Litmus Blog Litmus Company Blog Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:40:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How 5 Email Easter Eggs Helped Sell Out The Email Design Conference Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:36:19 +0000 Using HTML5 video background or including a live, dynamic Twitter feed in our emails have created major hype around the launch of The Email Design Conference. We’re sending emails about emails to email lovers (so meta) and they love these out-of-the-box techniques. These emails were repeatedly forwarded, shared on social media, and even written about. While there are proven tactics and topics that increase email virality, being the email geeks that we are, we’ve found including advanced and interactive techniques has led to some major buzz.

When it came to launching ticket sales for this year’s event, we wanted to keep the excitement going. We opted to combine advanced email hacks with some fun by hiding five “golden tickets” within the email. Each ticket was hidden using a unique email hack and the first subscriber to find a specific ticket and tweet about it (using the #TEDC15 hashtag and including a screenshot) won a free ticket to the conference of their choice: Boston or London.

The email was a huge hit—all tickets were found within moments (and we sold all of our early bird tickets in under 10 minutes with the buzz generated from this email). Email geeks loved the concept and playfulness of the email. View the email here:

Here’s a breakdown of the five hacks used to hide the golden tickets inside the email.

Golden Ticket #1: Hidden ALT Text

One of our favorite techniques to enhance email design is ALT text, which helps communicate the message when images cannot. The first golden ticket was a message hidden in the ALT text of an image. So, only users with images disabled could see this message. Fun fact: 43% of Gmail users view email with images off by default.

Here is what the ticket looked like with images on:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.32.53 PM

Here is what the ticket looked like with images off:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.33.14 PM

To create the ticket through ALT text, we first broke up the image into 3 different images each within their own table row and cell.

<table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="0" width="100%">
          <img src="" width="600" height="55" border="0" alt="Congratulations!"/>
          <img src="" width="600" height="56" border="0" alt="You’ve found a golden ticket! Take a screenshot and tweet to @litmusapp with the #TEDC15 hashtag. Act fast—if you’re the first, you’re the winner!"/>
            <img src="" width="600" height="56" border="0"  alt="GOLDEN TICKET #1: HIDDEN ALT TEXT"/>

This allowed us to better style the ticket. Then, we simply styled the background of the images to contain a gold color and added in some simple font styling on the images. Here is an example of one of the images:

<img src="" width="600" height="55" border="0" style="display: block; color: #333333; font-family: 'futura_md_btbold', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; background-color: #f3c478; font-weight: bold; text-align: center; font-size: 26px; line-height: 36px;" class="white-walkers" alt="Congratulations!"/>

(*Note: To make the ticket search harder, we converted all of our CSS class names to Game of Thrones references!)

Golden Ticket #2: Hidden Image

The second hidden golden ticket was one for the true email geeks that were searching the code of the email. This ticket was the most literal of the bunch, as it was literally a hidden ticket. We simply inserted an image into the email, but didn’t display it in any email client. Only subscribers who searched the source code would be able to find the unused image URL.

We hid the image in the email for all clients using this code:

<div style="width: 0px; height: 0px; display: none; mso-hide: all; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; z-index: -99;">
    <a href="" target="_blank">
        <img src="" style="width: 0px; height: 0px; max-width: 0px; max-height: 0px;"/>

When users visited the image URL, they found the golden ticket:


Golden Ticket #3: Hidden ASCII Art

For the third hidden golden ticket, we used animated ASCII art right inside the email. We simply used the same text color as its background to hide the ASCII art.

Here’s how the ticket looked by default:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 4.17.33 PM

The only way a user would be able to see this ticket would be to highlight that area of the email. Highlighting that section would reveal the ticket:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 4.18.05 PM

Here’s how we implemented it:

    <span style="color: #ffffff; font-family: 'tisaproregular', Tisa Pro, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">
        You’ve found a golden ticket!<br/>
        Take a screenshot and tweet to <a href="" target="_blank" style="color: #ffffff;">@litmusapp</a> with the <a href="" style="color: #ffffff;" target="_blank">#TEDC15</a> hashtag. <br/>Act fast—if you’re the first, you’re the winner!
    <pre style="font: 4px/2px monospace; color: #ffffff;">
        <!-- ASCII art inserted here -->

And yes, we went old school and used a <marquee> tag to animate the ASCII art. We used picascii to generate the ASCII art. This was by far the most tweeted about ticket—people love highlighting text!

