May 2012Ten Inbox SecretsWhat eye tracking reveals aboutdesigning more effective emails
54(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitlestore environment provides a goodanalogy, and one that we will comeback to again in this...
76(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle76Email Anatomy ClassTerrific designstructure fromNext, using productcut-outs to draw th...
98(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle98Digital SignpostingGrattan’s secondary navigationhighlights fashion categories, andsup...
1110(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitleThe‘must-do’steps(continued)There are hundreds of blacklists in operation but some are...
Content Kings12 13he prime objective of any emailprogramme is to maximise digitalfootfall – closing the sale is a taskfor ...
Words That Paint 1,000 Pictures14 15here are two important factors thatmake for effective copy in an email –what you say, ...
Digital Salesmanship16 17One of the best instructors we ever used in our company used to teach us that a good salesmanor p...
Graphic Assets1819In all kinds of marketing communications, good designers know how to exploit graphic devices todraw atte...
No Stone Unturned2021In a store, every square foot represents the opportunity for a sale.  In an email, every pixel should...
22We interpret what we see differently depending on the context and environment.  What might seeman exceptional bargain in...
24Participants were recruited locally viaposters and email responses and werescreened according to the demographicrequired...
Red C, Anchorage 1, Anchorage Quay, Salford Quays, Manchester M50 Designed by Andy Campbell and N...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

Ten Inbox Secrets; What eye tracking reveals about designing more effective emails


Published on

Back in April 2011, when we first conceived the idea of conducting a series of studies on emails by sector, we felt
that it could prove a rich source of insight. The agency already had significant expertise in the area from writing,
designing, building and analysing emails for blue chip clients. We knew a lot about what worked – we wanted to
know more about why it worked.
One year later, with more than 50 emails studied among over 100 participants, this document represents a
distillation of some of the most important findings. We wanted it to be useful for email marketing practitioners,
and we have structured it for those at the sharp end, illustrating each point with examples we uncovered of both
good and bad practice. It has given us some outstanding insights into the techniques that encourage recipients to
engage with and respond to emails, and we hope you will find it useful in designing more effectively for the inbox.

Published in: Business, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Ten Inbox Secrets; What eye tracking reveals about designing more effective emails

  1. 1. May 2012Ten Inbox SecretsWhat eye tracking reveals aboutdesigning more effective emails
  2. 2. Contents3��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������About Red C��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������Ten Inbox Secrets��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� • First Impressions Count������������������������������������������������������������������������������4-5 Creating enticing and effective opening screens • Email Anatomy Class�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������6-7 Engaging design and structure techniques • Digital Signposting���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������8-9 Converting browsing into action using navigation • Clickability�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������10-11 The role of CTA design in increasing click-throughs • Content Kings�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������12-13 The key added value content that drives participation • Words That Paint 1,000 Pictures��������������������������������������������������������14-15 Why copy trumps imagery in a soundbyte environment • Digital Salesmanship������������������������������������������������������������������������������16-17 Optimising product presentation to close more sales • Graphic Assets�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������18-19 Using graphics to overcome inertia and drive clicks • No Stone Unturned��������������������������������������������������������������������������������20-21 Winning incremental clicks by exploiting every opportunity • Peripheral Vision��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������22-23 The importance of relative proximity of design elements • Methodology�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 24A direct and digital marketing communications agency based in Salford Quays, Manchester, with significantexperience of both email marketing and eye tracking research.The agency has been conducting eye trackingresearch studies on marketing material for over 15 years with Professor Alastair Gale and his team at LoughboroughUniversity. Recently Red C has installed a Tobii widescreen eye tracker in-house to facilitate studies for clients.The agency also designs and builds email programmes for a number of blue chip UK clients, including the SwintonInsurance Group, European train operator Eurostar, photographic retailer Jessops and Freemans Grattan Holdings,the UK home shopping arm of OttoVersand.The agency has recently picked up several awards for its email work,including an Mi Gold Best CRM Strategy for its email programme for Jessops and a DMA Silver for Swinton’striggered emails.About t he Aut hors�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������Adrian Rowe Hon F IDMChairman of Red C and of the Institute of DirectMarketing North,Adrian is an experienced direct anddigital marketing consultant advising clients acrossa range of sectors. He was awarded Honorary LifeFellowship of the IDM in 2001 for exceptional servicesto the profession. His commitment to eye trackingas a research methodology can be traced back to anextraordinary seminar given by Professor SiegfriedVogele at the 1985 Montreux Symposium.Lorenzo Burridge MAWith a Masters in the Psychology of Advertising fromthe University of Lancaster, Lorenzo is well equippedto understand and interpret the findings from oureye tracking studies and his passion for Thai boxingmeans you don’t lightly challenge his conclusions. Hemanages all aspects of the eye tracking service thatRed C offers to its clients.Introduction��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������Back in April 2011, when we first conceived the idea of conducting a series of studies on emails by sector, we feltthat it could prove a rich source of insight.The agency already had significant expertise in the area from writing,designing, building and analysing emails for blue chip clients.We knew a lot about what worked – we wanted toknow more about why it worked.One year later, with more than 50 emails studied among over 100 participants, this document represents adistillation of some of the most important findings.We wanted it to be useful for email marketing practitioners,and we have structured it for those at the sharp end, illustrating each point with examples we uncovered of bothgood and bad practice. It has given us some outstanding insights into the techniques that encourage recipients toengage with and respond to emails, and we hope you will find it useful in designing more effectively for the inbox.Adrian RoweMay 20122
  3. 3. 54(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitlestore environment provides a goodanalogy, and one that we will comeback to again in this paper. If thesubject header was the window poster thatpersuaded us through the doors, consider thatthe opening screenful is that first step throughthe doors, when we orient ourselves andsearch for the visual cues to draw us into thestore environment. Finding helpful, relevantvisual cues in the first screen of an email isjust as important as in a store, perhaps evenmore so – you can’t delete a store at thetouch of a button!Remember that recipients who open youremail have many differing reasons for doingso. You must ensure that you cater for all ofthem to maximise your engagement funnel.In particular, bear in mind the different needsof ‘purposeful’ openers against those whoare ‘just dropping in’. Purposeful openersmay head straight for the navigation to helpthem access the most relevant part of yourwebsite, or they may read what you have tosay first. Make sure your navigation is clearin the opening screen. Openers who justdrop in are in browsing mode – perhaps theylike your brand or they’re in the market foryour products, but you’re not the only option.The best-performing emails in our studiesmaximised clicks by accommodating both.Freemans do this well in their Style Bibleemail, illustrated here, by giving readers extra‘short-cuts’ to sub-categories of womenswear(for those already in buying mode), but alsomaking immediate eye contact and opening aconversation about a latest fashion trend withcompelling, personalised copy (for browsers).We found that engagement, and preference,was influenced significantly by the timespent viewing the email. In turn, time spentwas influenced primarily by the success ofthe email opening screen in drawing readersthrough the second and third screens. It’svital to provide plenty of good content inthe opening screen to maximise success,especially in the form of irregular shapes,compelling information and graphic offerelements. One fatal error in many of theleast preferred and least successful emailsfrom our studies was the use of a big imageon the opening screen. It may be temptingto aim for the ‘wow factor’, but in the marketsectors we studied, including fashion andholidays, opening on a big image left subjectssearching in vain for visual cues. Consistently,the most