Litmus Blog Litmus Company Blog Mon, 29 Jun 2015 22:13:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.

Join the Community

Not a Litmus Community member? Join the best minds in the email industry as they discuss the latest email news, cutting-edge techniques, and solutions to even the trickiest email design problems.

Join the Community →

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Introducing Nadia Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:38:03 +0000 We’re thrilled to introduce you to the newest member of the Litmus team—Nadia!

Introducing Nadia, Customer Support Associate

Alongside the rest of the support team, Nadia is here to answer any questions (or listen to any feedback) you have about Litmus. Based in the UK, she’s able to offer early morning assistance to our international customers.

Before joining the team, Nadia worked in sales, product management, and digital marketing (which, of course, included email marketing!). She thoroughly enjoys the email marketing world and finds there is something new to learn every day. Her love of email, paired with fondness for helping others, makes her the perfect fit for this role at Litmus!

Nadia is the definition of a world traveler. She was born in Morocco, then moved to Spain as a young child, and is now a resident of London. Her passion for traveling led her to a stint as a tour operator, where she organized and sold trips all around the world—enabling her to travel to Polynesia, Indonesia, Brazil, Myanmar, and more in the process! She currently speaks four languages—Spanish, French, Arabic, and English—and hopes to learn Portuguese, too.

When she’s not helping customers at Litmus or jetsetting, Nadia’s always on the lookout to learn something new, like taking courses in her free time or reading history books. You can also find her exploring the woodsy trails of Hampstead forest with her partner Eric and dreaming to be soon accompanied by a couple of kids and a dog.


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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Nothing in Email Marketing Is ‘Set It and Forget It’ Fri, 19 Jun 2015 15:37:20 +0000 Triggered emails have a reputation for being “set it and forget it” programs. We’ve even heard people laud that as one of principal reasons to use triggered emails—that once you set them up, they just quietly mint money and you never have to touch them again.

Unfortunately, that’s just not true, and it’s becoming less and less true every day. As I argue in Email Marketing Rules, triggered emails are actually “review and renew” programs. Marketers should “Keep an inventory of your triggered email programs and regularly schedule time to update and fine-tune them.” You should review all your triggered emails at least quarterly to make sure images, links, rendering, and other functionality remains intact.

As we discuss in our recent “Designed for Success” webinar, there are two compelling reasons to regularly update your triggered emails: (1) quality assurance and (2) optimization. Let’s look at QA first.

Everything Is Changing around Your Emails

Your emails connect to your website, are an expression of your brand, tie into your various product and customer strategies, and exist in a complex environment of email clients, browsers, and devices. Each of those elements changes fairly routinely, which can lead to:

  • Broken links/redirects and old navigation links
  • Out-of-date logo and branding
  • Out-of-date messaging (benefits, options, etc.)
  • Faulty trigger logic
  • Broken rendering and functionality because of code support changes at ISPs

For instance, this email subscription confirmation request was sent in 2013, and had an outdated logo. According to the copyright notice at the bottom of the message, the last time the email was reviewed was in 2007:

This subscription confirmation request email had an out-of-date logo

Looking at copyright notices is an easy way to see just how old the content of an email is. While some ESPs will let you program these to automatically update, we recommend updating them manually, as it forces you to at least eyeball these emails once a year. It’s surprising how often even that doesn’t happen.

This welcome email hadn’t been updated in four years when it was sent in 2013. As a consequence, the navigation bar was out of date and some of the design elements like the orange carets were as well.

This welcome email hadn't been updated in several years

Subscribers missed the primary message in this cart abandonment email because data about the abandoned product wasn’t pulled into the email. It’s unclear if this was a temporary issue or one that affected thousands or more subscribers.

This cart abandonment email didn't pull in information about what was left in the subscriber's cart

This browse abandonment email suffered from faulty trigger logic, as I had converted the previous day. Considering not only the growth of triggered email series but also the incredible emphasis being rightfully placed on customer journeys, trigger logic and trigger hierarchies is increasing in importance rather dramatically. There are now many more chances for these types of messages to become out of date or to break.