Golden Ticket #4: Hidden Hover

We started to ramp up the technicality and difficulty with the fourth hidden ticket. This ticket could only be found if hovered over on the exact area. Not only could this ticket only be seen on hover, it could only be seen in a specific email client:

Here’s what the ticket looked like when found:


Here’s the base HTML for the ticket:

<div class="daenerys" style="width: 0px; height: 0px; max-height: 0px; overflow: hidden;">
    <div class="the-wall">HOVER ARROW FOR A SURPRISE =)</div>
    <div class="tyrion">→</div>
    <div class="wildlings">
        <div class="valyrian-steel">
            <img src="" style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" />

We used a targeting hack to make this ticket only display in Inserting .ExternalClass before a class name and prepending a class name with .ecx is a way to use CSS.

We simply hid the area by default and only displayed it on hover for using the following code:

.ExternalClass .ecxdaenerys {
    display: inline-block !important;
    width: auto !important;
    height: auto !important;
    overflow: visible !important;
    opacity: 0;

.ExternalClass .ecxdaenerys:hover {
    opacity: 1;

The button had an opacity of zero by default, but turned to full transparency on hover. When users additionally hovered over the arrow on the button, it displayed the hidden ticket using the following CSS:

.tyrion:hover + .wildlings {
    display: block !important; 
    position: absolute !important;
    z-index: 10 !important;

.ExternalClass .ecxvalyrian-steel img {
    width: 650px !important;
    height: 350px !important;

Golden Ticket #5: Hidden Keyboard Command

The final ticket was perhaps the most difficult one to find and decode. Using only CSS, we created a hidden keyboard command for WebKit clients that displayed the hidden ticket when entered.

Here’s what the ticket looked like when found:


We drew inspiration from Mark Robbins’ CSS Super Mario game, which used CSS keyboard shortcuts. We ended up using several different email hacks to make this work, but the implementation ended up being pretty lightweight and simple.

First, due to limited support for the keyboard command functionality (and to make it somewhat tougher to find), we only enabled this hidden ticket to display in WebKit email clients. To do this we wrapped the CSS in a WebKit targeting media query:

@media screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 0) { /* Insert CSS here */ }

To achieve the keyboard shortcut command, we use the <button> tag and some CSS magic. Also, since we only wanted this content to display for WebKit, we ended up using the content property to inject and draw all of the content of the ticket when triggered with the keyboard command. Thus, our HTML simply consisted of empty <div> tags:

<button class="kings-landing" accesskey="t" style="border: 0px; padding: 0px;"></button>
<div class="sansa lannisport">
    <div class="ramsay">
        <div class="winterfell"></div>

We have used this content hack for a couple of our previous emails including the launch email for this year’s The Email Design Conference.

The keyboard command was able to be triggered using the following CSS:

.kings-landing:focus ~ .sansa {
    display: block !important;

By using the :focus state and selecting the sibling class of .sansa, the keyboard command of CTRL + ALT + T (since “t” was defined in the accesskey attribute in the button) triggered the hidden ticket as a fullscreen overlay. Here’s the CSS that made the overlay possible:

.sansa {
    width: 100%;
    height: 100%;
    position: fixed;
    top: 0;
    left: 0;
    z-index: 9999;
    background: rgba(131,189,193,0.7);
    display: none;

.winterfell::after {
    content: url('');

Updating the Golden Tickets in the Email

As the hidden tickets were found, we updated the email in real time. Here is an example of what a golden ticket looked like:

As soon a golden ticket was claimed, we updated the ticket image to show that it had already been found. Here is what an updated ticket looked like:

We also created a status board for the tickets at the bottom of the email to let subscribers know how many tickets were still available. This is what the status board looked like before any tickets were found:


We made each ticket an image so we could easily update and overwrite it to reflect its status. Here’s what it looked like when they were all claimed:

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 4.05.00 PM

Get awesome emails about emails

Don’t miss our next mind-blowing email—or tips on how to create ones yourself. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get the latest email tips and tricks delivered straight to your inbox.

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5 Reasons External Email Benchmarks Make Poor Success Metrics Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:04:58 +0000 It’s our competitive nature that drives us to want to know how everyone else is doing in terms of their open rate, click rate, and other email marketing metrics. However, once we have this aggregated, averaged benchmark data, we don’t always know how to act on it. For some, they provide false comfort; for others, false alarms.

Often calculated out to hundredths of a percentage point, benchmark averages appear to be a very specific bar to clear in order to be “above average”—and some marketers use them this way, occasionally with bonuses on the line. However, the deep specificity of these data points really just reflect the incredibly rich data behind the calculation.

In actuality, these numbers are very fuzzy because of the apples-to-oranges comparisons taking place behind the scenes. Knowing that hundreds or thousands of companies collectively average an open rate of 20.45%, for instance, is actually less valuable to an individual company that it appears. I’m not saying benchmarks are completely unuseful, just that they’re usually only helpful in a very general way for the following reasons:

1. Audience response is different depending on the subscribers’ country or region. Cultural norms and expectations can vary greatly from region to region—and often those norms get translated into laws and regulations. For instance, Europe is much stricter about permission than the United States is. These variances create differences in list growth rates, engagement rates, etc. So beware of comparing your metrics to those from companies in another country.

