Litmus Blog https://litmus.com/blog Litmus Company Blog Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:31:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Data You Should Be Using to Optimize Your Clients’ Campaigns: Webinar Q&A https://litmus.com/blog/data-you-should-be-using-to-optimize-your-clients-campaigns-webinar-qa https://litmus.com/blog/data-you-should-be-using-to-optimize-your-clients-campaigns-webinar-qa#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:55:37 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11613 “It’s ok, we have good open and click through rates.”

Did your eyes roll a little when reading that line? How many times have you had a client say that to you when you asked about their email metrics? While helpful, these two metrics rarely give a well-rounded portrait of how subscribers are interacting with their emails (and if they are actually engaged at all!).

As part of Digital Agency Day, we hosted a live webinar that covered the “other metrics” that your team should be looking at to optimize emails for your clients.

Didn’t have a chance to make it to the webinar? No worries! We recorded the whole thing.

 

View slides on SlideShare →

There were so many great questions during the webinar. We didn’t have a chance to get to them all, but have answered them all here on the blog. Have any additional questions? Leave them in the comments.

Why do opens and clicks only give a limited portrait of subscriber engagement?

While open and click rates are a great way to see what subject lines and preview text are getting the most opens, and what links are getting the most clicks, they don’t provide a deeper understanding of subscriber interactions. How long were they engaged with your client’s email? Did they forward it to anyone? Opens and clicks lack data like these insights.

What other metrics should we look at when building email campaigns for our clients?

Engagement rates (or time spent on email)

Engagement time is incredibly important to review in parallel to your client’s open rates. Are your client’s subscribers even reading their emails, or simply glancing and deleting them?

In the webinar, I gave the example of why I am a “marketer’s worst nightmare.” I am one of those dreaded folks who opens an email to get it out of their open count on their mobile device, but barely bothers to actually read the mailing. And, I am not the only subscriber to do this! While it counts as an open, I’m not actually engaging with the email at all.

By using time on spent on email, you can understand the divide between the real “Readers,” “Skim Readers,” and “Glance and Deleters” (this is how we actually break it down in Litmus Email Analytics).

With this data in hand you can send content-rich newsletters to your clients most engaged subscribers. Are you seeing the same subscribers consistently skipping over your client’s emails? Maybe it’s time to remove them from your client’s main mailing list and add them to a “disengaged” list—try a win-back campaign!

Email client and device open data

Understanding the different email apps and programs your client’s subscribers are using will help you create consistent, well-performing messages. Do they have a high percentage of mobile opens? Are a lot of their subscribers using Outlook 2010? This information can help guide both strategic and design decisions for your client’s email program.

For example, if your clients are seeing a high percentage of opens on mobile devices, you might want to consider a scalable, fluid, or responsive design (we cover these approaches in the webinar!). Or use the data to send targeted messages to smartphone users, like announcing a new mobile app.

Geolocation data

With geolocation data, you can pinpoint exactly where your client’s subscribers are when they read their email.

Are your client’s subscribers mostly in Europe? Are they mostly in Europe opening on Apple devices in the mornings? Looking at these metrics can have a profound influence on your send time, what platforms you tailor your content for, the language of the email, and even the type of content that they see.

For example, here at Litmus, we used geolocation data to target our announcement email for The Email Design Conference. West coast subscribers received info about our San Francisco conference, east coast subscribers about our Boston conference, and European subscribers about our London conference. These geo-targeted emails saw an average of 209% increase in opens over the general email that included information about all three locations.

Forwards and prints

Use forward and print data to note trends with email sharing and other evangelist behaviors. Consider rewarding frequent forwarders by creating a loyalty program. Print and forward activity can also help identify high-performing or “viral” content in your client’s email program, providing another data point outside of opens and clicks.

Is there a one-size-fits-all solution for optimizing designs across all the different email apps and devices?

The short answer is no. However, there is a silver lining! You don’t have to optimize your designs for every email app—you only have to focus on the ones that the majority of your client’s subscribers are using.

There is a very wide variety of email clients and apps that your client’s subscribers could be using to view their emails. Between desktop, mobile, and webmail clients—plus different versions of those clients, as well as numerous email apps—it can seem as though the list of places your client’s subscribers are viewing their emails is endless.

In order to stay sane it’s probably not realistic to test in every possible combination. As a result, knowing where your client’s audience is opening your emails is key to narrowing down which programs and apps you should test in. It not only saves you time, but ensures that your client’s email will render well in all of the necessary environments.

For example, if only a minor portion of your client’s audience is using Outlook—which can be difficult to design for—then you shouldn’t waste too much time optimizing your emails in that client.

Should we make it easy for our client’s subscribers to unsubscribe? Or is that email marketing suicide?

We always recommend making it easy for subscribers to unsubscribe. Not only is an unsubscribe link necessary under spam laws, but if it’s missing or inaccessible, it can greatly affect your client’s overall sending reputation.

If subscribers can’t easily spot an opt-out link, then they make block the message, or mark it as spam. While unsubscribes aren’t ideal, it’s better than getting a block or spam complaint.

How can Litmus help agencies and teams building emails for clients?

For starters, Litmus offers access to all of the metrics mentioned—engagement rates, email client device open data, print and forward tracking, and geolocation data. We provide these metrics at an aggregate level, as well as an individual-level. With Email Analytics you simply add a small tracking code to your client’s campaigns, and all of the deep-data reports are generated for you.

We also offer a plan that was built specifically for agencies. Our Unlimited plan allows your team to add as many users and use as many Email Analytics tracking codes as needed. We just charge based on usage.

Plus, this is the only plan that comes with subaccounts, as well as Litmus accounts that you can offer or resell to your client.

Want more information about our Unlimited plan? Shoot me a note.

