Email Design and Content: Key Takeaways From Klaviyo:BOS

Email Design Tips

As a product designer here at Klaviyo, I’m responsible for taking broad, conceptual ideas and turning them into something useful and valuable for our rapidly growing customer base. My focus is not only designing beautiful interfaces but designing the best experience for our Klaviyo users.

As a marketer, when you’re building out your emails, visual design and content go hand in hand. At Klaviyo:BOS, our two-day conference in September, we featured three sessions on this subject: Designing Emails that Convert, Level Up Your Email Design, and Personalize Your Email Content.

With the takeaways from these sessions, you’ll be able to improve your existing emails — and maybe get inspired to create some new ones!

Designing emails that convert

It was a pleasure to have New York-based ecommerce expert Matt Sanocki speak at Klaviyo:BOS. Matt is the founder of Mineral.io, a marketing consulting agency, and a Klaviyo platinum partner.  

His session offered conversion-centric design principles on how to design your emails to effectively increase engagements, click-through rates and ultimately on-site conversions. His talk focused on designing promotional emails and where you should start your efforts in optimizing your campaigns, along with plenty of examples of ecommerce companies who are doing things right (and wrong). In this post, I’ll recap some of my favorite design principles that he covered and the ones that I apply in my day-to-day as a product designer.

Reduce the cognitive load

Like Mark Zuckerberg wearing only grey shirts, or Barack Obama having a closet full of blue suits, the same psychology applies to email design. The more choices your email recipient has to make, the higher the cognitive load — and the lower the conversions.

You should simplify your designs, getting rid of unnecessary links, design elements, and CTAs. When designing your emails, too much of everything can be a bad thing, and we see it all the time.

How can you put this into practice in your email designs, even if you’re not a designer?

Matt offers three essential tactics:

1. Reduce the number of offers and limit to one offer per email

2. Use only two fonts to avoid visual overload or things will get “a little bit nutty”

3. Don’t bore the viewer; always test your emails with short and scannable copy

A clear visual hierarchy

People are pressed for time and overwhelmed by requests for their attention. The average office worker gets 121 emails a day, and that’s just on their work account! So how do we, as marketers, capture our audience’s attention quickly while highlighting our offers and guide them to make an action?

Follow these best practices:

1. Make it easy to scan the content with headers, sub-heads, and bold text

2. Prioritize offers by putting your best stuff at the top and less significant at the bottom

3. One-column layouts work across all devices and are less overwhelming to scan

Having trouble designing for visual hierarchy? Try the eye squint test to see if the prioritization and offers are easily scannable: squint at your email and see if you can still tell what’s most important. If it’s not obvious, then go back to your email design and iterate until it is!

Mobile-first for the win

Many of our Klaviyo customers see well over ⅔ of their email opens coming from mobile devices. You need to design for how your recipients are viewing the emails you send, and it’s quite likely that it’s on their smartphones. You need to design your emails with flexibility…without compromising your ability to convert.

According to Matt, here are three ways to design for mobile-first:

1. Make sure your text and imagery are actually readable on a small device

2. Use a mobile-friendly layout (like the one-column layout!)

3. Design extends beyond the actual email itself — use a short subject line that’s easily readable in its entirety on a hand-held device

Final thoughts

Design your emails to be “big and dumb,” assuming that most of your recipients will be viewing on their devices.  Make the content easy to scan and always follow a simple model of drawing the viewer in with key content, building anticipation, and then anchoring them to an action that has enough real estate to click (or tap) from a mobile device. It’s that simple! Check out Matt’s complete slide deck.

Level up your email design

This session is very easy for me to talk about because, conveniently, I was one of the speakers!

One of the best ways to learn great email design is to study the greats. I picked apart a handful of well-designed and high-converting ecommerce emails and highlighted what they do really well. I wanted to share some of those learnings with you here.

The main goal of this session was for everyone in the room to walk away feeling confident designing beautiful emails that drive results in Klaviyo.

(My colleague Mitch Gruber provided a step-by-step walkthrough in the Klaviyo template editor — if you’re new to designing emails in Klaviyo, be sure to watch it when the video goes live at the end of October!)

Think minimally

In a time where we are bombarded by information, it’s extremely important to deliver a design that has a simple layout, yet still captures your viewer’s attention. A great way to deliver an enjoyable experience is to understand more about white space and how you can use it as an essential element to create a simple yet elegant design.

Using white space (or “negative space”) around key elements like a CTA or headline signals importance and improves readability. An example of great usage of white space is in this email from Warby Parker. This email layout is filled with white space so we can focus on what’s important: getting the user back to their cart.

Warby Parker ecommerce email

Add personality

Let’s get personal…with our email content. It’s okay to be a little different in your emails. It will stand out to your readers and break through the noise in their inbox. An example is Brooklinen’s light-hearted approach, which metaphorically references the sheets that the user left in their cart as a Craigslist “Missed Connection.”

This friendly theme was carried throughout the email from the header and subheader text to the compelling button action, “Reply.” Emails like this one are refreshing — and as a customer, it’s fun to see that they don’t take themselves too seriously.

Brooklinen ecommerce email

For more email design tips and examples, view the full slide deck for my presentation.

Personalize your email content

After I presented, my colleagues, Klaviyo product experts Scott and Brandon, dove a little deeper into targeting specific customers and personalizing your email content. They focused on a really powerful topic: using dynamic data in the emails you send.

Klaviyo gives you the ability to collect and store data on profiles, and you can collect virtually any type of information. Profile data, such as first name or gender, can be collected in a number of ways. Most often, you request this information from your customers via email preferences and signup forms.

In addition to profile data, Klaviyo collects information about what your customers are doing on your website, such as Checkout Started or Placed Order. This data is available within the activity feed on the profile page. This information is called “event data” and is captured through integrations within Klaviyo.

You can incorporate all of this profile and event data dynamically in your campaigns, flows, lists and segments to target specific customers and display only relevant information to them. Ultimately, using personalized content in your emails can drastically increase your open rates and build trust with your customers.

Our product experts offered three methods to creatively use data dynamically in your emails:

1. Include personalized content, such as the recipient’s first name or last purchase, in your campaigns

2. Show or hide campaign content based on information specific to each individual customer

3. Pull recent Instagram posts right into your emails to automatically and dynamically display your company’s latest posts

Check out Scott and Brandon’s complete slide deck in addition to the following resources available in the Klaviyo Help Center:

Conclusion

To recap, Matt provided you with tips on incorporating design principles within your email design to increase engagements with your users. I took you through feeling confident thinking minimally and adding personality to your email design. Scott and Brandan wrapped it up with utilizing profile and event data to personalize your email content.

We all know email design is tricky, and as a designer, my first draft is never my best. But you can use these tips to create visually appealing, high-engagement emails that ultimately drive conversions for your store.

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