engaging emails worked hard in theopening screen to provide reasons to read onor click through in equal measure.Design plays a big role in maximisingengagement throughout the email, as we willdemonstrate in the next section, but on theWe read emails one screen at a time – each new screen determines whether we continue to scroll or hitdelete. So the opening ‘screenful’ is highly influential on the overall email performance. Direct mail letterswork one sentence at a time, and a good copywriter knows that the reader’s propensity to read the secondsentence is based on the persuasive power of the first sentence. The principle is exactly the same for email. Sustaining attention in an email has its own ‘engagement funnel’ and the battle for a recipient’s continuedconsideration starts at the very first screen.First Impressions Counthen first viewing an email,readers will typicallyfocus their attention atthe centre of the page while it loadsand orient their attention from there.This orienting phase enables them toestablish the page’s identity and scanfor visual cues as it becomes visibleon the screen.As the elements on thepage are loading, they form patternsthat correlate with the rest of thecontent. From here, the reader isthen able to exploit this informationto aid them in search durations andnavigation.Subjects can easily become distractedby multiple stimuli presented tothem in any given environment.As attention is selective, much ofthe information gets filtered out,leaving that which is interesting andvisually engaging to the individual.In an email, this process occurs veryquickly, requiring that the very firstscreenful performs effectively in thecognitive recruitment of those thatview it.As this opening screen is limitedto the size of the email client orinternet browser, it is crucial thatthe space is utilised effectively toencourage further viewing. Largescreenful-sized images are viewed tooquickly and do not provide enoughvisual encouragement to scroll downfurther. In our Cottage Holiday sectorstudy, all of the emails opened withimages that took up 20-30% of thearea, but accounted for less than 5%of user attention.Additionally, largeblocks of text pose a hindrance toattention levels as the task difficultybecomes too taxing.A more effective way to make use ofthe first screen is to connect with thereader on an emotional level.This wasapparent in several emails we studiedthat used full or partial figure shots,or addressed the reader directly withan introduction. Other studies havereported that individuals recogniseand react to faces faster than anyother element on a page, and thosethat make direct eye contact havethe greatest emotional impact ofall.This instantly draws attention tothe screen, and can also encourageattention to other areas usingdirectional gaze techniques.Introductory copy creates anintimate interaction between thereader and the email, particularlywhen personalised.This commandsimmediate attention and creates apositive association with the brandon a more personal level. Our studieshave shown that this techniquepromotes further reading and higherpreference rates over emails without.However, direct testing for this waslimited as true personalisation testingwould require the modification ofemails to suit each participant.ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVE54How to do it – An effectiveopening screenful fromFreemans using eye contact tocreate engagementHow not to do it –Marsdens forcedtheir readers totackle a big block ofcopy in the openingscreen to establishwhat was on offerAWThe exception to the rule –this big opening screenshotfrom Not on the High Street usesa busy tagged product shot,diagonal product placement andshallow depth of fieldopening screen it is important to structureelements to give readers pathways throughthe email and keep them scrolling. A goodexample of this, which at first glance appearsto break the ‘big image’ convention, is thisemail from ecommerce site Not on the HighStreet. It defies the convention by providinga busy image packed with Christmascookery products, arranged diagonally tosubconsciously draw attention down, andshot with a shallow depth of field. What’smore, each product is tagged, with productcopy and pricing strategically placed belowthe image, resulting in high levels of attentionand engagement as shown in the heatmap.So here is our first secret of email success– make a good first impression – and sometechniques on how to achieve it. Just likewhen your prospective customers first enterthe store, you have to help them orientate –find their bearings, if you like – and skilfullysteer them in the right direction. Nowthat we have made the first step into theengagement funnel, let’s look at how we cancontinue on the right path.Key techniquesEnsure the first screenful caters for multiple reasons for openingCombine irregular shapes, graphics and text elements to sustain attentionOffer recipients ‘pathways’ down the email via text or graphic devicesAvoid the temptation to use a press ad structure – design in ‘screenfuls’It’s vital to provide plenty ofgood content in the openingscreen to maximise success,especially in the form of irregularshapes, compelling informationand graphic offer elements.
  4. 4. 76(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle76Email Anatomy ClassTerrific designstructure fromNext, using productcut-outs to draw thereader downOne of the most commonly observeddesign techniques emerging fromour studies was the use of diagonalstructures among the most successful emailsin terms of engagement and preference.The email from multi-channel retailer Next,illustrated here, provides a masterclass indesign technique, maximising the engagementfunnel by making good use of eye contact,with angled images supported by well-writtenfashion copy and connected by cut-out shotsof the ideal shoes to accompany the dress.The aggregated heatmap shows clearly howour subjects followed the visual cues on apathway down the email.Excessive use of linear templates andrectangular panels create subconsciousbarriers to engagement, and were a commonfactor in many of the least successful emailswe studied. It’s not a hard and fast rulethough – we found some very effective emaildesigns that overcame a linear structureand maintained engagement using othertechniques, orcombined linear andnon-linear sectionsto create changes ofpace within the email.This email from TopMan was well-likedby our male studysubjects, despitebeing designed on agrid, because thecut-out shotscontained in eachsection and theeffective use ofcolour and textsustained attentionright to the bottomand provided clearpathways throughthe email design.Another emaildesign thatovercame linearconstraints wasthe daily dealoffer from KGBDeals, shown here,because the subjectmatter was highinterest. Food shots are always attentiongrabbers, and the lead offer from KGB wasno exception. However, the section with thehighest level of attention in this email wasthe middle, the second screenful. Encouragedby the leading deal, subjects were keen toview the other deals on offer and found iteasy to navigate each deal from the intriguingpicture consistently positioned on the left,reading right where the offer was of interest.There has been an explosion of growth insigning up for daily deal providers in the UKrecently, and the personalisation of offers byregion is undoubtedly an important factor. Allthe offers here related to Manchester and theNorth West, where our subjects were located.So a good overall design structure is thesecond secret of email success. But eachelement within the design also harbourssecrets which can influence the click rate,and in the next section we examine the first,and perhaps the most important of these, theimpact of navigation.Whether your email is a lengthy newsletter or a digital postcard, the underlying design structure is crucial indetermining levels of subconscious engagement. We have observed a difference in email practice betweenUK and US marketers in recent years. US email programmes tend to favour high frequency, single mindedemails – digital postcards – while the UK has generally evolved lower frequency emails with richer content –digital newsletters. Both strategies have their merits, but design and structure play a bigger role in sustainingengagement in richer content emails, where converting browsing into purchase intent is more important.ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEKeeping users engaged is highlydependent on design structure.Studies have shown thatwhen looking for useful information,individuals have a tendency to scanfor something engaging to attractthem. Linear design structures canconstrain this action to an extent, butcan also hinder processing progression.In this case it is far more beneficialto adopt the use of diagonal designstructures throughout the email.By positioning elements in acontinuous ‘zig-zag’ layout down thepage, individuals are able to fixate oneach one in turn, leading their gazenaturally down the page. Furthermore,as each screenful can only display acertain amount at a time, by havingthe elements in partial view at thefold, readers will feel they need toscroll further to view it in its entirety.This effective technique has beendemonstrated to encourage readingof the whole email from the openingscreen to the close.Taking theseprinciples into account, designers canapproach effective email design inscreenfuls rather than as a whole.From a design perspective, it isimportant to be aware that peoplewill not always pay attention to allof the information displayed on thescreen. Due to the repetitive actionsusers take, much of it often getsunconsciously filtered out, so thatthey only pay attention to what isimportant to them. Making elementsmore prominent where necessary (e.g.colourful graphics, product cut-outs),can aid in overcoming this‘exclusive saliency’.If there is a lot of important copy todisplay on the page, it is better tobreak it down into smaller paragraphs.Individuals process information moreeasily this way and are much less likelyto become overwhelmed by excessiveblocks of text.As a large amountof cognitive processing is taken upreading text, the load can be lightenedby other means.These includeincorporating visual elements such asimages and graphics, that are quickand easy to process, or alternatively,one could feature additionalmotor elements (clicks and mousemovements) that create a break inreading and offer a less demandingactivity.This makes reading the emailmuch less of an arduous task and farmore mentally engaging, which hasbeen demonstrated in our testing toresult in more efficient absorption andhigher preference rates.The gaze plot reveals clearpathways down the emailExcessive use of lineartemplates and rectangularpanels create subconsciousbarriers to engagementArcadia use designand colour to greateffect to attract andsustain attention in thisTopman emailKey techniquesDiagonal design frameworks work especially well in a scrolling environmentDesign email outlines in screenfuls, mindful of enticing the reader downAvoid linear templates – they often subconsciously interrupt scrollingMix colour, imagery and graphics to sustain attention and engagementIrregular shapes combined with non-linear placement are highly effectiveKGB Deals uses colour,images and graphics toovercome a linear design