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The Ultimate Guide to GMX and Web.de: How do they display your emails? https://litmus.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-gmx-and-web-de-how-do-they-display-your-emails https://litmus.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-gmx-and-web-de-how-do-they-display-your-emails#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 20:14:33 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11551 Founded in 1988, United Internet AG is one of Germany’s leading ISPs, and the parent company of several webmail clients. Between all their services, they have over 47 million customer accounts.

One of United Internet’s email clients is GMX, which was founded in 1997. GMX is owned by Global Mail Exchange, a subsidiary of United Internet AG, and has more than 19 million users. It offers a free webmail client, GMX Freemail, which, much like AOL Mail and Gmail, is advertising-supported. It also offers paid options—TopMail and ProMail—which offer additional storage and email addresses for members residing in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

WEB.DE, founded in 1995, is another email client provided by United Internet. It has 15 million users, and also offers a free, advertising-supported webmail client, WEB.DE Freemail. It also offers professional, fee-based solutions for those with larger email needs.

Nearly 54% of emails in Germany are opened in GMX or WEB.DE. If you’re based in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland (or one of your offices is), or you’re emailing subscribers based in those countries, then you should be aware of how your emails display in these clients—and if they’ll even reach the inbox.

A LOOK AT THE CLIENTS + THEIR TOOLS

Mobile apps + flexible access

Both GMX and WEB.DE make it easy to access email anywhere, on any device. Users can check email via the webmail client and POP3/IMAP. In addition, both clients offer iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps.

Many email addresses, one app

GMX Freemail users are granted two email addresses with the domain of @gmx.de (Germany), @gmx.at (Austria), @gmx.ch (Switzerland), or @gmx.net. Both email addresses can be hooked up within one interface, so users can access all of their mail—personal and business—within one app.

For those with paying GMX ProMail and TopMail accounts, they are granted more email addresses, as well as a wider array of domains to choose from.

WEB.DE users are granted one email address with the @web.de domain. There are premium services for users that need more addresses.

Email actions in the browser

GMX and WEB.DE both offer MailCheck services for no additional cost. MailCheck is a browser add-on that allows users to see the number of unread messages in their inbox. It also gives users the ability to take action directly from within their browser—they can write emails, refresh their inbox, view their media center, and check their calendar. MailCheck also allows for desktop notifications.

gmx-mailcheck

In addition, when MailCheck is set up, the mail storage capacity in both GMX and WEB.DE Freemail increase.

YOUR EMAIL IN GMX + WEB.DE

Now let’s get to the good stuff—how do your emails display in these clients?

Optimize your emails in GMX + WEB.DE

Use Litmus Email Analytics to see if your subscribers open in GMX and WEB.DE and get Instant Previews in those clients with Litmus.

Try Litmus free →

 

THE INBOX VIEW

GMX

GMX automatically sorts emails into five categories: Favorites, Inbox, Read, Spam, Sent, and Draft. When a user logs in, they are automatically taken to the Inbox folder.

gmx-inbox-folder

The Inbox folder includes all emails that pass through the GMX spam filter, as well as advertisements. Advertisements are greyed out, and display a logo next to their sender name. Advertisements can be removed from the inbox by clicking on the “X” icon next to the sender name (see “Keuchenportal.de” example above).

If a user clicks on an advertisement, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the email:

gmx-disclaimer

This disclaimer clarifies that this is an advertisement, and that user data will not be passed on to the advertiser.

In addition:

  • Symbols in the subject line are supported
  • Preview text is not displayed

Since preview text isn’t supported, the sender name and subject line will be crucial for encouraging subscribers to open. Use a recognizable, trustworthy from name, and an optimized subject line.

WEB.DE

WEB.DE sorts emails into eight categories: Unread, Favorites, Friends & Acquaintances, Unknown, Trash, Spam, Sent, and Drafts. When a user logs in, they are automatically placed in their Friends & Acquaintances folder.

web-friends-acq

Emails in this folder include emails from WEB.DE, as well as those in the user’s address book, and senders they frequently interact with.

Like GMX, WEB.DE also supports symbols in the inbox.

webde-symbols

WEB.DE has advertisements in the inbox, but rather than showing the advertiser’s icon, they use their own logo to distinguish ads from other messages in the inbox.

web-ads

In the example above, the advertisement is for Skoda, a car manufacturer. The subject line translates to “WEB.DE presents Skoda.” Similar to GMX, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of each advertisement.

HOW DO GMX and WEB.DE DISPLAY YOUR EMAILS?

Similar to AOL Mail, GMX and WEB.DE how emails in an iframe, rather than embedding them. This maintains your email’s original code, rather than reformatting it inline—and it leads to great rendering capabilities.

gmx-email

Email in GMX

web-email

Email in WEB.DE

Images automatically on

Both GMX and WEB.DE display images by default in the inbox. However, optimizing for image blocking for other email clients is always a great idea. Try using HTML text, ALT text, and bulletproof buttons.

However, all messages in the Spam folder have images disabled. And, when this is the case, images are collapsed and ALT text is not supported.

images-on

Images enabled in GMX

images-off

Images blocked in GMX

Support for Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs are a great way to add interactive visuals to your designs. Luckily, both GMX and WEB.DE support animated GIFs, so feel free to get creative.

However, not all email clients support animated GIFs. Instead, they will show the first frame of the animation. To overcome this, ensure vital information—perhaps a call-to-action, offer, or headline—is included in the first frame of your GIF.

Lack of advanced HTML and CSS support

While GMX and WEB.DE have great support for HTML and CSS basics, they lack support for advanced techniques. This isn’t unexpected—most webmail clients have similar shortcomings.

For example, neither GMX nor WEB.DE support HTML5 video. If you’re using these types of advanced techniques, be sure to have proper fallbacks in place.

