The Latest Email Campaign Design trends

January 18th, 2019 by Heather Maloney

Design trends are a favourite topic for discussion at the start of each year. However, what is possible in the design of an email campaign is significantly constrained by email programs used by the recipient (or at least, the lowest common denominator of email clients). Email design must also ensure a great experience for those reading on a mobile phone, as well as a desktop computer; as of June 2018, 46% of all emails are opened on a mobile phone(1).

Emails from major brands continue to be highly designed, and consist predominantly of all images. It seems that the major brands expect that their customers will open and download the images so that they can actually see the email, without any further encouragement. Less popular brands and professional organisations, however, would be well advised to intermingle images with text and colour blocks that appear without image download, to entice the recipient to read with more than just the sender’s name and subject line.

One of the most popular design trends in emails is including animated gifs to entice curiosity and therefore click through to the organisation’s website. Animated gifs can also be used to better explain concepts inside an email; a picture tells a thousand words. Because you want the animation to surprise and delight, using them in every email you send runs the risk of becoming predictable, so mix it up.

It is also important to note some difficulties with animated gifs inside emails:

  • Unfortunately Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 do not support animated gifs, and will show the static version of the animation by presenting the first frame of the animation. That means you need to include all the important information in the first frame, to cater for the high percentage of users still using these versions of Outlook (approximately 8% of the global population).
  • Many frames and complex animations will cause your images to get very large, very quickly. So you should stick to very simple animations.
  • It takes more design skills to create great looking animated gifs, compared to a single static image.
  • Accessibility for the visually impaired can also be an issue. Consider slowing down rapid frame rates, depending on the image.


(image courtesy of Review Australia email)

Including live content in the body of your email – think live results from a poll, count down to the end of a sale or ticket availability, latest content shared by other customers, current weather, something happening close to the location of the opener. Live content is information that is updated when the recipient opens your email. This tactic, if used to provide richer, more relevant experiences for your reader (not just used as a gimmick) will significantly increase the engagement of your audience and possibly aid in community building, and will cause an increase in the number of times that an individual opens the same email. Live content is being seen increasingly in social platforms e.g. Facebook Live where users are streaming video from an event. Live content is also a tactic that you will want to make careful use of, as it can backfire if the live content rarely changes, is of poor quality, or is uninteresting.

The use of live content is likely part of a cross-channel marketing campaign. For example, a physical event, involving sharing of content online, with online ads pointing to the website, and an email campaign promoting the event before, during or after. This trend of co-ordinated marketing across multiple channels has been a goal for marketers over many years, but made difficult by disparate systems. As technology integrations proliferate some of these difficulties are being removed, and the end consumer is seeing the same message in more places, with great effect. Delivering a co-ordinated marketing campaign across multiple platforms – ads, website, emails, offline marketing – requires a lot more design effort and co-ordination across multiple teams in larger organisations, but will produce significantly better results than a message only distributed in one channel.

If you would like help to use any of the above trends in your email marketing, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

(1) https://litmus.com/blog/email-client-market-share-trends-first-half-of-2018

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