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Email Design: 3 Trends to Improve Your Customer Interaction

Friday 19 January 2018 AdobeCRMCustomer Experience


Matthew Slaymaker's picture
By Matthew Slaymaker
Over the past five years, there’s been a shift in how people engage with email. That has led to a whole host of tools entering the market designed to optimise one thing – click through rate (CTR).
But as inboxes become more crowded, it’s getting more and more difficult to gain traction. Your email needs to stand out before it can work at all – and that means revisiting all our assumptions on design, content, and what happens when the email lands.
We expect three trends to govern the next big shift in email creation:

1. Accessibility is not just for websites

More than 8 million people in the UK have difficulty reading text on a screen. If you’re not optimising your email for these people, you’re excluding a vast proportion of your customer base.
According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), there are over 2 million people in the UK suffering from sight loss – around 1 in 30. This means if you’re not optimising your emails to be easily accessible, you’re alienating a significant number of customers.  
Websites are generally quite good at helping users with sight issues; email, not so much. Why? There are strong commercial reasons to do so – and more often than not, helping one group improves the experience for all.
W3C’s web content accessibility guidelines certainly influenced how we developed the CACI Email Studio. Here are just a few examples of how we achieve AA standard for our own work, and improve the experience for other users along the way:
  • Font type and size – keep it clear and simple. Your content’s no good if it’s hard to read; why make your readers work harder than they need to?  
  • Colour contrast – users perceive colour differently, and certain colour combinations can make content difficult to decipher. This also helps devices with poor colour support – and remember your email will often be read on mobile, where the user’s contending with screen glare and unfavourable light.
  • Obvious and descriptive links – text readers are easier to use if link text says where it’s going. But it’s always good if your users know what they are clicking on, and why.

2. Progressive Enhancement

It still goes without saying your emails need to work on the most basic email clients. But this shouldn’t stop you enhancing your emails for the inboxes that can handle it. This is more likely to get results. Background images, animation, subtle gradients… the world’s your oyster, as long as you make it lightweight, with an elegant fall-back for each element.
Progressive enhancement is used to ensure that it’s not just users of Outlook on PC who are satisfied. The principle is also used to optimise emails for mobile, and doesn’t force users to open an unusable desktop version.
Around 54% of emails are now opened on mobile. But it’s important to understand your data and your audience, to see where your efforts are likely to be rewarded. I’ve known a client to have more than 80% of their customers using iOS for email, meaning they can handle something more advanced.

3. Interactivity

Often, it’s simply assumed that the sole purpose of a marketing email is to persuade users to click through to something else. But what if the actual outcome you want is interaction and engagement with your message?
Emails shouldn’t be judged on clicks alone. If you can achieve the engagement you need right in the inbox, there’s no need to send your reader anywhere else. In more advanced email clients, it’s possible to mimic video and game-like experiences – or to break up longer content into tabs and interactive quizzes.
You don’t even need click-throughs to track behaviour. As users navigate their way around an email, analytics software can track what they’re focusing on and where they’re clicking – helping you to test and learn.

The future of email marketing

We’re no longer sending emails in the year 1999. We need to take what we know about email and set it aside. The accepted norms of email are being challenged, making it more inclusive, more engaging and, ultimately, more effective.
Always, the first step is to ask yourself what you want to achieve with your email (if your answer is “clicks”, why is that?). Once you know that, the possibilities are endless.

Learn more about Email Studio

Email Studio is CACI's email template builder which enables you to have a more streamlined approach to creating emails. If you want to learn more, get in touch.


Creating your emails for the most basic inbox is so 2017 – and means you’re likely alienating a significant number of customers. These three changes are happening now.

Email Design: 3 Trends to Improve Your Customer Interaction