Email marketing has long been a cornerstone of successful eCommerce businesses, mainly for customer retention, but also for customer acquisition. Ever since iOS 14.5 sparked the beginning of the end for 3rd party data (data you “lease”), there has been a shift in focus back towards 1st party data (data you “own”). Email remains one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to grow online revenue, and as a result, we’ve seen a spike in interest from DTC brands to further enhance their email marketing campaigns. 


This blog post will explore well-established email practices as well as those that have evolved from their original forms. As platforms develop and consumer interaction transforms the way we market via email we will also be discussing entirely new topics to the ecosystem. So without further ado let’s jump into our first topic; email design. 

Email Design

Email UI by Hal Gatewood

When we consider email design we must both take in the aesthetic appearance as well as the maneuverability/usability of the email. Possessing a good design eye for layout is essential but understanding the technical capabilities of the platforms, in regards to designing for usability, is equally important.

Without diving too deep into the nuances of design theory, we essentially want an email that is logically organized and flows visually. To achieve a fluid email we can consider three things:

1. Legibility and consideration of viewing paths. Generally-speaking, eyes will move from top to bottom while forming a Z pattern (indicated in red below). So our goal here is to create visual hierarchy that clearly defines how a reader should navigate the topography of your email. If you have a lot to say, think of an email also as a series of tiers (indicated in blue below). Tier one being the “primary messaging” where content should be short and sweet , then the second tier slightly more information dense (secondary messaging), with the the bottom section being a final call-to-action or an opportunity to repeat one of the primary topics of the email.

Email Reading Path

2. Standardization of basic UI elements is a best practice to give your brand identity and cohesion across different channels. In this case try to match all elements of your design across your marketing suite, from ads to emails, by setting a standard for font styles, sizes, buttons, pre-headers sections, footers et al UI pieces.

Email Style Guide

3. Designing for dark mode sounds daunting, but it does not have to be. The easy way to appeal to both modes is to create image blocks and thus force the email to use your styling. However, using the image block method renders text uneditable and also increases image file size. So the best practice is to visualize and test both scenarios while keeping in mind that whatever color you use will be roughly inverted to its opposite in dark mode, i.e. light colors become dark, and vice versa.

As mentioned previously, designing emails with more editable text is ideal, although not always easy, or necessarily achievable. Some designs just cannot be accomplished without heavy coding and thus an image with text baked into it is an acceptable compromise. An area you want to avoid compromising on is the header which  should at least be editable so that before images load, a user will get a gist of the email. If you are using platforms such as Klaviyo, the email editor offers a much more versatile ecosystem for design while providing editable text, effectively solving two issues with one solution. From a platform-agnostic viewpoint, using less text-infused images on emails affords more responsiveness across devices as well.


Typing and Email by Cytonn Photography

When it comes to copywriting, in addition to following AP format, there are three main components to each email:

Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

1. Subject Line (indicated in yellow below)

    • This is the first thing a user views in their inbox and thus our primary method for grabbing their attention. Subject lines are ideally 20-40 characters in length.
    • One other thing to consider for subject lines is the actual content within it. Words or phrases that seem too spammy (such as “Save”, “Winner”, “100%” etc) should be avoided, as well as using “!” or “$”, using all caps and even starting a subject line with a numeral. One thing is encouraged however, the use of emojis. Do not use them for every subject line, but logically-placed they can work wonders for open rates.

2. Pre-header Text (indicated in green below)

    • This is the second portion of the email that will be viewed prior to actually opening the email. It resides next to the subject lines for most inbox platforms. Pre-header texts are ideally 40-80 characters in length, writing more content may result in text getting clipped on most inbox platforms. 
Parts of an Email in Inbox

3. Body Copy

    • This is whatever you decide to write within the actual email, from headlines to paragraphs; it is either editable or caked into images.
    • Try to aim for headlines no smaller than 30px and body copy no less than 20px so that content remains reasonably legible. Remember, smaller sizes tend to become difficult to read on mobile devices.
    • One last piece to the puzzle is to not let copy exceed 5-7 sentences in any given content block. Copy should also not surpass 100px from either side of the email (consider this the gutter).

You can also play around with the sender name (indicated in red above) for specific events. It is advisable that you conduct a/b testing though, as at least one of the tests should be the regular sending name. 

Asset Dimensions and File Sizes

Tape Measure by Diana Polekhina

First and foremost, asset dimensions in any visual, image-based form should not exceed 600px in width. This will alleviate the occurrence of horizontal scrolling, which is to be avoided with emails as it decreases usability. Additionally images should be saved in RGB mode to retain proper colors for a digital platform.

The second consideration is to keep email sizes around 2MB. An easy way to remain within these margins is to make sure individual files do not exceed 1MB. If you exceed the rough standard of 2MB you run the risk of portions of your email being cut-off in the inbox, which can leave customers confused.

Send Times

Minimalist Clock by Moritz Kindler

With changing times comes changes in user behavior. Despite recent fluctuations there are still suggested times to send emails that can help you get the biggest bang for your buck. Ranked in order of success, the following are the days and times of the week for optimal sends:

  1. Wednesday or Thursday at 0900, 1000, 1400 or 2000
  2. Tuesday at 0600,1000 or 1400
  3. Friday at 1000 or 2000
  4. Monday at 1000 or 1400
  5. Saturday at 1000
  6. Sunday at 1000

Closing Remarks

Email is a powerful tool and when wielded properly can provide some of the best ROIs out of any marketing platforms. In addition to retaining ownership over your email data, you can control the means of its collection which makes it more reliable. As email lists grow, they also become invaluable assets for use in paid media campaign targeting. Now is a good time to reconsider what is going into your emails and how they are being  delivered to your customers. Devote some time and TLC to your email campaigns and you’ll be rewarded with engaged customers and increased revenue.

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