In addition, we noticed during testing that neither client supports border-radius. This attribute is often used to add rounded corners to call-to-action (CTA) buttons, like the one below:

border-radius

GMX and WEB.DE do not support border radius

It’s a subtle change compared to email clients where where border-radius is supported:

border-radius gmail

Gmail supports border-radius

Lack of support for border-radius won’t affect the functionality of your CTAs.

SPAM FILTERS, SECURITY & DELIVERABILITY

Germany is known for its strict spam laws, and GMX and WEB.DE pride themselves on their high security and privacy standards. Both have a multi-level spam filter, which detects unsolicited emails and moves them to the Spam folder.

The spam filters perform tasks like:

  • Distinguishing reputable emails from unsolicited bulk emails based on checksum methods.
  • Analyzing emails for technical properties and errors that are typical of spam.
  • Checking emails for fake sender addresses (i.e. ensuring the email was sent from the server responsible for the domain).
  • Comparing emails with internal and external lists (i.e. IP addresses of servers known for sending spam or URLs that occur in known spam e-mails).

In addition, there is also a personal spam filter in these clients. When a user personally marks an email as “Spam” or “Not Spam,” future emails from those senders will be classified in the correct folder.

“Email Made in Germany”

In an effort to promote German email providers as the most secure in the world, four of United Internet’s brands—GMX, WEB.DE, Telekom, and freenet—joined together to implement new security standards.

The result of this initiative—“Email Made in Germany”—was launched in August 2013. The program ensures that email traveling between its email servers never leave local servers, which are all based in Germany. Email Made in Germany guarantees that all emails are transmitted with SSL encryption and protected against access from third parties.

Secure senders are marked with an “Email Made in Germany” seal.

email made in germany

Source: Email Made in Germany

It should be noted that this program is only effective for emails being transferred between GMX, WEB.DE, Telekom, and freenet. If a user from within the network emails a user with a Gmail account, that email will not be encrypted. Users will be notified if they are emailing to an address that does not fall under the program’s protection.

Trusted Dialog

Founded in 2009 by email clients like WEB.DE, GMX, 1 & 1, freenet, and T-Online, Trusted Dialog is an initiative that aims to protect their users from spam.

Trusted Dialog verifies the authenticity of the sender’s emails through DKIM, ensuring that the sender is who they say they are. After proof of authenticity has been provided, the sender gets the Trusted Dialog seal and their logo displayed in the inbox.

trusteddialog-logo

Thanks to the seal and logo, users can easily identify trustworthy emails in their inboxes. Many Trusted Dialog brands have seen an increase in opens and clicks as a result of the increased trust with their subscribers.

Other benefits of being a Trusted Dialog brand include:

  • Direct delivery to the inbox—not the spam folder. In GMX, emails are delivered straight to the inbox, whereas in WEB.DE messages are delivered to the Friends & Acquaintances folder.
  • Video content will play within the inbox. Trusted Dialog brands can include video within an iframe, which will display in WEB.DE, GMX, 1 & 1, freenet, and T-Online.

In addition, when a user views an email from a Trusted Dialog brand, the email is the focus of the screen—advertisements are removed.

brand

Conversely, for non-Trusted Dialog brands, advertisements are viewable in the sidebar:

not-brand-001

OPTIMIZE YOUR EMAILS GMX AND WEB.DE

Use Litmus Email Analytics to see if your subscribers open in GMX and WEB.DE and get Instant Previews in those clients with Litmus.

Rest assured that your designs look great regardless of where your subscribers are opening.

Try Litmus free →

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I Used to Be Ashamed of Being in Email Marketing https://litmus.com/blog/i-used-to-be-ashamed-of-being-in-email-marketing https://litmus.com/blog/i-used-to-be-ashamed-of-being-in-email-marketing#comments Thu, 28 Jan 2016 18:11:14 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11527 I have a confession: I wasn’t always proud to be a part of the email marketing industry.

Shortly after making the jump from journalism to email marketing in the mid-2000s, I was at a party with my wife and told a new acquaintance that I was in email marketing. “Oh, so you’re the one that sends me all that spam?” he retorted. He was obnoxious, but his words really crushed my pride. At future parties, I was simply “in marketing” and would transition to other, safer topics.

Social media seemed to steal all of email’s thunder in the late 2000s. Then the mobile revolution got rolling. And even though I knew both of those innovations made email more relevant, not less, public opinion didn’t seem to reflect that. The press declared that “Email Is Dead,” even as tech giants spent billions acquiring email service providers.

This was around the time that it hit me: Everyone’s trying to tear down email because everyone wishes they were email. They wish they had as many users, were as accepted, had the same richness of messaging, generated the ROI, had the same 1-to-1 capabilities, and were as ingrained in people’s daily lives.

“Email is the last great unowned technology,” says Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain. He’s totally right, and I’ve long argued that being an open platform is key to email’s strength and staying power—and why no one will ever come even close to matching email.

So stand tall. Be proud. We’ve made a very smart decision to be a part of this strong, important, dynamic industry. And what’s even better is that now a lot more people are starting to realize this truth.

Email’s Transformation

That’s because email marketing is entering a period of transformation, and is doing so at a time when attention is shifting back to email. This transformation is being driven by mobile and by the integration of email across channels and across functional domains.

The majority of emails will be opened on mobile devices in 2016. Coincidentally, the majority of marketers will finally adopt responsive email design this year. Beacons, geofences, mobile barcodes, and mobile app behavior triggers will further intertwine email and mobile going forward.

In recent years, several large email service providers have been acquired by tech giants like Salesforce, Oracle, and IBM. And we’ll almost certainly see another major ESP acquired this year by the likes of Microsoft or SAP, before it becomes simply too late for them to catch up. This is not a wave of consolidation, which is generally when an industry is over the hill and forced into uncomfortable compromises. This is a wave of integration that’s akin to completing an MBA. In other words, email marketing is getting a big fat promotion.