This browse abandonment email was sent despite the fact that the recipient converted the day before

Rendering is also a constant concern because support for HTML and CSS is always changing at ISPs and there are no standards of support. This triggered birthday email was likely a victim of one of these changes. The result is the misalignment of the image around the HTML “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” text.

This triggered birthday email has image alignment issues

Fast-Moving Trends around Triggered Emails

The second reason why marketers need to regularly review their triggered emails is become of optimization opportunities. Even though adoption of most triggered emails is still around 25%, triggered messaging is a hotbed of experimentation and innovation right now.

The trends around cart abandonment emails demonstrate this well. For instance, according to research I did with, 50% of B2C marketers responded to abandoned carts with a series of emails rather than a single email during December 2014. The previous year only 19% did so. The inclusion of alternative product suggestions and of seasonally relevant content similarly jumped in adoption.

In particular, the explosion of email series—which we see in welcome emails and other triggered emails as well—means that there’s now much more to test, optimize, and update, such as…

  • The number of emails in the series
  • The conditions in which the next email in the series is sent (or not sent)
  • The timing of not only the first email in the series, but of all the subsequent ones
  • The messaging in each email in the series and how they interact with each other

All of this is critical because triggered emails are incredibly powerful. In fact, the new litmus test for email marketing greatness is whether the majority of your email marketing revenue and engagement come from triggered emails.

There are already some very large companies that are accomplishing this, but it’s impossible to achieve without robust testing and re-testing on a regular basis. If you don’t have an inventory of all your triggered emails or haven’t reviewed them all recently, put that on your to-do list and work toward ensuring that your triggered emails deliver a great on-brand experience and are optimized for maximum performance.

Webinar: Designed for Success—Optimizing the Email Experience

For more on this, check out the webinar that Justine Jordan and I did as part of Cloud.IQ’s eCommerce Summit. In it, we discuss:

  • Best practices and principles for mobile email design
  • How to optimize the six stages of the inbox experience
  • Cart abandonment email trends and tips for optimizing them

Watch the webinar now →

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The Viral Email Report: Benchmarks, Tactics, and Topics of the Most Forwarded Emails Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:39:24 +0000 We tend to associate “going viral” with social media—in part because it’s relatively easy to see and measure the very public noise of social sharing in terms of likes, favorites, and retweets. However, the much quieter email forward is often a much more powerful influencer.

To better understand the quiet, often invisible influence of email forwards, we used Litmus’ Email Analytics to analyze the forwards generated by more than 400,000 email sends with at least 500 opens between January 2013 and March 2015. To reduce the impact of list size, we normalized forward activity by calculating the forward-to-open rate—that is, what percentage of opens that generated a forward. This gave us a great view of forwarding behavior and allowed us to construct benchmarks around email virality.

But to truly understand the drivers of email forwarding, we analyzed more than 200 emails from among the top 1% of viral emails and another 200-plus emails from around the 50th percentile. We looked at the tactics, topics, and other elements of these two groups of emails—and some of the results were truly surprising.

For instance, our research found that:

  • A tiny fraction of emails generate more forwards than opens
  • 5% of emails don’t generate any forwards at all
  • Targeted messages and those sent to small audiences are generally at least 90% more viral than untargeted messages and those sent to large audiences
  • The most common topic among emails in the top 1% of viral emails was events and webinars
  • Suggesting that subscribers share an email via social also significantly impacts forwarding behavior

For a deep dive into email virality and how to spur it, download The Viral Email report.

Download the free report →

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Rendering, CSS Support & More in Office 365’s Outlook Web App Wed, 17 Jun 2015 15:07:26 +0000 Over the years, Microsoft has created many email programs—desktop, webmail, and mobile—for businesses and consumers alike. These programs—most of which were released under the Outlook name—have left many confused about differences between the apps, especially when it comes to support for HTML and CSS in email. However, Microsoft seems to be making strides in consolidating some of these clients.