  5. 5. 98(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitle98Digital SignpostingGrattan’s secondary navigationhighlights fashion categories, andsupports the email content effectivelySGood navigation can account for over one third of total clicks on a well designed email. What’s more, weknow from actual data on a number of email programmes that navigation clicks are more ‘purposeful’, with ahigher propensity to convert. Best practice often advocates mirroring the navigation on your website withinemails, but this is most certainly a poor piece of advice, and doesn’t account for the very different objectivesof website and email. Most commercial websites have the key objective of closing the sale - maximising theconversion to sale or desired action – visit the store, book the restaurant or sign up for the course. Whileemail programmes have objectives much further up the sales funnel - creating purchase consideration,launching a new product, announcing a sale, or simply maintaining engagement and share of mind.ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEAand then providing useful extra navigationallowing readers to shop by brand. Jessopsknow that many camera enthusiasts areintensely brand loyal, and cater for thiswith good short-cuts to theirfavourite brand.Finally, many good email marketersunderstand the value of using colour andicons in email navigation to draw attentionto important signposts. Contrastingcolours for important navigation elements,such as the use of red for the Sale link, orsimple icons that improve absorption andunderstanding of the routes to the website,can be very effective in directing attentionand capturing extra response.s people become more andmore familiar with using emailand the web, they becomeaccustomed to the way web pagesand emails are designed.They developa mental model of where items areplaced due to their prior experienceand expectations. Upon loading apage, they are able to quickly identifywhat it is about by the familiarshapes and patterns that are capturedthrough glimpses in their peripheralvision.This might include navigationelements such as menu bars andbuttons, typically placed at the top toprovide users with quick access to aspecific area of a website.Incorporating such design features inan email works well in this respectdue to similarity in basic web designstructure. However, for email theinformation is being ‘sold’ to thereader and is doing so in a very shortspace of time.Therefore, the rulesneed to be adapted to accommodatefaster and more superficial scanning. The use of a simpler, quick-to-processtaxonomy is an effective way toassist a user’s navigation preferences,meeting objectives with littleresistance and in a shortertime frame.In one recent study we found thatwhen users encountered ambiguityin a website’s taxonomy, confusionensued. For example, the link fora refrigeration page on the AGAwebsite was titled ‘Chilled AGA’. Eyetracking analysis revealed that thistitle caused a lot of confusion inparticipants, leading to the amendedname ‘AGA Refrigeration’.This changeled to a much improved digitalsignpost and users were quicklyable to identify the link and what toexpect from it.Once individuals are confident inwhat an email is about and wherethey can find information they arelikely to engage with it for longer. Indoing so they often reach the foot ofthe email, where we have observedthat secondary navigation can beeffective. In placing navigation atthe foot of the email as well as thetop, the chance of encouraging aclick-through is enhanced. It not onlyserves as a reminder but also providesone more easy-to-find call to actionwithout having to scroll back tothe top.How to do it - Arcadia emailsalways follow good practice andthis one from TopMan uses bothgood header and footer navigation.o good practice for email navigationis to accommodate the reasons foropening and support the themesand content of the email in the digitalsignposts. If your email is all about fashion,consider including secondary navigation forfashion sub-ranges, as Grattan do here. Ifyour subject header announces a sale, giveopeners the choice of going straight therewith a prominent button and clear taxonomy– ‘Shop the Sale’ – or browsing the email tofind out what’s in the sale. For recipients,email navigation offers the promise of ashort-cut to exactly where they want to beon your website – the more relevant thesignposts, the better your chances of a click. Don’t be bound by your website navigation –consider the most effective digital signpostson an email by email basis.One important technique for improvingvisibility of - and propensity to click -navigation buttons is to avoid isolating youremail navigation bar from other elements. This happened most commonly in our testswith emails that made the mistake wehighlighted earlier of opening with a bigimage. Where this occurred, navigation barsoften became separated from the higherattention elements of the email, and missedaltogether. On a website page, visitors areattuned to the conventions and seek outnavigation in familiar places – in an email,behaviour is quite different, as readers seekvisual cues to establish what is on offer andwhether it is of interest. The email fromHoseasons, illustrated here, demonstratesthe dilemma. Not only is the navigationisolated by the full screen image, but it isdifficult to distinguish in peripheral visionfrom the colourful shot.Another good strategy to increaseincremental response from navigation isby including extra or repeated navigation,especially at the foot of emails. Mostengaged readers will read to the foot ofan email and, if persuaded by the content,consider visiting the website, so it makessense to include extra or alternative digitalsignposts here. If your product ranges orservices are deep, try using additional sub-navigation in relevant positions within theemail. All can prove productive in capturingincremental purposeful web visits.The middle section of a content rich emailfrom Jessops, shown here, makes good useof extra navigation within the email at thepoint of consideration, promoting threedifferent types of camera with a lead offer,One important technique forimproving visibility of - andpropensity to click - navigationbuttons is to avoid isolating youremail navigation bar fromother elements.Key techniquesAvoid ‘isolating’ navigation from the high attention elements of your emailUse navigation at the foot as well as the top – most engaged readers reach hereAlways use extra or secondary navigation when it will act as a useful shortcutMake navigation even more effective with icons or colour codingCamera retailer Jessops understandthat many of their customers areloyal to a particular brand, and givethem shortcuts to their favouriteThe large image andcolourful foliage isolate andhide the navigation in thisHoseasons email
  6. 6. 1110(1) RefsCopyIntro paragraphTitleThe‘must-do’steps(continued)There are hundreds of blacklists in operation but some are moreinfluential than others. For example, Spamhaus, Spamcop and MAPS(Mail Abuse Prevention Centre)are all considered to be hugelyinfluential and are used by themajor ISPs.It isincreasinglyIf you fall foul of spam traps or if ISPs receive complaints about your emailprogramme you are then in real danger of being blacklisted. As the name suggests,a blacklist is a list or database of IP addresses that are viewed as being “spammers”.The lists can be populated through consumer complaints but are just as likely to bepopulated independently of consumer feedback. ISPs subscribe to these blacklistdatabases in order to filter out spam sent across their network or to the subscribers.THE BLACKLIST61110expertviewClickabilitylear winners in our test studies werethose emails that featured multiplecalls to action throughout the email,well-positioned to be in close proximityto the featured product or service. Longeremails took less than 60 seconds on averageto be fully digested by subjects in our tests– shorter, digital postcard formats engagedattention for around 10 seconds.So decisions to click, or not to click, aremade in milliseconds. What’s more,while a High Street store can be revisitedin a shopping trip, an email almostalways has just one opportunity tostimulate the desire to purchase beforeit’s deleted. So it is vital to exploit theimmediate vicinity of the product or offer byproviding a well-worded call to action thereand then.The ‘Go to Deal’ button that featuresprominently