Email marketing tools are being integrated into CRM, analytics, and digital marketing suites and across functional areas like sales and customer service. Technology is essentially, at long last, de-siloing email marketing, while simultaneously bringing us closer than ever to achieving the mythical single view of the customer.

Shiny Again

All of this is happening at a fortuitous time. Facebook and other leased media are morphing into paid media, and many forms of paid media are morphing into blocked media. That has brands returning to permission-based email marketing and rediscovering a channel that still has the No. 1 or No. 2 return on investment, depending on what research you look at.

This resurgence of email marketing is evident in recent headlines. After years and years of “Email Is Dead” headlines, we’re now seeing the Harvard Business Review—which has been no fan of email—write about The Triumphant Return of the Email Newsletter, The Guardian write about Lena Dunham and why 2015 was the year of the email newsletter, and The Atlantic write about The Triumph of Email. For those of us who have been in the industry for 10-plus years, I can tell you this is a very refreshing script-flip.

More anecdotally, this resurgence also seems to be attracting fresh blood to the email industry. During the latter half of the oughts, a significant number of email marketers left the industry to join the very shiney social and mobile industries. That exodus slowed significantly in recent years, but now the strangest thing is happening: People are no longer falling into the email industry because “no one else wanted to do it and I was the new person” or other circumstances beyond their control. Instead, people are actively choosing a career in email.

At The Email Design Conference last year, I met people in their early 20s who were really excited about email. Some were web developers who had come over to email, and are now on the leading edge of the interactive email movement that’s bringing web functionality like carousels and hamburger menus into the inbox. A few were fresh out of college—including one guy who was starting his own email marketing agency in Sweden. That’s kind of unprecedented, and frankly awesome to see.

For all of these reasons—new technology, broad integration, more positive press, and fresh blood—email marketing will experience a second coming of age in 2016. It will be a time of accelerating competitive advantage for brands that are committed to investing in high-ROI, subscriber-centric strategies. And it will be a dangerous time for brands whose resource-starved email strategies have never matured beyond batch and blast.

I, personally, have never been more proud and excited to be a part of the email marketing industry. I hope you are, too.

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How Support Teams Can Use Email to Engage Customers https://litmus.com/blog/how-support-teams-can-use-email-to-engage-customers https://litmus.com/blog/how-support-teams-can-use-email-to-engage-customers#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 19:23:48 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11522 Support emails…we know, we know, they don’t sound very glamorous. Using email beyond the standard promotional or transactional function doesn’t always garner a lot of attention. However, often overlooked support emails are one of the best ways to build relationships and engage your customers.

The benefits of using email for support

While we also offer phone, live chat, and Twitter support here at Litmus, email is what works best for us. Yes, we really love email!

When it comes to supporting issues within the app, we find it’s the quickest way to gather all of the necessary and relevant information, document the issue, and escalate it to our development team.

Outside of the typical issue and bug reports, we also use support emails to build relationships with our customers, facilitate interactions, gain product suggestions, and build brand personality. It’s also an opportunity to showcase features to our users that they may not have been aware of.

For those reasons and more, we recently transitioned our Customer Support team into our Customer Success team. We’re more than support—and email plays a huge role in making that clear to our customers. Here’s how:

Day-to-day support interactions

Use a consistent voice and style

Numerous members of the Litmus team are customer-facing, so having a cohesive style and voice is crucial. The tone of the Litmus voice is casual because we want you to feel like you’re talking to a friend, not a robot.

Keep it timely

Nobody likes receiving an automated response with a ticket number, followed by a stiff, impersonal response weeks later. We answer 86% of all customer emails within 6 hours. We want our customers to know that if something is bugging them, it’s on our minds, too!

Use plain text emails

In addition to making sure all of our emails have a “Litmusy” voice, the design of our daily emails is consistent as well. There’s nothing fancy to them. In fact, they’re not designed at all. We use plain text to ensure that our emails will render across all platforms. This makes us and our message accessible to our customers.

Be helpful, very helpful

Day-to-day support emails also give you an opportunity to introduce your users to all the tools and benefits that your product provides. For example, while reviewing a customer’s email, you may notice that they aren’t using all of the features available in their account. This is the perfect opportunity to link them to a quick tutorial, or even give them temporary access to a feature that requires an upgrade. Every interaction by email is an opportunity to educate your users, and make them aware of tools they may not be utilizing.

Gain feedback and product ideas

Litmus is not just a product, it’s a team of awesome people, too. We’re approachable, resourceful, and helpful—and we’re able to show that via email. The more we convey that to our customers, the more comfortable they are coming to us with their feedback, ideas, and issues.

Every support email gives us the opportunity to interact with our customers and gain their invaluable feedback.

Your customers are your best resource, and for this reason the support team can really help guide product development. Outside of helping our team to identify issues and bugs, users pass along a variety of feedback every day that motivates us to improve our customer experience.

Specific to Litmus, this includes notifying us of changes in the email marketing industry. Users help us track down changes in email clients as soon as they happen, and rendering issues when a new version is released.

They’re also a huge resource for UX/UI improvements. In fact, many of the changes made in our recent app updates came from daily interactions with our customers via email.

Even after the app update launched, our development team was poring over email feedback and making constant tweaks and adjustments to the platform. The result was a clean, efficient, and powerful design that improved workflows and made email better.

Triggered support emails

In addition to our daily support emails, we have several triggered emails that are sent to customers at various stages of their Litmus subscription. One of the emails is sent out if a customer decides not to activate their subscription on Litmus. This helps us to understand why the user decided against upgrading their account.

email1-02

Another triggered support email that we have is a check-in note a few weeks after a customer has signed up. We ask how things are going, and make sure any questions the customer has get answered.

email2-02

And, like our day-to-day emails, we keep the design of these triggered emails very simple and use plain text. This helps to keep them casual and conversational, and ensure they are accessible regardless of whether our customers are reading on desktop, mobile, or webmail.