In July 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be migrating Hotmail users to in an effort to provide a more modern email experience. In order to further align their user interface and feature set, Microsoft has another big change coming: they’re replacing the interface and infrastructure of with Office 365. This will not only give’s inbox a facelift, but will likely affect the way your emails display for those subscribers.

What is Office 365, and how will it affect email rendering in

Outlook web-based services

Microsoft offers two web-accessible versions of Outlook: Office 365/Outlook Web App and

Office 365/Outlook Web App

Office 365 is a subscription-based, online version of Microsoft Office. Rather than buying a one-time license to perpetually run the software—like you would for the desktop version—you essentially rent monthly access via a subscription.

Included with Office 365 is access to various Microsoft Office services including Excel, PowerPoint, and email. The email client provided with Office 365 is Outlook Web App. Outlook Web App can only be used to access Office 365 for businesses and other accounts that are hosted on a server that’s running MIcrosoft Exchange 2013 or later.

To further confuse things, an earlier version of Outlook Web App (running on pre-2013 Microsoft Exchange Server) is called Outlook Web Access, which has gained a reputation as a lousy email client for its poor support for HTML and CSS. (formerly Hotmail)

Hotmail was the first free webmail service offered to consumers. Between 2012-2013, Microsoft migrated Hotmail users to Similar to Hotmail, is a free web-based email service that can be viewed in Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, or other popular browsers.

While has its own rendering quirks, the user’s browser of choice can also affect rendering in For example, styled ALT text is supported when messages are viewed in current versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, but not in Internet Explorer.

Aligning and Office 365

At the end of May 2015, Microsoft announced that they would be upgrading to a new Office 365-based infrastructure. While it was initially rolled out to a small group of customers, it will be made available through a broader audience through an opt-in program—and, likely, eventually everyone.

With these changes Microsoft will be replacing the technology and interface of with Office 365 / Outlook Web Access (which we’ll refer to as OWA from here on out). It appears as if the name will remain, but the technology ‘under the hood’ will be significantly updated to reflect a similar level of HTML and CSS support (and therefore rendering capabilities) that is currently behind Office 365.

In terms of UI changes, is moving towards the OWA interface that is used with Office 365. Seeing as the two already share a similar UI, the transition shouldn’t be problematic.



Office 365

Email on Office 365/OWA

We’ve previously covered email rendering for—but how does email look in a future where an OWA-powered Office 365 has replaced

While OWA has been known for rendering issues that rival those commonly found in Outlook 2007-2013, major improvements have been made. A comprehensive post by Community member James White explained changes made by the old OWA pre-processor. For example, inline styles were stripped and CSS in the <head> was not supported. While major updates have improved OWA’s rendering capabilities, it still has some quirks.

Rendering quirks in Office 365/OWA

Revisiting OWA after the Office 365-inspired updates, James White noted significant improvements in rendering basic HTML and CSS. However, there is still room for improvement for more advanced techniques. For example, while OWA now supports animated GIFs, it lacks support for HTML5 video backgrounds, or CSS3.

Be sure to provide proper fallbacks for advanced techniques if you’re seeing a large percentage of your audience opening on Office 365/OWA.

Inbox view

Outside of rendering improvements, there are a few changes to how OWA handles other aspects of the email experience. After logging into OWA, you must select an email to display or click the prompt to “…always select the first item when you sign in.”

2 - Office 365 inbox view

The inbox view emphasizes the from name followed by the subject line, and then preview text. Be sure to use a from name your subscribers recognize, as this is not only the first information displayed, but the largest, too.

3 - Zoomed in inbox view

While the subject line and preview text are the same size, the subject line is a slightly darker shade than the preview text. The subject line also appears bold and blue when an email is unread, making it stand out even more. There are several subject line optimization strategies you can test—such as character counts, asking questions, and leveraging localization—to see how subscribers respond.

