elements on a light background. By using plenty of whitespace they’re able to really make the bold text and image stand out.
J.Crew uses a splash of red to create high contrast. The use of a bright red sweater in this example really makes it pop. I also find it interesting there’s no mention of “Black Friday”. Instead they call it “The gifts, gifts, gifts! Event”.
Coldwater Creek chose to use black as an accent color. It still references Black Friday and uses the color black but red is the featured color here. All that red combined with black and green accents give the email a nice seasonal feel.
Tiger Direct used an animated ticker in their creative. Animation is a good way to draw attention. In this case it also helps emphasize the limited amount of time you have to take advantage of the sale.
Another way to stand out is to avoid using black at all. This email from Nordstrom is full of bright colors which help it stand out. Barring the dotted border they completely avoided using black. They could have used black for the text “BLACK FRIDAY” but instead chose gray.
During the holiday season, I see many retailers successfully tailoring their emails to holiday shoppers. Most holiday emails, however, are specifically focused on Christmas specials or sales; what I don’t see as often are emails focused on Hanukkah, especially with regards to the creative. A search through my inbox will return many emails with “Hanukkah” in the subject line, but there are few examples that carry the theme through to the actual design. Here are two nice examples I’ve seen that focus on Hanukkah.
When it comes to Call-to-Action buttons, you should never be done testing. Many of the design best practices for retail websites hold true for retail emails as well. GetElastic shares some great insights in their recent blog post, "Are You Ever Done Testing Call-to-Action Buttons?".
I recently spoke with Website Magazine about seven things to consider when designing email for mobile devices. You can read the full article here.
For quite some time now GAP has been sending emails that are 832 pixels wide. While most desktop resolutions can easily accommodate this width, without responsive design this would still be considered against best practice. That being said, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to examine one of their emails and see how it could be made responsive. Below you’ll see how the email currently looks on a smart phone. You can see how the content is hard to read. You could easily mis-tap an element in the layout causing you to be directed somewhere you didn’t intend to go. The bottom line is this is not providing a good experience for the recipient.
Here’s what the email could look like on a smart phone with a little responsive magic. You can see how elements are much easier to read and the message is much clearer. By removing certain elements in the layout you can cut the clutter. This allows you to narrow it down to what is most important. Notice how the navigation has been narrowed down to two items. This makes everything easier to tap. This layout would greatly improve the overall experience for the recipient.
Recently I received a series of seven emails from J. Crew. The series started on Monday and I received one email a day for seven days. The promotion was fittingly called “7 Days of Summer”. There were a few things I really liked about this campaign. Each day the sale was different. The design of the email was also a little different each day yet had a nice consistent feel. Below the navigation there was a progress bar where the day of the week was highlighted with a hand drawn circle. The use of hand drawn text in the design was a nice touch as well.
Email series can be applied to almost any holiday or event throughout the year. With the holiday season quickly approaching it may be something worth thinking about. “12 Days of Christmas” or “Countdown to the New Year” are just a few examples that could make a nice email series.