5 min.

The perfect marketing email comprises many elements: flawless copy, coordinated sequences, compelling subject lines, valuable content. But one of the most crucial elements — arguably the element that ties these all together — is visuals.

Before your email recipients even read your email (beyond your subject line, of course), they will register what your email looks like. This can make or break whether or not they’ll continue to actually read your email, so it’s important to get it right.

But why are visuals so important in email marketing? And how can you improve your visuals in 2020? Read on to find out.

What are the benefits of strong visuals in email marketing?

Here are just a few reasons why getting your visuals on-point is so important in your email marketing.

They hold the reader’s attention

The average customer receives dozens of emails in their inbox every day. Consequently, their attention is divided, and they’ll quickly appraise an email to see if it’s worth their time. If it doesn’t grab the recipient, they’ll move on.

An email packed with copy won’t do much to hold someone’s attention. Even if the information is useful or interesting, unless it’s delivered in an aesthetically-pleasing way, it won’t hold them. Visuals serve as a vehicle that helps convey copy in an engaging way.

They help the reader process information easier

In the same vein as the above, it’s important to communicate your message as quickly as possible to make the most of your audience’s attention. While copy plays an important role in this, it’s worth noting that our brains process visual content faster than written copy.

Consequently, the right kind of visuals can augment your message and help it land with your target audience. An announcement of a new line of summer wear accompanied by images of sun, sand, and beaches creates a visual relevance that puts the recipient in a summer mindset — in short, it helps them understand the message easier.

They encourage people to engage with the email’s message

In the world of marketing, looks are everything. The first taste is with the eyes, and if your emails don’t look good, they’ll get opened but they don’t get read. A plain-text email looks cold and impersonal, but a beautiful, well laid-out email hooks your recipients and stays with them after they’ve navigated away.

Every brand can benefit from including high-quality visuals in their email marketing. Even if the message is relatively uninspiring (GDPR permission requests, for example), attractive visuals can give them a creative shot in the arm that will ensure recipients actually read and engage with your message.

How can you nail your visuals in your email marketing?

So you know why it’s important — but how can you achieve it? Here are a few tips to help you perfect your visuals.

Experiment with dynamic gifs

Gifs — short, animated clips that display on repeat — make for engaging visual content that liven up otherwise static email marketing. Indeed, due to the animated nature of gifs, they are ideal for grabbing your recipient’s attention and drawing them towards a specific message.

There are lots of free gif resources, with Giphy being the most popular. But it’s important to ensure your gif is actually relevant to your message. Don’t just shoehorn one in because it looks good — it has to echo the sentiment of the email itself.

Of course, gifs won’t work for every brand. It’s unlikely that a bank will include a gif in its email marketing, for instance, but a more quirky fast-food chain might do so. You know your brand better than anyone, so do what is right for you.

Strive for the best product photography

For all brands, product photography in email marketing is a must — that’s a given. But it’s always worth building and improving upon your existing product photography to better sell your products in 2020.

Taking product photos is simple too. You don’t need to be a big brand with a big budget to create beautiful product imagery — most smartphones today come equipped with sophisticated cameras that are capable of taking high-quality photos.

It’s also worth spending some time editing your images to ensure they are of the best possible quality. There are myriad tools available to help with this too, with a number of free options on offer for bootstrapping businesses who want high-quality product photography on a budget.

Consider a blend of layouts to help your prospective customers better appreciate your products too. For instance, you could have a close-up of your product itself, a photo of someone using the product, or an overlay featuring the product in conjunction with other products too. This is especially good for apparel brands who might show a t-shirt as part of an overall summer outfit, for example.

The trick is to not overload your recipients with too many product images — a selection of two or three of your most popular products will suffice.

Give your CTAs a visual twist

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are a vital component of your email marketing. They are what guide your recipients to make a desired action, driving click-throughs and conversions as a result.

But while text-based CTAs are fine, the inclusion of images takes them to the next level. These provide visual cues to your audience that both guide them to the CTA button itself increase click-through rates into the bargain.

Accompany your CTA with suitable images that relate to the specified landing page. For example, if your CTA leads to a landing page for people to sign up to beta test a new product feature, include images of that feature around it. This both encourages people to click and keeps them on-page once they arrive.

You don’t even need to just focus on images in your CTAs. Simply using an attractive graphic is enough to give your CTA a visual makeover that ups your email marketing value.

Embrace the myriad benefits of video

Video enjoyed a surge in popularity last year, hailed as the king of content by many pundits. And while video is just one string in your visual content bow, it’s an important one that deserves a place in your email marketing.

What would otherwise be flat and uninteresting in written form is made lively and engaging in video. It lets you communicate a variety of messages, from customer testimonials and product explainers to founder Q&As and brand stories.

Embedding video in emails is easy enough. Most email marketing systems offer easy video integrations built-in, and it’s simple to copy and paste HTML from YouTube into an email.

Don’t neglect the small stuff in your visual branding

One visual aspect of email marketing that is often under-represented is branding. This encompasses a wide range of elements, including your logo, email themes, photography styles, and even your font.

Whilst these are arguably only small elements of your overall email marketing, they play an important role in reinforcing your branding in your recipients’ minds. These form the ‘face’ of your brand, helping your audience recognize you across your various strategies, online and offline.

The key to nailing your visual branding in your email marketing (indeed, across all your channels) is brand guidelines. As a rule of thumb, these should include:

  • Color palette.
  • Fonts.
  • Photography/image styles.
  • Logos (with different sizes available for download for each platform).
  • A brief overview of your brand, USP, history, and so on.

The above should all be accompanied by examples to help illustrate them to new members of your team. Brand guidelines help every member of your team follow a clear visual identity when creating your email marketing — they build consistency and coherency, crucial elements of your branding strategy.

Deliver value through informative infographics

Visual graphics such as charts, graphs, and infographics are excellent for delivering otherwise difficult or incomprehensible information to a layman audience. These are especially useful if you sell a complex product, such as a SaaS product, with benefits that are best explained through visual means.

Infographics and other informational graphics also increase your authority as a brand too. By sharing complex information in an easy-to-understand way, you show your audience that you are an expert in your industry and have the chops to prove it.

This kind of visual content is relatively easy to create too — if you have the data, of course. There are lots of free or paid infographic creators available online, so anyone can get started creating beautiful graphics for your emails.

Even if you don’t have raw data to turn into an infographic, it’s entirely viable to find free data that already exists and turn it into a graphic for your own use.

Top tip: use your infographics to highlight a pain point that your customers have and then position your brand, product, or service as a solution to that problem.

While visuals aren’t the only important part of your marketing emails — every element has a vital role to play — they are still a crucial one. Your email marketing’s visuals hook your audience, keeps them locked in, and helps them engage with your message, so it’s worth getting them right.

Follow the tips above and start creating flawless gifs, product photos, infographics, and other visuals to help your email marketing land with a splash in 2020.

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