on Frugaloo’s daily deal email,shown here, is located in close proximity tothe details of the deal and directly adjacentto the price and savings panels, which wefound to be very high interest elements,as the heatmap shows. The format ofFrugaloo’s call to action also demonstratesanother of our consistent findings, whichis that conventions for button design arewell understood by viewers of emails andwebsites, and successful emails exploit this. Make clickable elements look clickable!Contrast this approach with the dilemmafaced by one of our respondents viewing anASOS email. Having shown high interestin the summer dress she was being urgedto ‘Love,Want, Need’, our test subject canbe clearly seen in this gazeplot strugglingto identify the button that would takeher there. Good email marketing is aboutmaking it easy and removing obstacles to thesale in a digital environment where actionsare taken – open, click, delete – in verycompressed timescales.Frugaloo also demonstrates another keysuccess factor for enhancing clickability. Good use of colour and language. Eachbutton is consistently positioned and uses astrong lime green which is absent from thesurroundings, giving it prominence even inperipheral vision. Moreover, the language‘Go to Deal’ is clear and unequivocal, with astrong sense of underlying urgency well-suited to a deal-based proposition.We have found the language of CTAs tobe a decisive factor in many of our tests.Recipients do not want to be perplexed orSuccessful salesmen know that even the most skilfully crafted sales pitch is wasted unless they ‘ask for thebusiness’. In every sales conversation, inertia is the worst enemy – it’s vital to close the sale quickly – butface to face, the salesman can tailor the conversation to the prospect’s interest. In a digital environment,we don’t have the same advantage. The most successful emails close the sale effectively by featuringstrong calls to action at every point of consideration. lickability incorporates theeffective use and placementof call to action elements in emailsand web pages. Studies have shownthat task demands and stimulusinformation strongly influencecognitive strategy during visualactivity, prompting users to planand moderate their scanning ofa visual field accordingly. Theirability to locate and act upon theirtask demands effectively is directlyinfluenced by the presentationof elements. By clearly definingrelated elements such as a productimage, text description, and buttonin close proximity to one another,we can direct the user’s attentioneffectively (from image to text, andtext to button).This allows for a swifttransition of unconscious processing(implicit attraction from periphery),to conscious processing (controlled,focused attention).Call to action elements shouldtherefore be designed andimplemented with care.Whiletheir placement and proximity areimportant, it is crucial that they areclearly visible as a call to action soas not to be missed completely. Inmarked contrast to the ASOS emailillustrated earlier, which only two ofour ten study participants spotted,another fashion retailer, Freemans,demonstrates a much more effectivedesign structure for product links.With the use of three-dimensionalbuttons that are clearly defined andwell positioned, it is evident in thisgaze plot that the user has no troubleidentifying the links in a natural gazepath from the text and images.Theproximity of the button serves toeliminate visual confusion. In fact,eight of our participants noted theCTA buttons in this section of theemail. Moreover, the fact that thelink is a button rather than just textinstantly reveals it as a clickable linkand encourages action fromthe reader.These types of design structures areparticularly important for first timevisitors who are unfamiliar with theway new elements are displayed.Clear, coherent composition ofinter-related elements enablesthe user to adopt a much moreproductive browsing behaviour.The separation of related elementshas been shown to be detrimentalto this behaviour and slows downprocessing. It is therefore crucialto keep related elements in closeproximity to avoid conflict and allowfor smooth peripheral to foveal shiftsin attention.How to do it – goodproximity of the CTAs to thehigh attention elements inthis Freemans emailHow not to do it – thisASOS gazeplot reveals ahard-to-find CTAANALYST’S PERSPECTIVECcKey techniquesUsing multiple calls to action throughout an email ensures proximity at the‘point of consideration’Button design conventions are well understood by consumers – makeclickable elements look clearly clickableColour, font, language, size and positioning of CTA buttons all impact onrecognition and click propensityWe have found the language ofCTAs to be a decisive factor inmany of our tests. Recipientsdo not want to be perplexed orintrigued, but they may not bequite ready to buy what is on offer.intrigued, but they may not be quite readyto buy what is on offer. Many ecommercebrands use language that reflects the stagein the purchase funnel that the reader hasreached – ‘View the range’ or ‘Find outmore’ may prove more clickable than ‘Buynow’ for just this reason.When considering call to action devices, thekey implications from our study are aboutimproving clickability. Proximity, colour,font, language, design and shape all play animportant part in influencing recognitionand propensity to respond.In the next section, we look at some of thehigh interest elements of content that cancreate more digital footfall throughoutthe email.Frugaloo’s daily deal emailmakes economic use of space toattract attention and positions aprominent call to action in closeproximity to each dealFrugaloo’s Go to Deal button is aprominent and unequivocal CTA
  7. 7. Content Kings12 13he prime objective of any emailprogramme is to maximise digitalfootfall – closing the sale is a taskfor the website – and the best eCRMprogrammes exploit this synergisticpartnership. All things being equal, peoplebuy from people they like, and the rightadded value content in an email can proveinvaluable in creating a positive environmentfor the sale process. We found a numberof examples amongst our study emailsof content that did not directly sell, butwas successful in attracting high levels ofattention and increasing the propensity tovisit the website.Arcadia brands frequently use this techniquein their emails to draw attention totheir fashion ranges, offering advice andinspiration in a sector where both are muchappreciated. Miss Selfridge includes a‘behind the scenes’ video preview of the newseason’s fashion in the email shown here,which was cited as a reason for preferenceby some of our respondents. AnotherArcadia email, this time from Top Shop,offers an online virtual makeover tool whichpromises to help shoppers master the artof ‘Disco Glam’ makeup, accompanied by avideo tutorial. Whilst clearly demonstratinghow well these brands understand themotivations of their target audience, suchcontent also enhances brand engagementand increases the likelihood of a sale. Bothalso use the ‘triangle’ convention whichconsumers readily recognise. We have seenthis act as a very powerful call to action inour studies.Another email we tested, a rich contentwedding photography email from Jessops,scored high levels of attention from headto foot by skilfully blending sales messagesand advice and techniques for capturingbetter shots at weddings. ‘Great cameras forthe big day’ were featured amongst ‘Top 5wedding photography tips’ and some adviceon coping with low light conditions on thehen or stag night.Added value content not only acts toincrease engagement with an email, butalso has a big impact on preference andpositive associations, influencing propensityto open future emails from that brand andpotentially reducing unsubscribe rates.An email programme that consists purelyof the latest offers is only likely to beopened and studied when the consumeris in purchase mode. A programme thatprovides a richer and more varied diet ofcontent, including advice, humour, videoelements or access to helpful online toolssuch as the one from Top Shop, helps to builda sustainable and engaged audience, andcreates incremental digital footfall.It’s often argued that websites without good, original content are more likely to fail – ‘content is king’. Andwhile emails do not have to compete for search engine rankings, good content is just as important, becausethey have to compete for attention in crowded inboxes. Email programmes that focus single-mindedlyon selling may do well, but they are missing out on incremental business by failing to emotionally engagewith recipients. In our tests, emails that included ‘added value’ elements – content not directly relating tothe sale but valued by the reader – often scored highly for attention and preference.While the salesman does notexist in a marketing email, thistechnique of reciprocity can stillbe applied in the encouragementof a click-through.As the onlymain selling tools available aretext and images, companies areaiming to increase the push tosale with added value content.While not overtly relating thiscontent to the sale, marketerscan increase the chances ofclick-throughs with contentrelated to the products.Thiscould take the form of fashion ortravel tips, instructional videosand diagrams, or useful articlesand reports. Not only does thisincrease the likelihood of theviewer to pay more attention tothe email, but it also gives themsomething for free, developingtrust in the company-consumerrelationship. Therefore, in theact of reciprocity, they are muchmore likely to click through tothe website to see what else thecompany has to offer.ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEmong the 50 emails usedin our research, there wereonly a select few thatincluded what we would describeas added value content (AVC).Thiswould effectively include additionalinformation that was not a directexhortation to buy, but offeredsomething to the recipient for free.Examples included photographytips, fashion advice, productrecommendations and useful orexclusive online video content.Irrespective of the market sector,our data consistently reported highengagement and preference rateswith this type of email above thosewithout any added value content.Our findings also indicated highlevels of attention to the AVC areas,and an increase in the number offixations surrounding it.This ‘haloeffect’ worked best when AVC areaswere placed in close proximity tothe product information, leadingthem through a path of naturalviewing progression.In the Jessops wedding email, forexample, subjects were found tospend a longer amount of timereading the rest of the emailand the product informationif they had viewed the addedvalue content.According to ourqualitative data, the personal tipsand recommendations providedthe encouragement to read on anddiscover more of what the companyhad to offer.We encountered similarfindings in some of our fashionemails, where style advice washighly valued by our test subjects.It was clear from our researchfindings that consumers reactpositively to this kind of contentstimulus. Perhaps unsurprisingly,women – and men – interested infashion appreciated advice on style,colours and trends. Photographyenthusiasts won’t be in the marketfor a camera every month, butretailers can stay front of mindby sharing their passion andoffering useful tips and techniques.Prospective holidaymakersconsidering their next holidaycottage value information on thingsto do in the area, or which locationsare best for those with childrenor pets.All of our study participants hadexpressed an interest in the sectorwe were asking them to viewemails for, and were recruited toan appropriate target demographic.These affinities could clearly beseen in the viewing behaviour andsustained attention levels thatsubjects exhibited towards addedvalue content. For email marketers,the lesson is clear – emotionalengagement with email programmescan be considerably enhanced by theuse of such elements.Miss Selfridge and Top Shop,both using video contenteffectively to drive extra clicksand enhance engagementTATop Shop’s Disco Glammakeover video provedof high interestAdded value content not onlyacts to increase engagementwith an email, but also has a bigimpact on preference and positiveassociationsKey techniquesRelevant value added content in emails can increase long-term engagementand reduce unsubscribesHeadlining added value content in subject headers frequently boosts open ratesGood examples include advisory features, hints and tips, humorous contentand online toolsBlending sales messages and advice in an integrated way is very effective insustaining attentionThis timely wedding photographyemail from Jessops sustainsattention with useful tips forgetting great shots on the bigday and at the hen or stag night
  8. 8. Words That Paint 1,000 Pictures14 15here are two important factors thatmake for effective copy in an email –what you say, and where you say it.The ‘boys toys’ gift retailer Firebox does bothwell in the Christmas gift email illustratedhere. The ten gifts featured in this email allattracted sustained attention using well-written and humorous copy, incorporatingheadline, sub-head and three to four lines ofbody copy in a short, newspaper style column.Positioned close to the product image and‘deal’ graphic, and substantiated by the price,savings and prominent call to action, eachproduct box made efficient use of space andwas easy for our subjects to scan, process anddetermine interest.This Christmas themed email from Marks Spencer proved even more effective interms of copy engagement, integratingeasily-absorbed snippets of copy into theoverall design alongside high interest cut-outproduct shots. The design structure makesgood use of text, graphics and imagery tomaintain the reader’s momentum whilstimparting persuasive sales messages quicklyand efficiently. As we have already notedin this report, there is real ‘click synergy’ inintegrating imagery, text, graphics and pricinginformation in close proximity and the MSemail is an excellent example with highpreference scores in our study.Another very effective copy technique isthe use of hypertext links within blocks ofcopy – the convention is well-understood byconsumers, and is often treated as a potential‘deep linked’ short cut, acting as an additionalcall to action. Substantial blocks of copyshould be avoided wherever possible, as theycan act as barriers to further readership. Iflengthy copy is needed to explain a complexoffer, devices such as hyperlinks, wrapping textaround supporting images and using columnsto shorten line length all help to sustainreader attention.The most engaging emails in our tests invariably combined copy and images effectively to attract andsustain attention. We are attracted by the images of products, just as we scan the shelves in shops tofind something appealing, but we gain confidence and make purchasing decisions from the supportinginformation, perhaps on the price tag or the label. “How much is it, and is it in my price range? Howdoes this product compare with other similar models I’ve seen elsewhere?” We have already set out ourassertion that, in the main, it is difficult to complete the sale in the email alone – but we can enhancethe likelihood of a sale by what we do in the email. We can send people through to the website withtheir wallets and purses out, if we use copy effectively.expertview ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEhen reading, a person’seyes move in a seriesof saccades ratherthan smoothly across the page,and consistently jump backwardsand forwards over the text. Factorssuch as size, font, language andproximity all influence how the textis processed, which in turn affect thenumber of fixations and time fixatedon it. Images on the other hand arenot only quick to process, but theycan also be viewed in peripheralvision requiring very little focus andconcentration.This gives users theoption to attend to or ignore themcompletely without directly focusingon them. Due to the speed of thisprocess, the majority of time istypically spent on text elements forinformation retrieval.While reading is more taxing andrequires additional time, it doesconvey more information, helpingreaders determine where to looknext. Moreover, text can serve tosupport image elements, cementingbrand memory and recall.This canbe achieved with titles and headlinesthat are meaningful and emotionallycharged, as commonly used in dailynewspapers.Additionally, the use ofsimpler language and fewer syllableshelps to speed up processing and aidspontaneous recall.How the text is displayed can alsoaffect how it is received. Generally,large bodies of compacted text areshunned by viewers as they becomeoverwhelmed by the reading task.This can be overcome by breakingup text into manageable chunks,separated with elements such asheadings, bullet points, or imagery.This break in concentration levelprovides the reader with a varietyof different elements to attendto, helping to achieve consistentengagement throughout.Simple fonts work best. Complexor unusual typefaces can interferewith how readers recognise textpatterns, which in turn can slowdown comprehension. Line length canaffect the speed at which text is readon a page. Studies report that peopletypically prefer to read in shortercolumns - around 45-72 characters- as it feels easier to absorb. Severalof our study emails supported this,including some of the daily deal,holiday and Christmas gift emails,where subjects seemed able to easilyread and navigate multiple offers.TWThe gazeplot for this Groupon emaildemonstrates good text placement,following the product image andleading directly to the CTA. Readerscan extract everything they need toknow about the deal in a matter ofseconds, and it’s the systematicallyefficient design and neat concisecopy that gets them there.Key techniquesIntegrate copy elements with imagery and graphics to create abalanced emailText absorbs more attention but imparts more information – hyperlinkswithin text are easily understood and drive extra responsePersonalisation within emails attracts high attention levels and is apowerful directional deviceBullet point lists work well by helping readers rapidly absorbrelevant informationDirect marketers are expert in the useof copy devices to tell a story, and oneclassic technique that we saw work wellin our study was the use of a bullet pointlist. The middle section of a Hoseasonsemail marketing short break apartments,shown here, is an excellent example ofthe device. Having engaged readers withsome attractive shots of the apartmentsand prices, the bullet point list belowimmediately begins to substantiate andconvince with benefits such as ‘lower pricesper person than equivalent hotels’,‘DVDsand home cinema often included’ and‘Access to gardens and balconies inmany apartments’.This is the kind of good supportinginformation that helps to build confidenceand create the environment for a sale. We’llreturn to this theme in the next section aswe discuss the art of ‘digital salesmanship’.There is real ‘click synergy’ inintegrating imagery, text, graphicsand pricing information in closeproximityFirebox uses humorous copyin a column format to sustainattention to its range of unusualChristmas giftsGood integration oftext with very highinterest cut-outproduct shots in thisMS Christmas emailHoseasons used a bullet point list ofbenefits for their city break apartmentsvery effectively mid-email tosubstantiate and convince
