ACCM Show Daily: E-mail Critiques–Function Before Form

May 09, 2006 9:43 AM  By

Chicago–Yesterday’s E-mail Marketing Creative Critique session here at the Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) started with an innocent question from Deirdre Cook, vice president of creative services at New York-based e-mail communications solutions provider Epsilon Interactive: “How successful are your e-mails?”

“Pretty good,” replied Melissa Read, Internet designer for pet supplier Drs. Foster and Smith, who had brought copies of the Rhinelander, WI-based multichannel merchant’s e-mail campaigns to be reviewed by Cook.

After looking at the pieces, Cook agreed that Drs. Foster and Smith was doing a good job, though she also outlined a number of ways that the merchant could improve its e-mail messaging.

At the top of the list, Cook said, e-mails should ideally be 60% text and only 40% images. Catalogers are usually concerned with an e-mail’s fonts, kerning, and images, while Cook said they should instead be focused on how the message is viewed by customers—or if it can be seen at all. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Cook of merchants whose e-mails are too image-heavy.

Text should be short and easy to digest while also containing call-to-action links and buttons, said Cook. Including both text links and buttons increases the chances that both readers and scanners will follow a link.

Another way to improve e-mail marketing is to have continuity between the e-mail and the Website. This is an easy and ideal way to carry through a company’s branding. Cook said critique participant Hach, a multichannel merchant of analytical systems and technical support for water quality testing, excelled at consistent branding and design.

You should also personalize messages with both a first and a last name. In the case of Drs. Foster and Smith, Cook said personalizing it with the pet’s name would add additional credibility to the messages. Another tip: Include 99% of the message in the windowpane to ensure that as much as possible of the e-mail is seen. Additionally, a merchant’s logo should always be in the top left corner of messages.

And test subject lines, but avoid using the words “sale” and “dollar,” as well as the symbols for dollar and percent, which will raise a marketer’s spam score and possibly send it to the junk folder