2. Audience response is different depending on the industry vertical. Subscribers have different expectations around frequency and messaging for emails from, for instance, a school or university versus a retailer. Aggregate figures can skew things one way or the other, so look for a breakdown of stats by vertical.

IBM Silverpop’s 2015 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study does a great job of tackling these first two limitations of benchmarks—as well as breaking the data down into more useful quartiles and acknowledging the limitation of benchmarks. They break down metrics into 5 global regions and 17 industry verticals. However, even doing that, there are more limitations.

3. Audience response is different depending on the industry sub-vertical. Retail, which I’ve been covering for nearly 15 years, is the perfect example. The buying cycles and shopping frequencies for big box retailers like Walmart and Target are wildly different than those for big ticket durables retailers like Dell and Tiffany & Co. Beyond that, there can be very different email expectations depending on a retailer’s business model. For example, deal-a-day retailers like Zulily can get away with daily mailings while most other retailers cannot.

Benchmarks are rarely, if ever, reported at this level of granularity, because we’re really at the level of competitive sets at that point, which is the territory of consultants and competitive intelligence providers. But even at that level, businesses are unique, making them only roughly comparable to each other, which we address further in looking at the next two limitations.

4. Audience response is different depending on the brand’s business strategy and email marketing goals. Your strategy may not be the same as other companies for a variety of reasons, and therefore the behavior you are trying to drive with your email program may be different. For instance, sticking with the retail industry, IKEA and some other retailers don’t sell online, so their email marketing strategies are all about getting subscribers to visit their stores. That affects how they message their subscribers, the calls-to-action they use, and most assuredly their email success metrics.

Media is another industry where goals may vary. For instance, some outlets may be all about driving traffic to their websites so they only include content teases in their email to spur clickthroughs, whereas others may include a lot of content—and ads—directly in their emails, so maximizing opens (and therefore ad impressions) is the goal.

5. Audience response is different depending on how a brand manages their email list. This is probably the biggest unknowable and could be the biggest reason why your numbers may be wildly different from other companies. How a brand manages their email list can massively change their metrics, particularly those where emails sent is the denominator, such as open rate and click rate.

At one end of the spectrum is segmentation and triggered emails, which generate high response rates because they deliver messages to the people who are most likely to respond to them. If your brand sends a lot of these, your open and click rates will be substantially higher than brands that send less.
At the other end of the spectrum is inactivity management. If you have a lot of inactive subscribers on your list and mail them frequently, that suppresses your open and click rates since very few of these subscribers are likely to engage. On the other hand, if you keep a tight rein on inactives by dramatically reducing the frequency at which you email them and re-permissioning them if they continue to not respond, your open and click rates are likely to be much higher.

Dramatic changes to how often you email your inactives can double your open and click rates overnight. The following chart demonstrates how changing the frequency at which you email inactives can benefit how engaged your subscribers appear in the eyes of ISPs, which take their user engagement into account when deciding whether to filter your emails.


How to Use External Benchmarks

Given all of these limitations, here are a few ways that benchmarks can be helpful:

First, focus on the trends over times. Oftentimes the change in a benchmark over time is way more useful than the absolute value at a specific point in time. Have open rates risen or fallen over the past 6 months? How did yours change over the same timeframe? If rates generally improved while yours fell, then that may be worth investigating.

Second, pay attention to variations across regions. If you operate in more than one country or region, and you can find benchmark data that matches those areas, then look at how metrics differ from one to the other. Do you see a similar spread in your own data?

Third, focus on metrics that are pegged to opens rather than sends, such as click-to-open rates and forward-to-open rates, which is the metric that we focused on in The Viral Email report. These metrics are more stable because they are affected much less by how often marketers emails their inactive subscribers.

And fourth, being in the bottom quartile should raise concerns. Companies often treat benchmarks as concrete goals to match or beat. To do so ascribes way too much precision and relevance to benchmarks in relation to your company’s business model, audience, and goals. However, being in the bottom quartile of a benchmark should sound some alarms and demand a little digging to determine why your performance is so comparatively low.

Why Internal Benchmarks Are Better

Rule 17 from my book, Email Marketing Rules, is: “Benchmark yourself primarily against yourself.” Even if you have the best benchmarks in existence, the data that is most relevant to your company’s future success is your own data. Especially in the Age of Big Data, marketers have tons of information about their subscriber and customer behavior at their disposal.