  9. 9. Digital Salesmanship16 17One of the best instructors we ever used in our company used to teach us that a good salesmanor presenter got three things right in equal measure – the words (the content and language), themusic (the tone of voice, pitch and emphasis), and the dance (the body language). In print and inonline communication, just as in the physical world, there’s a real skill in salesmanship but we haveto use other communication techniques to make up for the limited range of sensory elements at ourdisposal. In a digital environment, the messages we display, the context in which we display them andhow we exploit peripheral vision are the skills most needed to close the sale.expertview ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEmong more than 50 emails in ourtest studies, a very small numberseemed to exhibit something specialin terms of engaging subjects in a particularproduct – the ability to sustain positivesubject attention for an unusual length oftime in the ‘soundbyte’ environment of email.In the same way that a charismatic salesmanor market trader can command attentionfrom a crowd, these emails presentedproducts in a manner that created sustainedattention and strong recall – we termed thiseffect ‘digital salesmanship’.Of all the examples we studied, by far themost finely crafted was this Bank HolidaySale email from camera retailer Jacobs,which featured an Olympus Pen camera ata reduced price of £299 as the leading offer.According to our camera enthusiast subjects,this was a high interest product, one of anew generation of compact system camerasincorporating many of the features of higherend cameras – such as interchangeable lenses– but at more affordable price point. So itwas not surprising that the product attractedsustained attention and had strong recall, butthis product panel – which accounted for only15% of the area of the email – commandedover half of all the time spent viewing theemail by our respondents. Studying thegazeplots of our individual subjects, weobserved a synergy of attention between theproduct image, the price point and savingsstarburst and the product copy details.There is an elegant efficiency about thedesign of the product panel.The use of cut-out shots for the camera and the lens helpsintegrate the feature into the Bank HolidaySale message above and the alternative,higher-priced bundle deal below, and gives athree dimensional feel to the panel.The Save£80 starburst graphic neatly connects theproduct image with the body copy.The use ofa head and shoulders shot in the viewfinderis a clever device – throughout our studieswe found subjects inexorably drawn to makedirect eye contact with facial imagery.A number of the other emails in our study hadproduct features that demonstrated a similar‘synergy of design elements’. Both Marks Spencer and Not on the High Street amongour Christmas gift sector emails and fashionAhen an individual fixateson a particular area, thereare several processes thatoccur.These include encoding of thevisual stimulus, peripheral sampling,and the preparation of where to looknext. Each type of stimulus on thepage (i.e. text/image/price) requiresvarying levels of attention, and isconsequently attended to in a verysystematic approach.Through eyetracking we are able to identify theorder in which items are attendedto and for how long before theuser moves onto the next. Oncethese properties are established,elements can be subtly emphasisedand arranged in a format to attractattention accordingly, and thus createshorter, more efficient scan paths.In the example for Jacobs Cameraswe found results to support this,demonstrating that users’ attentionis ordinal - fixating on elements inturn before moving onto the next.With an effective design format, theemail takes users on a directed scanpath from image to text, to price andclick-through link, all in an order ofclose proximity.This creates a verybalanced level of processing thatproduces an efficient absorption ofinformation and sustained attention.We know that both are key factorsin determining recall and preferenceand, by implication, propensity toconsider and buy.This process is identified in eyetracking analysis with the use ofgaze plots where sustained attentionis shown with illustrative fixationpoints. However, it is the balance offixation duration and a steady pathof little deviation that indicatesprocessing proficiency.As images arequick to process, the use of detailedand angled shots provide high leveldetail and are therefore viewed forlonger.The text is kept short andconcise, resulting in an equal amountof time spent on them as the image,creating a balanced level of attentionoverall.We found that images andbody copy each received about 25%of fixation time in the opening screen,demonstrating the effective balancein the elements.The net result isa higher level of engagement withthe email. Jacobs make effectiveuse of detailed imagery and concisetext, while reducing crowd factors(unrelated surrounding elements) inorder to guide a steady gaze overthe material that is focusedand purposeful.Key techniquesExploit the synergistic relationship between product images, copy, price pointsand graphics to sustain attentionIntegrating the elements works better than imposing a grid structureEnsure proximity of elements to maximise message absorption - adjacenciesIntegrating the right call to action is vital to ‘closing the sale’WEvery effective product offer weobserved exploited the positioningof elements to maintain continuousengagement within the reader’speripheral visionretailers Freemans and Next included well-designed integrated product presentationsthat exploited digital salesmanship, andfeatured highly among the most recalledand most preferred for our test subjects.What characterised all of these highattention product panels was the use ofcut-out product shots – whether fashion,cameras or Christmas gifts – soundbytes ofproduct copy, strong headlines, subheadsand price points, often with attention-grabbing graphics employed to link andintegrate the elements. Every effectiveproduct offer we observed exploitedthe positioning of elements to maintaincontinuous engagement within thereader’s peripheral vision. In maintainingeye contact like the successful salesman,each of these emails used a combinationof persuasive techniques to ensure the bestchance of closing the sale.Superb design integration of productshots, copy, price points and graphicsto create a high interest andwell liked opening screen
  10. 10. Graphic Assets1819In all kinds of marketing communications, good designers know how to exploit graphic devices todraw attention to important messages and dramatise key offers. Graphic devices can convey urgencyor exclusivity, shout a special offer or whisper a subconscious brand attribute. For emails, where thetimescales for consumer engagement and interaction are brief, graphics can be especially effective invisually conveying a hierarchy of messages and influencing the path taken through the email.expertview ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEnce again,Top Shop provides agood example of the use of graphicdevices to draw attention to offers– in this case Free Next Day Delivery in aroundel, positioned just above the navigation– and to provide a subliminal route downthe email using three headers – Maxi Style,Midi Length and Pencil Perfect – deliberatelypositioned on a diagonal slope. Theaggregated heatmap of our recipients’ viewingpatterns shows clearly how effectively thesemessages were absorbed while increasing theattention to the products.A more overt directional graphic device isvery effectively demonstrated in this monthlynewsletter email from financial servicescompany Swinton. Insurance is a low interestproduct for most consumers, and Swintonhave used cute cartoon robins to createengagement for this winter-themed email.But note how they have incorporated a scarfgraphic to cleverly sustain reader momentumand connect elements within the email.Another Arcadia fashion email, this timefrom Dorothy Perkins, makes novel use of a‘notebook and pen’ graphic to support a set ofNew Year fashion resolutions, each resolutionattached to relevant products.The angled presentation of the notebook andthe diagonal sight line of the pen are bothimportant small touches in influencing eyemovement in the direction that the designerintends – drawing attention to the product.It’s not just fashion emails that are exploitinggraphic devices effectively – the openingscreen of this Comet January Sale email alsoshows skilful use of graphic elements, fromthe use of arrows as an additional productCTA or to encourage scrolling, to the inclusionof small illustrations, such as photo prints,remote controls and snowflakes, to ‘connect’Oeople are motivated to keepseeking information, but don’tlike to work too hard for it.The easier it is for them to find it,the more likely they are to continueengaging in information-seekingbehaviour.Without careful designconsideration, content-rich emails canbecome confusing for readers, riskingthem closing the email in seconds asit becomes too bewildering.Eye movements have been found tobe affected by both the design ofthe page and habitually preferredscan paths.Through the effectiveuse of graphics, it is possible to drawattention to items of importance,embellish on special offers, andsubconsciously influence the pathtaken through the email. Brightcolours, plain font, and concise textare all useful design tactics that wehave seen attract attention effectivelyin our studies. By catching readerattention with a graphic first, theycan quickly absorb the informationand then move straight onto theneighbouring element it directstowards, resulting in more proficientprocessing of the email.This process can be seen in action byviewing gaze plot data that indicateshow users end up at elements withthe use of graphic device leadership.The Burton email illustrated herepositions the graphics in a diagonallayout between other elements,providing a natural progressiveflow down the page.This helps toreduce uncertainty and improves thechances of absorbing other importantinformation benefiting from the ‘haloeffect’ of the graphic in