Triggered emails give us yet another opportunity to interact with our users. While we have a lot of customers that choose to start a conversation by emailing our support inbox, we also know it’s important for us to reach out as well. It’s a two-way street and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to improve our user experience.

Cancellation emails

Whenever a customer decides to cancel their Litmus subscription, we ask them to provide feedback within the app. Users can choose from a few pre-filled reasons for cancelling, or they can opt to write their own. Each response creates an email that is sent into support.

While these emails can be tough to read sometimes (hey, no one likes being broken up with!), they provide us with invaluable feedback. Whether it’s an issue with the product, UI/UX, billing, or customer service, they give us advice on where we need to improve.

They also give us a second chance to redeem ourselves. For example, if they cancelled because they thought we were lacking a feature that we actually had—we can make them aware of that tool.

Or, maybe they were on a lower level plan and didn’t realize one of our upgraded plans had the feature they were looking for. This is the perfect opportunity to let them try the upgraded feature.

While breakups are never easy, they’re a great learning experience—and, hey, if you’re lucky, you may just get a second chance!

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7 Design Tips for Building Successful Emails in 2016 https://litmus.com/blog/7-design-tips-for-building-successful-emails-in-2016 https://litmus.com/blog/7-design-tips-for-building-successful-emails-in-2016#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 14:36:57 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11513 As an email designer, it’s your job to provide subscribers with a functional email experience. This means eliminating friction that can erode the subscriber experience, and ultimately damage your brand image.

Achieving this goal is complicated by the fact that email is constantly evolving. It’s crucial to stay on top of the latest updates in the email world, especially when those changes—like new apps and updates to HTML and CSS support—can affect your carefully designed campaigns.

In the 2016 State of Email Report, we round up everything that happened in the email world last year, helping identify major innovations that can have huge implications for your email campaigns.

Get your free report →

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find inside:

1. KEEP THE APPLE WATCH IN MIND

In April 2015, the Apple Watch was launched. The addition of wearables to the email app fleet was inevitable—and it’s bringing with it some major implications for email designers. If your audience includes tech early adopters and potential Watch users, then consider the subscriber experience on the Watch.

Since Apple Watch displays plain text when remote or linked images are detected, it’s crucial to optimize the plain text version of your emails. Also note that special characters, extra spaces, and other formatting tricks reserved for desktop plain text consumption translate very poorly to the Watch’s small screen.

There is also a more advanced option to add a third part to your message: text/watch-html. By including this additional part and specifying the Content-Type as “text/watch-html,” the Watch will display the text/watch part instead of the plain text part when the HTML part is unsuitable. However, be sure to check with your ESP before adding the Watch part—not everyone supports it.

2. OPTIMIZE FOR IMAGE BLOCKING

Outlook 2016 and AOL’s Alto Mail app were both introduced in 2015—and each block images by default. Email designers should use defensive design techniques like ALT text, bulletproof buttons, and a proper balance of imagery and HTML text to combat image blocking.

3. DON’T HIDE YOUR UNSUBSCRIBE LINK

In September 2015, Gmail rolled out new “block” functionality to all Gmail webmail and Android Gmail app users, giving consumers yet another option to rid their inboxes of email they don’t want. When a subscriber “blocks” a sender it means they’ll never see an email from that sender again.

The upside is that the new “block” option should reduce spam complaints because some subscribers who would have previously clicked “report spam” will now click “block” instead. The downside is that the “block” button may have created a new, lower bar for ISP intervention, so some subscribers who might have previously clicked “unsubscribe” will now click “block” instead.

So what should you do? Make it easier to unsubscribe. If subscribers can’t easily spot your opt-out link, some will simply block your message or mark it as spam. If your unsubscribe link is buried in small gray type, it’s time to break it out on a line by itself with larger, easier-to-read text.

In addition, add the “list-unsubscribe” header and Gmail will, in certain circumstances, place an “Unsubscribe” link after your sender name and sender email address.

While this link allows subscribers to skip your opt-out process—including the preference center, if you use one—it’s still preferable to getting a block or spam complaint.

4. UPDATE YOUR INTERACTIVE EMAILS

In September 2015, Apple released the latest version of their mobile operating system, iOS 9. This updated operating system added support for a few new CSS properties—and introduced a few changes that are bound to frustrate email designers.

One such frustration? The general sibling selector (~) is not always supported. Litmus Community members Rémi Parmentier and Justin Khoo both reported that the general sibling selector ~ is not supported on iOS 9 when used with the :hover or :checked pseudo class selectors.

A lot of interactive emails use pseudo classes to check whether or not something has happened in an email and style elements appropriately depending on the state. However, this bug will cause formerly interactive emails to be static.

Luckily, there’s a fix! Simply replace the general sibling selector ~ with the adjacent sibling selector +. Although not as flexible as the less-specific general sibling selector, it achieves the same results.

5. USE TABLE-BASED LAYOUTS

In September 2015, Microsoft launched the latest version of their Outlook client—Outlook 2016. Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed much from its predecessors. Like Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013, Outlook 2016 renders emails using Microsoft Word, which has poor support for HTML and CSS and has a ton of frustrating quirks.

More recent versions of Outlook (2007-2016) have poor support for HTML and CSS and include a number of quirks to keep in mind:

  • No support for background images in divs and table cells
  • No support for CSS float or position
  • No support for text shadow
  • Poor support for padding and margin
  • Poor support for CSS width and height
  • Problems with nested elements background colors

Due to its lack of support for many CSS properties, table-based layouts are a necessity for optimization in Outlook 2016. You can also use conditional CSS to target Outlook 2016 specifically.

6. USE MOBILE-FRIENDLY ELEMENTS

With 55% of email opens happening on mobile devices, it’s more crucial than ever to have a mobile email strategy in place. While using responsive design is a great option, you must also use mobile-friendly elements in cases where media queries are not supported.