Identify the metrics that move the needle for your company and then reflect that in your email marketing strategy and goals. From there, focus on systematically beating your own performance by embracing a philosophy of incremental improvements to the subscriber experience through testing, segmentation, personalization, triggered messaging, and other enhancements.

If you’re constantly generating small year-over-year improvements to your email metrics, chances are you’ll have very little need to be concerned about external benchmarks.

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2015 Mobile-Friendly Email & Landing Page Trends [Infographic] Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:48:08 +0000 We’ve been sharing environment market share data and talking about the “Smartphone Threat” since way back in September 2011. Mobile email reading has grown swiftly since then, primarily at the expense of webmail.

Over the past year or so, email reading on mobile devices seems to have plateaued right around the 50% mark. While there are still some brands—including Litmus—with small mobile email audiences, most brands reached a critical mass of mobile email readers at least two years ago. That’s especially true when you consider that the first consumers to make this shift were probably brands’ more valuable subscribers.

Despite being many years into the Age of Mobile, marketers are still playing catchup when it comes to making their emails and websites mobile-friendly. Joint research between Litmus and Salesforce found that 56% of B2C brands use either responsive or mobile-aware email design, while the rest still use designs that are largely desktop-centric.

Our research, which we’ve summarized in the infographic below, also found disconnects in the subscriber experience when transitioning from emails to their associated landing pages. Fewer than half of brands have mobile-friendly emails that lead to mobile-friendly landing pages. That’s a big disconnect that deserves attention from both email and web teams.

The entire text of the infographic is also available below.

2015 Mobile-Friendly Email & Landing Page Trends

Should your emails be mobile-friendly?

Make an informed decision about where to focus your mobile design efforts with Email Analytics, and use Email Previews to make sure your emails are rendering properly in those mobile inboxes. Sign up for a free 7-day Litmus trial today!

Discover your mobile audience →

Mobile-Friendly Email & Landing Page Trends

Consumers’ mobile email reading habits are well-established and while brands have been relatively quick to create mobile-friendly websites, marketers have been slow to adopt mobile-friendly email design techniques.

Email opens by environment

According to more than 1 billion email opens tracked by Litmus’ Email Analytics in June 2015, the percentage of email opens on each platform are as following:

  • 48% Mobile
  • 30% Webmail
  • 22% Desktop

Email opens by environment: 48% mobile, 30% webmail, 22% desktop

Website mobile-friendliness

The percentage of B2C brands with mobile-friendly website landing pages for their promotional emails are as followed:

  • 85% in June 2015
  • 74% in June 2014

Email mobile-friendliness

Looking at the percentage of B2C brands using a mobile-unfriendly desktop design vs. a mobile-friendly responsive or a mobile-aware design for their promotional emails, over the past two years:

  • Desktop-centric designs have decreased
  • Mobile-aware designs have remained relatively stagnant
  • Responsive designs have increased

56% of B2C emails are now mobile-friendly—a 155% increase since October 2013

For reference, these are the definitions used to define these three approaches:

  • Desktop-centric design: 2+ columns, small text, and small, tightly grouped links and buttons
  • Responsive design: Email content and layout adjusts to screen size of user’s device
  • Mobile-aware design: Single column, large text and images, well-space links and buttons

Disconnect between mobile-friendly websites and emails

Emails lag websites in terms of mobile-friendliness by 29 percentage points, which creates disjointed subscriber experiences.

  • 16% of mobile-friendly emails lead to websites that aren’t mobile-friendly
  • 52% of B2C brands do not have emails and websites that are both mobile-friendly

Emails lag websites 29 percentage points in terms of mobile-friendliness

Fix the disconnect!

  1. Determine what percentage of your subscribers are reading your emails on mobile devices and which email clients they’re using.
  2. If a significant portion of your subscribers are reading on mobile devices, adopt either mobile-aware or responsive email design.
  3. If your emails are already mobile-friendly, work with your web team on a plan to create a mobile-friendly website.

*“Email opens by environment” data is from Litmus’ Email Analytics. All other data based on observational research performed by the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Litmus involving more than 140 B2C brands using anonymous email clients.

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Introducing Sam, Senior Developer Tue, 28 Jul 2015 17:52:09 +0000 We’re thrilled to introduce the newest member of the Litmus team—Sam. He’ll be joining the product team as a Senior Developer.

Welcome Sam to the team!

Sam has quite the list of places he’s called home. He grew up Chattanooga, Tennessee, but headed to New Orleans to attend college at Loyola New Orleans. He studied film there and worked on various film production jobs for sporting events, documentaries, and feature films.