peripheralvision.A relatively small graphicelement in one of our study emailsfrom Boden, a roundel offering an11% discount, scored high attentionand recall from all the participants.This email also incorporates severalother good design practices tocreate good diagonals and pathsthrough the content. In emails thatare constrained by design features(i.e. grid format), graphic devicesthat are meticulously positionedcan overcome the boundaries andcontinue to lead a person’s gazewhere necessary.Key techniquesGraphic devices are just as effective in email as in other forms of marketingUse price point and offer graphics near product images to aid fast absorptionGraphic elements can also have a role in determining paths through the emailMost importantly, the graphic elements set the tone – urgency, exclusivity,femininity, offer-basedPGraphics are used purposefully toshowcase the product, to directattention and to create pathwaysBurton have used graphic deviceseffectively to connect productelements in this menswear emailThe 11% discount roundelscored highly for attention andpreference in this well-designedemail from BodenTop Shop draw attention to the offerand products and sustain momentumusing colourful graphic devicesDorothy Perkins uses a NewYearresolution notebook and pento draw attention to their latestfashion productsSmall graphic illustrations help toconnect an otherwise very lineardesign structureelements within the email and influenceeye movement.In all these emails, graphics are usedpurposefully to showcase the product, todirect attention and to create pathways,often helping to overcome the limitationsof a linear underlying design structure. Itis impossible for us to know what was inthe minds of the designers, but in eachcase they have clearly demonstrated anSwinton makes highly effectiveuse of graphics to heightenengagement and direct readersdown the email
  11. 11. No Stone Unturned2021In a store, every square foot represents the opportunity for a sale. In an email, every pixel should beexploited to gain an extra click or increase the likelihood of conversion. What’s more, unless you areLouisVutton or Mulberry, where spacious ambience lends exclusivity, the more products you offer andthe more benefits you can showcase the better. For every thousand readers who open your email,there are a hundred different reasons for doing so. The more you can cater for – within awell-designed, balanced structure, of course – the better your response rate.ANALYST’S PERSPECTIVESesign and layout affect allaspects of the interactionbetween the email andthe user, from ease ofuse to overall feelings towards thebrand.While it is important to notovercrowd the page, it is equallyimportant not to create too muchempty space.When used correctly,space can signify areas of importance,lighten the cognitive load whenprocessing, or serve to point out callto action links.The Miss Selfridge email illustratesan effective way of using space toaccentuate images and encourageusers to follow a clear path to thebottom of the page.This is a good wayof making sure nothing is easily missedby the viewer.The spacious layoutgives the reader the sense of unhurriedbrowsing, allowing for detailed viewingand ensuring more time is spent onconsideration. It is also very clear tosee how the fashion products relateand co-ordinate as a result of the caretaken with product positioning andpresentation – the digital equivalentof window dressing. Our female testsubjects reacted well to this email,remaining engaged and demonstratinghigh recall of the featured products.In marked contrast, empty spacecan also be ineffective and evendetrimental to attention when poorlyexecuted. In this Farm CottageHolidays email, images are small, linearand widely dispersed. Considering thatimages are very quick to process, thisdesign approach is counterproductiveas they are hastily scanned over andmuch less likely to be recalled or affectpreference and purchasing decisions.The dispersed structure encouragedour subjects to assimilate the contentsof this email very quickly, and resultedin very low recall and preferencescores. In effect, the design structurehas ensured that readers rapidly loseinterest in the content.ome of the most successful emailsamong those we studied frequentlycontained more than 30 clickablelinks – product links, offer links, hypertextlinks, multiple calls to action, secondary andtertiary navigation – for the reader, the clearimplication was that they were being offereda great deal of choice. The choice to buy now,or find out more. The choiceto view a specific product, or shop the wholerange. The choice to look at only Canoncameras, or just Nikon models. The option toview a video about the latest catwalk trends.From a customer’s perspective, presentingoptions is empowering – and of course, aswe have observed elsewhere, it demonstratesclassic sales psychology – not so much ‘doyou want to buy or not?’, but ‘which do youprefer, the red or the blue?’Freemans recognises the dilemma that olderwomen face in choosing a swimsuit to suittheir shape in the email illustrated here, andoffers a video for each shape, such as Apple,Pear and Hourglass, which proved of highinterest to our test subjects. They makeoptimum use of the email space –angling theshots to provide pathways, dramatising thekey benefit within the copy soundbyte, andproviding a small but helpful shape illustrationnear the ‘Watch video’ call to action. Thishard-working email space incorporates severalof the techniques we have described in thispaper, including the use of ‘Zoom’ as anadditional call to action on the product image,rather than ‘Buy’ or ‘View More’.Many of the emails we studied incorporatedintegration with social media, either byencouraging sign-up at the foot of emails, likethis one from Firebox, or by integrating theoption to ‘Like’ or ‘Tweet’ products throughoutthe email, as DealZippy do. Fewer, though,offered readers a concrete reason for doing so.As a general rule, emails that allowed toomuch space between ‘points of interest’gained little engagement from our testsubjects, and as a consequence were rarelypositively recalled. This camera email fromCurrys, with elements widely dispersed in alinear structure, was not effective at sustainingattention or attracting preference, despitethe fact that the subjects in this case wereall interested in cameras. Almost withoutexception, the emails best received in ourtests left no stone unturned in attempting toengage and sustain interest and exploit everyopportunity for incremental responses.DKey techniquesSuccessful emails frequently contain 30+ clickable links – hypertext links,multiple calls to action, secondary navigation and footer links all driveincremental clicksConsider multiple calls to action for a single product – ‘Zoom’,‘View theRange’,‘Find Out More’Provide deep links that get the recipient directly to their area of interestFrom a customer’s perspective,presenting options is empoweringFreemans makes optimal use ofthe space around featured productvideos with multiple calls to actionAlthough overall this Miss Selfridgeemail seems spacious, good useof diagonals and multiple calls toaction ensure sustained attentionright to the footLack of substance in the content,coupled with a poor positioning ofelements, resulted in low attention,recall and preference for thiscottage holiday emailHow not to do it – this emailfrom Currys loses engagementrapidly with an uninspiring, widelydispersed designDealZippy feature socialmedia links against allthe deals in their email totease out opportunities forvaluable referralsFirebox take the opportunityto encourage readers to‘Like’,‘Follow’ and‘View’ on socialmedia at the foot of their emails
  12. 12. 22We interpret what we see differently depending on the context and environment. What might seeman exceptional bargain in a department store would be perceived very differently in a discount store. In emails, the use of elements in peripheral vision, and imagery especially, can reinforce positiveperceptions and aid understanding. Throughout this paper we have discussed the importance ofpositioning and integration for a marketing channel that is like no other in its dependence on scrollingto sustain attention. For email design to be successful, it is vital to factor in near and peripheral vision.expertviewWhile the salesman does notexist in a marketing email, thistechnique of reciprocity can stillbe applied in the encouragementof a click-through.As the onlymain selling tools available aretext and images, companies areaiming to increase the push tosale with added value content.While not overtly relating thiscontent to the sale, marketerscan increase the chances ofclick-throughs with contentrelated to the products.Thiscould take the form of fashion ortravel tips, instructional videosand diagrams, or useful articlesand reports. Not only does thisincrease the likelihood of theviewer to pay more attention tothe email, but it also gives themsomething for free, developingtrust in the company-consumerrelationship. Therefore, in theact of reciprocity, they are muchmore likely to click through tothe website to see what else thecompany has to offer.In the example email fromJessops, it provides the recipienta large sample of added valuecontent.This includes expertadvice on how to take the bestwedding photographs, personaltips, and recommendations forrelated products.This works wellas it provides the consumer withsome free, useful informationthat leads onto the products thatcould help them achieve the bestresults.All they have to do isclick through to the website fromthere.The Topshop email providespeople with the free use oftheir online virtual makeovertool.This consists of a seriesof video clips allowing users toIn a normal store it is the salesman who provides all the content and reassurances neededto drive a purchase. One way this is achieved might be to offer a free gift