7 easy wins to add to your email marketing to-do list

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thumbs-up-2Email is always evolving, so marketers’ email marketing programs must always be changing as well to ensure that they’re still relevant to consumers and that they create great subscriber experiences. With that in mind, here are seven relatively easy wins to consider adding to your email marketing to-do list this year:

1. Use more retina-optimized images

In 2010, Apple introduced the iPhone 4, which had a Retina screen with four times the pixel density of previous screens. Now high-DPI screens are everywhere, not just in Apple products.

However, brands have been slow to adapt to this reality. Nearly half of brands never use retina-optimized images in their emails, according to Litmus’ State of Email Design report (email registration required).

Use of Retina-Optimized Images

The result of not using retina-optimized images is that images appear fuzzy and hazy, which is especially bad for lifestyle and product images. It’s incredibly difficult for people to get excited about buying dresses and visiting beaches they can’t see, for instance.

This can be easily fixed by creating images that are twice as wide and high as intended, and then specifying the width and height in the <img> tag. For instance, the code might look something like this:

<img src=”http://website.com/picture300x300.png” width=”150″ height=”150″ />

The one downside is that retina-optimized images can become quite heavy and increase your email’s load time, which can be frustrating for subscribers. Consider compressing your images with ImageOptim, Compressor.io, JPEGmini, TinyPNG, Kraken or Pied Piper.

2. Use more ALT text, especially styled ALT text

Despite Gmail now enabling images in email by default, image blocking is still fairly common. And when images are blocked, it can be challenging to adequately convey your message.

ALT text can be a huge help. The ALT text associated with an image is displayed when the image is not, allowing you to compensate for the messaging that’s lost due to image blocking.

While more than half of marketers always use ALT text for the images in their emails, more than 20 percent of marketers never or rarely use it, according to Litmus’ State of Email Design report.

Use of ALT text

The less-than-stellar adoption rate of ALT text made us seriously question whether marketers were also missing out on using styled ALT text. The email clients that support ALT text also tend to support the following CSS properties:

  • font-family
  • font-size
  • font-weight
  • color
  • font-style

So a little bit of extra effort means that your emails look significantly better when images are blocked. As an added benefit, ALT text can also improve the accessibility of an email for subscribers who are using screen readers.

3. Use animated GIFs more often

Animated GIFs are the most common way to add motion to an email because most email clients support them.

Animated GIFs can:

  • catch the eye and add intrigue.
  • entertain and add humor.
  • draw attention to the primary CTA (call to action).
  • highlight assortments or product options.
  • demonstrate how a product or service works.

However, despite all these use cases, animated GIFs are never or rarely used by 70 percent of marketers, according to Litmus’ State of Email Design report.

Use of Animated GIFs

Part of this may be the perception that animation is only for B2C brands, but we’ve seen B2B brands like Periscope effectively use animated GIFs to demonstrate how to use various product features by showing how to navigate from one screen to another. That’s a powerful B2B use case for animation.

4. A/B test your preview text more often

Marketers know how incredibly important subject lines are. Along with your sender name, subject lines help subscribers decide whether to open an email. However, there’s a third element of envelope content that gets considerably less attention: preview text.

Appearing in the inbox of many major email clients like iOS Mail and Gmail, preview text gives recipients a look at the first line of text in the email. While marketers can specify what text appears as preview text, a shocking number don’t. Instead, they allow administrative text and long, nonsensical URLs to appear.


There’s not only a big opportunity for more brands to use preview text strategically, but also to optimize it through A/B testing. While more than 63 percent of marketers A/B test their subject lines, only 17 percent test their preview text, according to Litmus’s State of Email Design report.

A/B Testing Email Elements

5. Adopt responsive email design

With Google largely done rolling out support for responsive design across the Gmail family of email clients, there’s an undeniable critical mass of email clients that support responsive design. Plus, marketers have tons of resources available to them to make the transition to responsive much less painful and daunting than it was a few years ago.

Yet half of brands are still using mobile-unfriendly desktop-centric design or mobile-aware design, which is a basic approach to mobile-friendliness, according to joint research by Litmus and Salesforce. That’s a lot of brands that can provide a much better mobile experience for their subscribers.

Emails have become much more mobile-friendly

6. Create an extensive pre-send email checklist

Email marketing is complex, with tons of moving parts. Yet more than a quarter of marketers have no pre-send checklist to help them avoid making mistakes, according to a Litmus’ State of Email Production report (email registration required). Another 53 percent of marketers use short checklists, rather than an extensive one.

Brands with extensive email checklists are significantly more aware of mistakes, whereas errors appear to completely slip by brands that don’t use a checklist or only use a short one.

Pre-Send Checklist Usage

As you build out your own pre-send email marketing checklist, make sure yours answers these key questions: Do you have the…

  • right send date?
  • right list or trigger logic?
  • right sender name and subject line?
  • right rendering and functionality?
  • right personalization and defaults?
  • right links with correct tracking?

7. Plan your email content farther in advance

Creating an effective email marketing campaign takes time, especially if that campaign is going out during your peak season. However, most marketers are working off pretty short time tables.

During off-peak seasons, the majority of marketers are planning a month or less into the future, according to Litmus’ State of Email Production report. During peak season, the majority are planning two months out or less.

Content Planning Horizon

Without proper planning, it’s difficult to…

  • ramp up email production volume for peak seasons.
  • plan sophisticated one-off emails.
  • make seasonal updates to templates and triggered emails, which is increasing in importance as triggered emails bring in more and more revenue.

Try implementing one or more of these changes in the months ahead to give your email program an incremental boost.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Chad White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Research Director at Litmus, a provider of email creation, preview, and analytics tools. He has written thousands of posts and articles about email marketing — as a journalist at Condé Nast and Dow Jones & Co.; as a researcher and analyst at the Direct Marketing Association, Responsys, and Salesforce.com; and in his current role.


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