Both the subject line and preview text comprise one line of text in the inbox. The subject line is made up of approximately 45 characters, while the preview text is a bit longer at about 50 characters. With the preview text holding the most character real estate in the inbox, we recommend optimizing this text to increase email performance.

OWA will also support the display of some, but not all, symbols used in subject lines and preview text. Be sure to preview your email before sending to ensure that the symbol you’ve selected is supported!

4 - Symbols in subject lines

Image blocking

Similar to and Hotmail, OWA has a few image blocking quirks.

5 - image blocking

Images are blocked by default except for trusted senders. When images are blocked, there are two options displayed at the top of the email:

  • “To help protect your privacy, some content in this message has been blocked. To re-enable the blocked features, click here.”
  • “To always show content from this sender, click here.”

When either option is selected, images display. If you choose to “always show content from this sender,” images will automatically display from that sender moving forward.

We also noted instances where some images were blocked, while others displayed in the same email.

6 - Random image blocking

After doing some digging, it looks like OWA’s preprocessor is changing any img src= to img blockedimagesrc=, causing an image to be blocked unless the subscriber chooses to download images. However, the preprocessor is skipping background images in table cells, so any image in a <td> will display regardless. In theory, even though OWA blocks images by default, if you set your images as background images in a <td> cell, then they will automatically display. Pretty crazy, eh?

As a result of OWA’s quirky image blocking (and the many other clients that block images by default!), it’s always a good idea to defensively design messages. Be sure to use ALT text (or styled ALT text, which is supported in OWA) and a proper balance of live text and imagery to ensure your message gets across even when images are off.

Unsubscribes + Action Items in the inbox

OWA offers features similar to Gmail’s Quick Actions and auto-unsubscribe, offering another opt-out mechanism and the ability to quickly act on CTAs within a message.

7 - Action Item 1

The “Unsubscribe” option displays near the top of the message for the majority of commercial/promotional emails. In all of the examples we tested, clicking on this button didn’t unsubscribe the user from a list (like Gmail’s auto-unsubscribe feature), but instead displayed a message stating, “It looks like this is a newsletter, but we aren’t sure if it is safe to unsubscribe from it using the information provided by the sender. If you don’t want to receive from this sender again, you can block it. All new messages from ‘’ will be moved to your Junk Email folder.”

8 - unsubscribe

Rather than unsubscribing the user, OWA blocks the sender and marks subsequent emails as spam. This is bad news for senders—frequent blocks from free providers can have long-term effects on delivery rates.

To avoid this type of blocking, be sure to make it easy to unsubscribe from your emails. While it can be frightening to encourage users to unsubscribe, a smaller, more engaged list will lead to better deliverability in the long term.

“Action Items” may also display alongside the “Unsubscribe” option in emails containing specific types of content. While not as advanced (or fun!) as Gmail’s Quick Actions—where you can view flight itineraries, restaurant reservations, and the like—Action Items uncover calls-to-action (CTAs) in the email, like a whitelisting/add to address book request.

9 - action item 2

In this example, the CTA is located at the bottom of the email, but is pulled to the top of the email. While this “Action Item” doesn’t allow the subscriber to add the sender address to their address book with a single click, it does enable them to create a task. When subscribers click on the “Follow up” text, a task is created.

10 - action item 3

A flag will appear in the inbox until the subscriber marks the task as complete. Once completed, a check mark replaces the flag.

11 - action item 4

Optimize email for Office 365 / OWA

As users continue to be upgraded to an Office 365-based infrastructure, more of your subscribers will viewing your emails in a OWA-like environment. With that in mind, it’s crucial to prepare for upcoming changes to and understand how your audience may be affected. Use Litmus Email Analyticsl to discover who opens your emails on OWA and test your emails in over 40 desktop, webmail, and mobile programs—including Office 365 / OWA.

Get started now →

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