For example, neither AOL’s Alto Mail app nor the Universal Outlook app, both of which were introduced in 2015, support media queries.

Take advantage of large text, touch-friendly buttons, and a single-column design to provide your subscribers with the best experience possible.

7. USE OPEN DATA TO MAKE DESIGN DECISIONS

While looking at industry-wide email open trends is a great indicator of adoption of certain email clients, it’s your audience that matters. It’s more important than ever to look at where your audience is opening their email and adjust your designs accordingly.

For example, we saw a 22% increase in iPhone opens in 2015, which now accounts for 33% of total email opens. If you’re seeing something similar in your own audience, you can use that data to inform your design decisions. We know that iOS, iPhone’s operating system, has excellent support for HTML and CSS, so you can safely use advanced techniques like HTML5 video backgrounds in our campaigns.

The key is understanding your audience. With Email Analytics, you’ll get the data you need to optimize your designs. Sign up for a free 14 day trial today. No credit card required.

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Achieving Better Performance with Email Segmentation & Personalization [Video] https://litmus.com/blog/achieving-better-performance-with-email-segmentation-personalization-video https://litmus.com/blog/achieving-better-performance-with-email-segmentation-personalization-video#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 16:32:32 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11511 Your customers are complex beings. Treating them like one giant uniform crowd is not good for you or your subscribers because it limits messaging and lowers relevancy. Tailored messaging, at least some of the time, is vital.

While we talk a lot about one-to-one messaging in this industry, the one-to-some messaging that segmentation provides can boost relevancy, engagement, and ROI significantly. The trick is identifying the right segments. Some will be long-term segments that are tightly linked to customer personas, while others are of-the-moment segments that seize a fleeting opportunity.

Jen Rhee, Email Marketing Manager at online learning marketplace Udemy, knows a lot about segmentation and how it can power email marketing success. At The Email Design Conference, I was able to interview Jen about how marketers can make the most of email segmentation.

You can watch the full interview here, or read a transcript of it below.

 

 

I always get so shocked when people say, “Is email dead?” or “Email is kind of a cheap channel,” because I think if used in the right way, email can be a very powerful channel for you. At Udemy, email makes up more than 60% of our total revenue. And that’s because we really focus on our segments, and we really make sure each email that we send out is personalized.

Beyond Demographic Segmentation

There’s three different ways that I like to look at segmentation beyond demographics. The first is behavior, and that’s really what your customer is doing. What actions are they taking that are going to likely lead to a conversion? The second is engagement. So how are they interacting with your product or company? The third is psychographics, and that’s the trickiest one, but it’s really, Why did they first end up with you in the first place?

The Right Segments

There’s thousands of different ways you can create segments. You can come up with lots of different segments. It’s really important that you focus on the right ones, because we all have limited time and resources. So you want to look at which chunk of your users are generating the most profit, because it’s likely that a small percent of your users are very loyal customers. And focusing on them is going to give you the biggest return in the quickest way possible.

The Power of Email

I think that email is the most valuable channel because you have all this customer data that you can use to personalize your emails, so you can maintain that customer relationship. Out of all the other different marketing channels that I worked on, none of them can be as customizable as email. And you’re maintaining that relationship with email, so it’s super important, and you have to make sure that that message is so relevant to your customer.

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A Guide to CSS Inlining in Email https://litmus.com/blog/a-guide-to-css-inlining-in-email https://litmus.com/blog/a-guide-to-css-inlining-in-email#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 15:18:24 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11463 of your email into the body of the HTML. Thanks to unwieldy email clients, like Gmail, inlining styles in email is a necessity. While it’s entirely possible to hand code inlined CSS from the start, it’s time consuming and difficult to maintain. Luckily, there are some solutions. And, today, we're thrilled to introduce the fastest and easiest solution—CSS Inlining in Builder. ]]> Email development involves a combination of HTML and CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets. While HTML structures the content and layout of the email, CSS is used to style and format the content—like including link colors and headline fonts.

There are three ways to include styles within an email: using external stylesheets, embedded styles, or inline styles. While external stylesheets are a great option for web design, they aren’t the best option for email design—many webmail clients block links to external stylesheets.

Embedded styles are becoming increasingly popular due to the rise of mobile and associated popularity of responsive design techniques, but they do have their limitations. Since embedded styles are placed in the placed in the <head> of HTML documents, and some email clients, like Gmail, strip out most of the CSS styles in the <head>, the result is a royal mess in those inboxes.

Inline styles are applied directly to HTML elements in each line of HTML—and are generally the safest way to ensure rendering compatibility across various email clients. However, inline styles can be time-consuming to write and a bit challenging to manage.

So which should you use? While most designers use a mix of embedded and inline styles, inline styles are essential.

CSS Inlining in Litmus Builder

Automatically inline your email’s CSS with a simple toggle and style your emails faster and easier than ever.

Inline your styles →

 

WHY INLINE?

“Inlining” styles moves the CSS and associated formatting instructions from the style block in the of your email into the body of the HTML. Thanks to unwieldy email clients, like Gmail (one of the most popular email clients, representing 15% of email opens worldwide), inlining styles in email is a necessity.

What happens if you don’t inline your styles? The styling in the body of your email will not display in clients like Gmail.

no-inline-edited-03

By moving the styles inline, the email would display as intended in Gmail:

inline-edited-03

TOOLS FOR INLINING CSS

While it’s entirely possible to hand code inlined CSS from the start, it’s time consuming and difficult to maintain. Luckily, there are some solutions.

Third party inliner sites

There are a handful of online free tools that will automatically inline your CSS for you. After pasting your HTML into the tool it will regurgitate your code with all of your styles inlined.

Some of these tools include:

While these tools are extremely handy and much faster than inlining by hand, they can still be time consuming. For example, you have to copy your code from your editor/ESP into the tool, then copy your “new code” from the tool back into your editor/ESP. Have edits to your code? Be prepared to partake in the process all over again.