After college, Sam moved to Chicago to pursue a career in design and motion graphics, and ended up getting a job almost immediately at a design firm. After becoming enamored by the development side of things, he left design behind in pursuit of programming. He spent the next four years consulting in Chicago for various firms, working first with PHP and shortly thereafter with Ruby on Rails.

Making his next move, Sam took a position at Collabnet in San Francisco. He worked with a small team of designers and developers on a new SaaS platform, which they built from scratch. After this, he moved onto a position at Yammer, where he was responsible for their central API—adding features, fixing issues, and improving the overall codebase.

With the ability to work remotely at his previous role (and now at Litmus!), Sam visited his wife’s home country of Ecuador and loved it—and decided to move and work from there. He’s currently based there—and is now working as a Senior Developer at Litmus.

Sam had been aware of Litmus for many years—and even used our tools during his design days! Since starting, he’s been involved in a handful of projects, including improvements to Scope and some major product enhancements (we’ll tell you about them soon!). Despite only being here a few weeks, Sam already feels like part of the Litmus family and said “everyone is so friendly and easygoing, and always glad to lend a hand when needed. The work is challenging, yet rewarding, always interesting, and there is always something to be learned.”

When he’s not moving or geeking out over programming, you can find Sam listening or jamming out to music. He’s been singing since he was 6 and playing the guitar and drums since he was 12. While he has a soft spot for the blues, he loves music from just about any genre—including punk rock, which he’s never quite grown out of.

Unsurprising due to all of his moves, Sam also loves traveling. He and his wife are currently planning a trip through South America in the near future. Sam also loves pizza and has to try it everywhere he visits.

Join us in welcoming Sam to the Litmus team!


Between catered lunches, top notch equipment, 28 vacation days, and so much more, Litmus is a great place to work. And, guess what? We’re hiring!

Check out our open positions →

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Gmail Opens Increase 20%: How to Optimize Emails for Any Gmail Inbox Mon, 27 Jul 2015 05:53:18 +0000 We’ve been tracking email opens for nearly 5 years—and a lot has changed during that time. In the first half of 2015, we’ve seen email open data continue to favor mobile apps and providers that focus on new and innovative solutions.

Microsoft and Google continue to invest in cloud-based email solutions, and businesses seem to be following suit—moving away from installing Outlook on employee machines and using services like Office 365 and Google Apps instead. As a result, desktop opens have fallen 4% in the first half of 2015 now representing 22% of opens. Mobile opens have seized desktop’s fallen share, growing 4% to capture 49% of market share. Conversely, opens in free webmail services like Gmail, Yahoo, and have decreased 4%; opens in these providers currently make up 29% of opens.


Top Ten Email Programs

After increasing more than 5% in the first half of 2015, iPhone opens now command 28% of market share. iPhone, like iPad, runs on iOS, and combined iPhone/iPad opens make up nearly 40% of the more than 1 billion opens we tracked in June. iOS has terrific support for HTML and CSS in email, meaning that emails opened in the email app on these platforms aren’t likely to encounter many rendering problems. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go the extra mile to surprise and delight iOS openers by adding progressively enhanced elements to your emails.


Opens made on Google’s Android platform have gained a position, rising to #5 with 9% of opens. This represents a 19% increase in just six months. And while some Android apps have great support for responsive email, the Gmail app (for Android or iOS) doesn’t support responsive design at all.


Maintaining a consistent subscriber experience across screen sizes, devices, and email apps can be difficult due to mixed support for responsive design. Although media queries aren’t universally supported, it is possible to get your email looking great on both Android and iOS devices. We recommend using mobile friendly elements, like a one-column design, large fonts, and touch-friendly buttons.

iPad Opens Take a Dip

iPad opens have been on a continuous decline over the past year, dropping over 7% in 2015 alone. It’s probably no coincidence that the iPad’s slump to 11% of opens has accompanied a downturn in tablet sales. As of Q2 2014 Apple had sold 16.35 million iPads, while Q2 2015 figures report sales of 12.62 million—a 23% drop.

While lower-priced tablets from Microsoft and Google may have impacted iPad sales and open figures, it’s possible that other Apple products may be cannibalizing sales. For example, the dimensions of the iPhone 6 Plus may serve as a suitable tablet replacement—providing users with the ultimate ‘phablet’.

Gmail: Up from 2014, Down in 2015

Gmail opens have dropped 4.7% since the start of the year. But compared to a year ago, Gmail opens are up nearly 20%. Because Gmail caches images, it’s impossible to pinpoint this change to web-based or mobile Gmail opens (both types of opens look the same). Despite this limitation, it is possible to take steps to optimize emails for every type of Gmail inbox.