in return,or prior to making the purchase.This act of reciprocity generates an unconsciousobligation in the consumer to give something back in return for the act of kindness.hen an individualviews an object in theirenvironment, they do sowith varying levels of perception intheir visual field. In broad terms thisincludes three regions: 1) the fovea –typically consists of several degreesof the visual field where visualactivity is centred and of high-leveldetail; 2) the parafovea – aroundfive degrees either side of the fovea,where acuity becomes graduallyreduced; and 3) the periphery – thearea on the furthest part of thevisual field, which is of the lowestdetail, but provides information onwhere to orient foveal recognition.As our highest level of attentionis located at the foveal region, thesurrounding areas serve to supportthis by providing information whichcan be viewed from the ‘corner’ ofthe eye.An example of how we usethese regions effectively can bedemonstrated when we identify apotential hazard in our environment.Something catches our eye inperipheral vision, our brain thenalerts us to it, and we subsequentlyfocus on it in order to avoidpossible danger.In recent psychological studies, theparafoveal region has also beenshown to significantly contribute tothe process of reading. In doing so, itallows the reader to absorb text ata much faster rate, viewing multiplewords at a time rather than focusingon each individual word. On a webpage, this region might also allowfor attracting attention to elementsin close proximity to the text (i.e.images or buttons), diverting thegaze from the foveal region andrepositioning to the new area ofinterest for focusing on.With regard to imagery, as itrequires less processing to extractinformation from, much of it canbe viewed in the peripheral visualfield without even being focused on.This can be utilised for optimisingthe amount of information transferby placing pictorial elements inclose proximity to important textelements.When an individual isattracted to an area by the imagethey might then be encouraged toread the neighbouring text, whereasthis may have been less likelywithout the image.The level of visual processing can beaffected by stimulus design features,such as layout, colour, contrast,pattern, animation and proximity;and eyes become attractedto aspects that are attractive,distinctive and informative.Therefore, by carefully crafting thedesign of a stimulus (i.e. a web pageor email), and taking these factorsinto account, one can optimizeusers’ attention levels when viewingthe stimulus.The more salient anelement is, the more likely it is toattract attention to the viewer forfocusing on.This would result in areduction in cognitive load, allowingfor more efficient processingacross the page, and deliverabilityof information.An effective example of this in anemail might include an attractiveimage which is in close proximityto important and relevant textualinformation, followed by a clearlydefined button which would lead theuser to the point of purchase.Thecorrect placement of such elementsis essential to aiding this processwith minimal difficulty for the user.The peripheral field of vision istherefore a vital construct to bearin mind when designing an effectivemarketing email.Peripheral VisionTFoveaPerceive mostdetailParavoveaPeripheryRapid decrease inamount of detailperceivedThis grouping of text withneighbouring image and buttonworks well in directing attentionThe saccadic movement of reading Lorem fuga.Nam in tendest denissed estiam explab ipsape23The saccadic movement of readinghis Christmas gift email fromDebenhams illustrates the principlevery effectively. By positioning asecondary set of navigation buttons betweena discount graphic and the irresistiblesubliminal attraction of eye contact, theemail measurably increases the likelihoodof noticing, and acting on, the buttons.The diagonally structured ‘Big Gift Event’headline can still be assimilated in peripheralvision at this point. The email continuesto use eye contact to attract, and discountoffers to substantiate, throughout the email,maintaining reader momentum, as can beclearly seen from the heatmap.Many of the most effective emails wetested employed the technique of ensuringthat the ‘attractor’ (most often an imageor graphic) was in close proximity to the‘substantiator’ (typically copy on productbenefits, prices or savings), together with oneor more calls to action. The daily deal sectoremails in our study all used this approacheffectively to present multiple ‘deals’ in astandardised format that was easy for oursubjects to absorb rapidly – important fora high frequency email programme - anddetermine which were of interest. As youwould expect in this context, price and savingsare the ‘substantiator’, and Frugaloo used aseries of eye-catching images combined withprominent price and savings boxes, in closeproximity to the ‘Go to deal’ call to action.Peripheral vision is an important influence oneye movement and direction, and can be adecisive factor in encouraging email recipientsto maintain engagement – to keep scrolling.Designers can judge the effectiveness of theirdesigns quite simply using the ‘thumb and fist’technique. If the thumbnail at arm’s lengthis a good representation of the immediatefocal point, making a fist will indicate thenearby elements that will guide the reader’snext move. Considered placement of all theelements in the email design structure cansignificantly increase attention throughout theengagement funnel.Key techniquesGood placement of elements aids visual processing and increases thelikelihood of a responseAlways combine the ‘attractor’ (often an image or graphic) in nearproximity to the ‘substantiator’ (typically copy) and the call to actionto optimise successUse the ‘thumb’ and ‘fist’ at arm’s length when judging design to predictpaths through the emailDebenhams usesperipheral visioneffectively to maintainreader momentumANALYST’S PERSPECTIVEWThe circles on these two emailsrepresent parafoveal vision, andclearly show how this influencesthe subject’s gaze path
  13. 13. 24Participants were recruited locally viaposters and email responses and werescreened according to the demographicrequired per email sector (e.g. cameraenthusiasts for camera retailer emails).Between ten and twenty participantswere used for each email eye-trackingtest. Participant age range varieddepending on the test but typicallycomprised ages between 18 and 55 years.An equal balance of both maleand female subjects was used for theentire study.The Tobii Eye Tracking T60 XL systemwith high-resolution 24-inch TFT widescreen monitor was used to carry outthe eye-tracking procedure.Tobii Studioanalytic software was used to displaystimuli and produce results data.A basic questionnaire was given toparticipants at the start to establishgeneral personal information and todetermine demographic.An exampleincludes the following: How would yougo about choosing a UK cottage holiday?A total of 50 different emails across eightdifferent sectors were used for the eye-tracking stimuli. Each email was carefullyselected to present a diverse range ofdesigns for each sector, with the purposeof providing detailed conclusiveeye-tracking results.Participants were briefed and giventhe questionnaire to fill out prior totesting. Following this they underwenteye-tracking calibration to establish eyeposition and movement.They were thengiven a short instruction and presentedwith each email on the screen in turn.The final stage required a concluding setof questions detailing their experienceand email preferences.An examplequestion includes: Out of the emails,which one did you like the most?Participants were then debriefed andgiven a monetary incentive fortaking part.Participants Materials ProcedureMethodology25The Sectors StudiedTen Inbox Secrets RevealedEmail design is not a science – success requires creative flair, good customerknowledge and, of course, great products – but the insights from our studyreveal some powerful techniques that you can employ to tease out extraclicks and conversions. From creating good first impressions with opening‘screenfuls’ to maintaining momentum and engagement using graphic assetsand digital salesmanship, we uncovered dozens of examples of effectivepractices that transcend market sector and customer demographics. Distilledinto our ‘ten inbox secrets’, we hope that you will find this research paper a richand practical source of ideas and inspiration. Email is an exciting and flexiblechannel that yields a wealth of measurable data.Testing is simple and very fastto implement.And like all digital media, email is constantly evolving – as emailmarketers, it’s vital that we continue to hone our digital design practices.Words that Paint1,000 PicturesSustain attention and substantiate interestusing integrated ‘soundbyte’ copyDigital SalesmanshipIntegrate offer elements to optimiseproduct presentation and close more salesFirst ImpressionsCreate enticing and effective openingscreens to maximise engagementEmail AnatomyUse design structure techniques thatmaintain scrolling momentumDigital SignpostingConvert browsing into action usingnavigation to drive purposeful clicksClickabilityAlways ‘ask for the business’ withmultiple, well-designed calls to actionContent KingsUse added value content to increaseemotional engagement and participationGraphic AssetsUse graphic devices to overcome inertia,create momentum and drive responseNo Stone UnturnedWin incremental clicks by exploitingevery email pixel to advantagePeripheral VisionExploit the relative proximity of designelements to reinforce positive perceptionsPhotographic RetailersWomen’s Fashion (18-35)HolidayCottagesWomen’s Fashion (35-55)Daily Deals VouchersShort Break HolidaysMens’Fashion (35-55)Christmas Gifts
  14. 14. Red C, Anchorage 1, Anchorage Quay, Salford Quays, Manchester M50 Designed by Andy Campbell and Nick Cliffe