Task runners with an open source inliner

If your emails are generated in the back end of an application, solutions exist for most server side languages and frameworks. You can use task runners, like Grunt or Gulp, alongside an open source inliner, like Juice or Roadie, to inline your styles.

The task runner and open source inliner combination eliminates the copying and pasting frustrations found in the online inlining tools, but they do come with some cons of their own.

Not only do you have to set up these processes, but they require dependencies on services like Node or Ruby, which can result in potential bugs and extra maintenance. They’re also not as friendly for less-technical email builders.

CSS Inlining in Litmus Builder

CSS Inlining in available Litmus Builder—the only inliner specifically tuned to email development.

INTRODUCING: CSS INLINING IN BUILDER

With CSS Inlining in Builder, the process of inlining styles in email has now become easy, reliable, and enjoyable. It’s the only inliner built specifically for email—and it’s free.

With a simple toggle, embedded styles can be automatically inlined. There’s no copy and pasting and no maintenance—it’s a faster workflow than any task runner setup.

css-inlining-in-builder

CSS Inlining for Litmus Builder:

  • Never re-orders or converts CSS in any way: Never worry about your code getting mangled. Our inliner behaves exactly the way you want—you can actually trust the output.
  • Preserves media queries, web fonts, and animation: Our inliner respects any CSS with an “@” declaration and won’t remove them.
  • Preserves Outlook conditional comments: We know <!–if mso–> is an email designer’s best friend, so we made sure our inliner doesn’t ever come between the two of you.
  • Preserves pseudo selectors: Working on fancy enhancements? You can use pseudo selectors at will without worrying about them getting removed.
  • Preserves character entities: Our inliner ensures common entities, like smart quotes and non-breaking spaces, are never converted after inlining.
  • Preserves CSS comments: We know comments are not only just for designers and developers, but can even be used for certain email clients—so our inliner doesn’t touch them.
  • Preserves duplicate properties: Never worry about our inliner combining duplicate CSS properties. We understand some email clients only support certain values of the same properties.
  • Prevents CSS from being inlined with data-ignore-inlining attribute: Have specific CSS you don’t want inlined? No problem. This attribute gives you complete control.

Want more details about how it works? Check out our help documentation, or explainer video below:

 

CSS inlining in Litmus Builder is now active in all Litmus accounts. Don’t have a Builder account yet? Sign up today—it’s free!

Inline your styles →

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How to Create Great Emails for Your Clients: 9 Tips for Agencies https://litmus.com/blog/how-to-create-great-emails-for-your-clients-9-tips-for-agencies https://litmus.com/blog/how-to-create-great-emails-for-your-clients-9-tips-for-agencies#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2016 15:37:38 +0000 https://litmus.com/blog/?p=11457 A client asks you to create or redesign their email marketing campaigns—where do you start? Creating email is a lofty ask. And, if your team is used to offering web, mobile app, video, and other digital services, then email is a whole new ball game.

But, don’t fret! Here are 9 ways you can ensure your team delivers a quality campaign that engages your client’s subscribers. And, more importantly, these tips set you up as a force to be reckoned with in the world of email creation services, and position your team as a true “full service agency.”

PRE-BUILD TIPS

1. Email design ≠ Web design

Clients will often come with grand visions of what they’d like their email campaigns to entail. An email that embeds a high-res video from their website? Probably a no-go. An email that includes an attachment of their whitepaper? Not if you want to have good deliverability. Therefore, it’s key to lay out exactly what’s possible with email—and make it clear that emails and websites are not the same.

Clients need to realize that both technical constraints and content strategy are different when it comes to email creation. More importantly, your client needs to understand that their email is meant to be a vehicle—a gateway to a landing page that includes more details.

Like any other digital project, it’s important that you lay out all the constraints of email and set expectations ahead of time, and convey to your client how email is meant to fit within their multi-channel marketing program.

The Litmus Agency Plan

Want to offer Litmus features to your teams or clients? Our Agency or Unlimited plan is our flexible, higher volume plan built to meet all the email production needs of agencies and large teams.

Get started now →

 

2. Determine how the email will be sent

Clients often have lots of ideas, but rely on their digital agencies to connect the dots and make the vision happen. So, as part of this grand email design vision, you need to figure out at the start of the project how this email will be sent and from where.

Will you be sending the email on your end, or will your client? If you’re going to be sending it on their behalf, then you may need to purchase a license for an email service provider (ESP). However, if this is not feasible or if there are privacy concerns from the client, the client will need to do the actual sending themselves.

If the client will be pressing send, then you’ll need to determine how to get them the finished template, and how the template will be used within their ESP. Are you going to be using dynamic content, or personalization? If so, your client will need to know how to set it up within their specific ESP.

You’ll also need to keep in mind that ESPs can alter the code of an email. When a template is loaded into the ESP’s editor, ESPs often strip out or add styling to the template. This can affect how the email displays across inboxes. So, while the email may have looked great during the building process, putting it into the ESP could affect the way it displays.

Therefore, we recommend doing a final check by sending an email directly from the ESP into Litmus. This will ensure that you’ll see exactly what the subscriber does when they receive the campaign. Who will be doing this final previews test before the send? That’s another aspect to outline during the initial planning meetings with your clients.

Development & Design Tips

3. Learn the art of email development + design

Your design and development teams may have mastered the art of web design, but email design is a whole new monster to tackle. If your team is serious about adding email to your line of services, then they must learn how to build successful emails.

Luckily, there are many online resources to assist them in their learning. For starters, the Litmus blog is a great place to start (and you’re already here!)—it offers everything from dealing with the latest email client changes to tackling pesky email clients. Some of our other favorite email blogs are:

The Litmus Community is another great resource. It’s the perfect place to ask code questions, discuss email issues, and interact with the largest community of email designers and developers.