Don’t forget that media queries, which are required for responsive design, are not supported in Gmail. This includes mobile apps for Android and iOS, including Inbox by Gmail. If you suspect that many of your Gmail opens may be mobile users, consider using the hybrid coding approach.

Inbox by Gmail

Inbox by Gmail (iOS)—No support for responsive email

iOS Mail

Mail (iOS)—Support for responsive email

Optimize preview text, which is supported in web-based and mobile Gmail apps. This copy is pulled from the body of your email and shown after the subject line in the inbox. It’s a great way to reinforce the great content in your email and get subscribers to open.


Gmail for iOS will automatically enlarge fonts in some emails, sometimes by as much as 50%. While this change improves legibility for most messages, it can wreak havoc on others. If you find that your messages are adversely affected, there are a couple fixes you can try.

Gmail on iOS: Original

Gmail for iOS: Unmodified fonts

Gmail on iOS: Modified

Gmail for iOS: Modified fonts

Outlook on the Decline

Opens in Outlook have shrunk considerably in the past year. There’s been a 30% drop in the last 12 months, and a 5% decrease in the last six alone. In its heyday, Outlook topped the charts with 37% of opens, but today represents less than 9% of market share. You might attribute this decrease in Outlook opens to a shift in user preferences for web-based and mobile email solutions.

See your Gmail and Outlook open rates

Email Analytics tracks market share across your mailing lists so you can optimize email for your audience.

Try Email Analytics→

Data in this report is based on worldwide opens collected with Email Analytics. Some email clients may be over- or under-reported due to automatic enablement of images and/or image blocking. Tracking trends over time is the best way to monitor open data for email. Learn more how we report mobile app opens and how image caching and automatic downloads in Gmail affect open rates.

Many thanks to the folks at Wistia for the groovy tunes. This clip features the Davis Square Shuffle.

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Episode 16: Outlook’s Call for Rendering Feedback and A New Email Framework Fri, 17 Jul 2015 14:06:16 +0000 In the 16th episode of The Email Design Podcast, hosts Kevin Mandeville and Jason Rodriguez talk Outlook’s surprising call to designers, The Email Design Conference, and two new tools for improving your campaigns. Be sure to follow along and join in the discussion on Twitter using #EmailDesignPodcast.

Watch the full video above or listen to the audio-only version below.

Download the MP3

In this episode:

Follow the Email Design Podcast

Subscribe to the Email Design Newsletter to get updates on the Email Design Podcast along with a curated selection of our favorite articles and resources on email design.

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Getting Subscribers to Forward Your Emails: 5 Secrets Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:54:15 +0000 In our Viral Email report, we analyzed more than 400,000 email campaigns, examined the most forwarded ones, and identified the tactics and topics that positively and negatively affected forwarding behavior. Three of the major takeaways revealed in the study are:

  1. Sending focused content to a subset of your subscribers using segmentation and triggered messaging generally doubles the forward-to-open rate.
  2. Personalizing content makes it more share-worthy.
  3. When subscribers see “share with your network” calls-to-action, they also interpret them as “forward to a friend” calls-to-action.

However, in the course of sharing the report’s findings in our Salesforce Connections session and talking to reporters about it, we realized that there are two more keys that we didn’t include in the study.

In my first monthly column for Marketing Land, I reveal these additional keys to increasing forwards:

  1. Single-subject emails are more sharable.

We believe this design consideration influences forwarding because forwarders don’t want to have to explain what in the email the forward recipient should pay attention to. If the email is about one thing, then there’s not much to explain.

  1. Simplicity spurs forwards.

The email campaigns that were forwarded the most were generally very simple visually, with clear message hierarchies and concise copy. That’s not to say that many of these messages couldn’t have benefited from a bit of polishing up, but it’s clear that a simple message clearly communicated is powerful in spurring forwards.

For a full discussion of all five of these viral email secrets, read the entire article on

Check out the article→

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Episode 15: An Interview with Designer and Writer Jason Rodriguez Tue, 07 Jul 2015 18:28:01 +0000 In the 15th episode of The Email Design Podcast, host Kevin Mandeville turns the mic on co-host Jason Rodriguez. In this interview, they discuss a career in email, thoughts on craft and industry, and more. Be sure to follow along and join in the discussion on Twitter using #EmailDesignPodcast.

Watch the full video above or listen to the audio-only version below.

Download the MP3

In this episode:

Follow the Email Design Podcast

Subscribe to the Email Design Newsletter to get updates on the Email Design Podcast along with a curated selection of our favorite articles and resources on email design.

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How to Use Email Client Open Data to Segment Lists + Increase App Downloads Mon, 06 Jul 2015 20:11:07 +0000 Email is a 1:1 communication. Typical “batch-and-blast” emails don’t cut it—your recipients are expecting personal emails that are relevant to them. As a result, targeted, segmented emails perform better. Case in point, we saw a 209% increase in open rates from segmenting our lists with geolocation data!