Prefer an online course? Lynda, Code School, and Treehouse all offer online email courses to get your team up and running. Looking for a good read? Modern HTML Email is chock-full of tips.

And, once they’ve got the hang of coding basics, they can try their hand at building emails in Litmus Builder. In Builder, they can code, review, and edit in real-time across 40+ email clients and devices.

4. Define who does what: Designer vs. Developer

Email resources frequently use the terms “designer” and “developer” interchangeably, and associate them both with the actual coding of an email template. But, in many agencies, designers still hold the traditional responsibility of creating the flat design and graphic elements of a project, while developers do the coding.

When it comes to creating a new email campaign, it’s important to determine if the email will include images and, if it does, who will be responsible for creating those. If your designer is tackling image creation, then they will need to work closely with your developer to ensure that the images not only display appropriately across email clients, but that they load quickly, too.

For starters, they’ll need to determine which image format is more appropriate—PNG, GIF, or JPEG? They all have their own unique benefits (and drawbacks). They’ll also need to determine where images will be hosted (on your end, or the client’s end), as well as how to properly size images so they look great across desktop, webmail, and mobile email clients.

Another thing for them to keep in mind? The size of the actual image files. While high-res images are great for viewing on Retina displays and animated GIFs are great for engagement, if they aren’t compressed they will take a long time to load. We recommend having your designer or developer (whoever’s task it is!) run the email through Litmus Image Check tool to see how long it takes each image to load, and see if there are any issues.

CLIENT MANAGEMENT TIPS

5. Focus design efforts where it matters

“My boss has a BlackBerry, so it has to look great on that client.” How many times have you had a client express something similar?

Clients may make assumptions about their email subscribers’ behaviors based on their own usage. In doing so, it not only clouds how their subscribers are actually interacting with their emails, but can affect how you approach building their email, as well.

Are your client’s subscribers primarily on mobile devices? Are they using Outlook and going to have images blocked by default? The sizes of devices, the particular email client rendering engine, and any attributes particular to how that email client handles messages will need to be taken into consideration. Knowing the real ways that your client’s subscribers are interacting with their emails will direct how you strategize, build, and design every part of the email.

So, how do you go about figuring out what this audience/email client/device breakdown looks like? If your client does not know what their breakdown looks like, then consider using a tool like Litmus Email Analytics to discover where their subscribers are opening.

Using actual subscriber data points will help steer the email project back to the email clients and devices that truly matter. No more Blackberry headaches (if you’re lucky enough to avoid them)!

6. Sharing email proofs with clients

As you likely know from working on other digital projects, sharing proofs or mock-ups with a client is crucial so they can get a vision of how the project will look when complete. However, email “proofs” are a little different. While a flat, traditional proof gives a nice preview, it’s also important to share a pre-send version of the email.

Sending an email to your clients before the final send allows them to interact with the mailing. It’s also a great way to physically show any email client specific constraints you had to overcome in the email build and design. For example, links that default to blue or spacing that certain email clients add.

How should you share your email? You can send a proof via an ESP or PutsMail. However, keep in mind that your clients may be looking on email clients or devices that you were not tasked with focusing on, or they may have custom/corporate settings that affect the mailing.

An alternative solution is to use Litmus Builder. Builder allows your team to create a project right within the editor, and share it with your clients. You can even include real screenshots of how the email looks in the inboxes you were optimizing for.

Do your clients have any feedback? Simply edit within Builder, and re-share the link with your clients.

PRE-SEND TIPS

7. Catch errors before sending

Mistakes in your emails are bad. Mistakes in your client’s emails are even worse. Whether it’s a subject line with a spelling error, incorrect preview text, or broken designs, your clients are not going to be happy if you send out an email with an issue.

Test your email from top to bottom and ensure that you catch any errors—and make adjustments—before the final send. We recommend either putting together an internal, step-by-step checklist, or using Litmus Checklist, which reviews every element of your client’s email—including preview text, image load times, and links. It also gives you previews of your design across 40+ mobile, desktop, and webmail clients. You can rest assured that your client’s email is error-free and meeting email industry best practices.

8. Subscriber list management

Knowing where your client’s subscriber lists live is incredibly important. Your client may have their subscriber lists living as manual or static databases within their ESP or maybe in a data warehouse.

If the lists are living outside the ESP, then you must make sure these lists are imported into the ESP, labeled appropriately, and easily accessible when the final send is ready.

Additionally, if your team is using static lists, make sure that these are “clean.” Clean lists do not include duplicates (unless the ESP de-dupes during sending), partial email addresses, bounced email addresses, or anyone that has opted-out from communications. If these lists are not clean, it will likely negatively affect the delivery of the campaign.

Are you working on an automated, behavioral drip program? Spot check the lists before sending. If you’re not in charge of the final send and drip campaign setup, remind your client to double-check the lists.

In addition, if your campaign is using dynamic content, be sure to review each content block and the correlating subscriber list that will see this particular information.

Sending to the wrong subscriber list can be an even worse nightmare than a broken email, so save yourself some sleep and check those lists ahead of time.

POST-SEND TIPS

9. Test, iterate, rinse & repeat

Your email strategy is always going to be a work in progress. Even if your team has invested significant time in researching design best practices, tested relentlessly, and know the audience breakdown, it will always need to be adjusted over time.

Analyze the data and see where you can continue to improve your metrics. Pick apart different metrics including clicks from your ESP, and opens, engagement or time spent on email, forwards, and even prints (you can find these latter items in Litmus Email Analytics).

When thinking about ways to possibly improve these metrics, you may want to consider A/B testing. Whether you test a different subject line or create a whole new template, you should work with your client to continuously refine their emails and relationships with their subscribers.

Keep in mind that your team may not simply be doing a one-off email project—you may develop a relationship with this client going forward and continue to refine their email marketing approaches and strategies.

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