After creating an iPhone-compatible trade show app, Ferguson Enterprises, the largest wholesale distributor of plumbing supplies in the United States, wanted to ensure that only iPhone customers were receiving emails with a call-to-action (CTA) to download the app. After all, Android or BlackBerry users certainly wouldn’t want to receive that email—how’s that for irrelevant content? With their Litmus Email Analytics data in hand, Ferguson was able to appropriately target their iPhone users—and their efforts are paying off.


Historically, Ferguson’s customers have been known to be “technology averse” or late adopters of technology. But after discovering their email mobile audience was steadily increasing, Ferguson’s interest in creating a customer-facing app was piqued. They wanted to start their mobile app investments wisely, so they took a look at their Email Analytics open data to determine which devices their first app should support.

Their Litmus Email Analytics open data revealed that over 80% of their mobile audience was opening on iOS devices. With that knowledge, they opted to prioritize the creation of an iOS app over an Android app.

Ferguson hosts over 70 trade show and other events around the country every year. At the events, Ferguson customers demo products, network with vendors and associates, and receive trade show specials. With the help of Whereoware, Ferguson created the Ferguson Rewards App, enabling users to easily register and check-in at trade shows, receive coupons, and enter contests at events.

While the app was extremely useful, Ferguson also recognized an opportunity to utilize email as a way to highlight features and encourage usage of the app.


In the past, Ferguson sent emails to small groups of customers, inviting them to attend a specific event. Registration for events took place in person—and pre-event registration was impossible.

At the event, the Ferguson team distributed registration cards that were manually filled out by attendees—including email address and other contact information. Once the team returned to the office, this data was manually entered into their Email Service Provider (ESP).

Needless to say, between poor handwriting, bottlenecking, and attendees omitting email address from their forms, Ferguson wasn’t collecting many email addresses—and the ones they did collect didn’t always come with other required information. In addition, historic data was not being stored for repeat attendees. As a result, follow-ups from trade shows were nearly impossible, too.

All these challenges meant that the Ferguson team was left with an incomplete and inaccurate email list after every event, and they knew they were missing out on major opportunities for post-event follow up and upsell messaging. Enter: the Ferguson Rewards trade show app.

Geo + app-targeted registration emails

Ferguson 1

With a zip-code radius table, Ferguson is able to email their customers located within a 20-mile radius of the event location. The email to the right is sent 14 days prior to the event.

The email includes details about the trade show, as well as a link to register for the event. In addition, if the recipient has previously opened an email on an iOS device (Ferguson found this information in their Email Analytics data), the email will include a secondary CTA to download their iOS app. Lots of segmentation!

This email was also part of an automated nurturing program. If subscribers hadn’t registered for the event, they would receive another email seven days later informing them that spots were filling up fast; and then another email 48 hours prior to the event to encourage registration once again.

Event registrants were sent confirmation and reminder emails about the trade show leading up to the event.

These messages were tested in Email Previews to check for proper rendering and functionality across a wide array of email programs (including iOS devices!).


Long gone were the days of handwritten registration cards! Both pre-registered and on-site attendees were able to check in easily on a tablet. Thanks to this simplified registration and check-in process, Ferguson collected hundreds of new email addresses for current customers, and sent targeted follow up emails to attendees and no-shows.

Targeted follow up for those that attended the event.

Targeted follow up for those that attended the event.

The previous years’ problems with bottlenecks, skipped registration, and illegible information was solved with the adoption of digital check-in and registration. Not to mention, these streamlined processes allowed attendees to quickly check in with a swipe of their phone via the mobile app.


In addition to segmenting their trade show emails based on email open data, Ferguson also created an email specifically for driving app downloads.

Ferguson 3

This triggered email is only sent to customers that have opened on an iOS device within the past 48 hours, and has performed better than any other trade show emails to date!


Ferguson and Whereoware set an initial goal of 100 app downloads—the return from 100 extremely engaged customers was enough to pay for the program. They’ve far surpassed that initial goal with 389 downloads—and more than half of the trade show calendar left!

The app-specific emails have seen great results, boasting a 61% open rate (a 135% increase from their average sends!) and around a 7.2% conversion rate. Relevant email content = happy customers!

The team at Ferguson is looking forward to continuing to segment their lists and trying new techniques to provide their customers with the best email experience possible!


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Community Spotlight: Jaina Mistry Mon, 29 Jun 2015 15:12:07 +0000 The Community Spotlight is a monthly blog series highlighting some of the amazing members of the Litmus Community.

This month, we’re chatting with Jaina Mistry, an email designer, world-traveller, and Community veteran. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and check out her website.

So, who are you and what do you do?

I’m Jaina Mistry and I’m an Email Marketing Specialist for Padawan Group, a London-based startup company.


When did you first get involved with email marketing and design?

Back in 2007 I landed my first web design & development job at Sit-Up Channels, where a big part of the job was to look after the design and build of the emails. I think I thought of them as mini-websites back then.

What did you do before email? Has it had any effect on how you approach email?

Before email I was working in IT. Working in IT taught me a few things about problem solving. There is no one solution to problems you face. Sometimes there are a few and it’s up to you to choose a solution for your situation. I feel like that’s the case in email, especially today when there are so many devices and browsers to cater to. There are different solutions, the quick and dirty ones that are just temporary patches, or the ones that take a bit more time to implement but will holdfast for the long term.

What are some of your favorite tools? And what does your typical design process look like?

It goes without saying that I’d be lost without Litmus. I was without Litmus for a week, at one point, and it was terrifying.

Can I also say that the #emailgeeks on Twitter and Litmus Community are a couple of my favorite tools, too? There’s such a wealth of knowledge, all of which the community shares with everyone.

My design process always starts with some sketches and brainstorming in my notebook. I find it a lot easier to come up with a design for an email after I scratch out a few words on what the objective of the email is and what the end user should be doing with the email. Once I’ve got some loose ideas down and a very sketchy sketch, I’ll dive into design. In the past (as in, just a couple of months ago) I used Adobe Photoshop to design the emails. However I’ve now jumped on the Sketch bandwagon for designing them. Sometimes during the design process, I’ll design something I’m not yet sure how to code. So I’ll jump into Adobe Brackets to do a quick HTML mock-up, just to make sure I can code what I’m designing.

What’s your favorite email hack?

The one email hack I find myself coming back to time and time again is Mike Ragan’s Ghost Column Hack. It’s incredibly simple and it just works. Any email hack that makes the everyday process of email coding easier is a favorite of mine. And the min-width hack for Gmail, to make sure the Gmail app displays your email at the right width. Again, it’s a small hack, but knowing my email renders well in an app that over 60% of our customers use makes me happy.

What do you see as the biggest challenge in email today?

Technically, combatting the vast array of email vendors, browsers and devices. And the numbers of all of those just keeps increasing. And when something new is released or changes are made, email marketers often stumble upon it (or find out their emails render somewhat differently) rather than finding out in a release document!

Generally in terms of email marketing, working with your data. While it’s great collecting data and analyzing and reporting on what you’ve found in your last 10 email campaigns, it’s still very subjective. It’s a guessing game as to why the open rate may have dipped 2 months ago, but then came back up again. Or why one CTA button worked but another didn’t. We know as email marketers that we have to use our data in order to give our customers the emails they want to receive, but understanding and forming conclusions around that data can sometimes be more of an art-form than a science.

What do you think email will look like in five years?

I don’t know if it’ll be vastly different in five years. After all, email hasn’t changed much since it’s birth. I can imagine it’ll still be a big part of everyday lives, with it still being used as a messaging as well as a marketing platform. Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the way it’s consumed may well change. With things like Siri already being able to read emails, albeit not very well, I could well imagine more email being consumed without screens.

You recently moved from the UK to Bahrain. How has that move influenced how you approach work? What’s changed?

As I’m still working for a UK-based company, my approach hasn’t changed that much. However living in a completely different region has given me more of an awareness of how marketing is so different, globally. Email marketing isn’t nearly as prevalent in Bahrain as it is in the UK or USA. Instead, there’s much more reliance on SMS, WhatsApp and Instagram. And everyone does marketing—even hospitals send out WhatsApp marketing messages!

While we don’t have a Bahraini website at Padawan Group (yet!), working for a company with a group of global websites has made me appreciate how important localization is. Having local knowledge to make sure your marketing is relevant to the target audience is vital.

What’s your favorite movie, book, band, and email campaign?

  • Favorite movie: Gladiator. Ridley Scott at his best.
  • Favorite book: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. There’s something very reassuring about how Vonnegut describes time.
  • Favorite band: Foo Fighters. Just call me a Dave Grohl fangirl.
  • Favorite email campaign: From Bonobos. Subject line: =VLOOKUP(Your boss is behind you)


This email from Bonobos goes against almost everything I work towards in email myself—it’s all images for one thing! But it is a fantastically unique email from an online retailer. I’ve not seen anything like this before. A really interesting and different way to get people to engage with your brand and your email. To give them something alternative in an email. A spreadsheet of all things. It’s such a fun concept and shows a really inventive way of creating engagement.

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