Superbowl Mobile App Hero

Super Bowl Stunner

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 2/07/16
Subject Line: Time for kickoff: 20% off your purchase on the app!

American Eagle Outfitters

I received many football-themed emails the day of the big game, but this one is my favorite. AEO uses this email to promote their new mobile app. They offer a 20% discount for shopping on the app, beginning Super Bowl Sunday. The copy is clever, incorporating football lingo throughout the email. Here are a few examples: the app-time show, fumble-free shopping, and no penalties for excessive celebration. The copy is also a good length for scanning. I <3 the design. It has great movement which is made possible with angled products, negative space, and sketches that resemble a football playbook. I love the size and placement of the imagery. Even the color selection is a plus, providing nice contrast; the dark textured background really makes the white text pop. They find unique ways to incorporate screenshots of the new app into the design without it getting boring.

They followed up the next day with the same email, but updated a few portions of copy:

  • Subject Line: INSTANT REPLAY: 20% off ends today!
  • Headline: We’re Goin’ to Overtime
  • Preheader: Your closet FTW!

Overall, this email gets an A+ for originality and execution.

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Targeted Hero

Product Targeting: Tips & Types

Who wouldn’t like their own personal shopper? By utilizing link tracking and shopping history, you can send messages about products that are relevant to each customer’s interests. This is referred to in the industry as an Event Triggered Email. There are many ways you can utilize this information (from birthday discounts to product ratings), but for now I’m focusing on product triggered messages. Below are six types of messages you can be sending and some helpful takeaways.

Cliff-notes:
Do: Include a picture of the product(s)
Do: Get creative with layout
Do: Be clever with wording
Do: Cross promote (product suggestions)
Do: Give a reason to buy: Customer service, price match service, urgency, sale, etc.
Do: Add a personal touch (make it less generated feeling)
Do: Run tests

Let’s dive in with six types of emails you can product target with…

1) Product Recommendations
Based on your browsing/shopping history, we thought you might be interested in these items. (Or, other customers who shopped for [product] also liked…) 

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: You may also like…

I like how this email feels personalized and less like a template. The images are a nice size and fit together without a bunch of dead space. The wording, “Our experts have hand-picked these items just for you” feels so much more personal than “we thought you might like….”

Crate and Barrel

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 11/10/15
Subject Line: We did a little personal shopping

This email is similar to the last example, but with more products. It’s well made, (and this is just my humble option) but I’m not a fan of the wording chosen for the CTAs (show me more). Show me more, what? Products? Something like, “shop now” or “check it out” sounds a little more product specific. I might recommend running some tests on a few options. Testing is always a good idea in general — get the most out of your messages by seeing what customers respond to best.

Uncommon Goods

From: OshKosh B’gosh
Date: 10/01/15
Subject Line: We picked these just for you!

I love that this email shows a product you’ve viewed, along with corresponding suggestions. Sometimes your suggestions feel out of left field and you’re left wondering — why on earth would they think I would like that? This email clearly answers that question. The variety of image sizes also makes the design more appealing. They also included a secondary message for “favorites,” which is a nice addition.

Oshkosh Bgosh

2) Exclusive Discount
Still thinking about this item? Use this code for X% OFF!

From: Express
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: Style you love + free shipping = no regrets

Express pulls out all the stops with this email. They offer a one-day only discount for free shipping. They also include corresponding products and a few best sellers. Sometimes an incentive like a personal discount is what the customer needs to get them ready to buy!

Express

From: Shutterfly
Date: 8/20/15
Subject Line: WOW. 40% off to finish your photo book.

Shutterfly also offers a great incentive to order — 40% off! I like the image choice and the bold CTA, but the headline is a bit long.

Shutterfly

3) Abandoned Cart
Don’t forget– you left this in your shopping cart.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/03/15
Subject Line: Did you forget something?

The copy in this email is straight forward and scannable. My biggest gripe — I would have preferred it if they included the product image or name in the email.

American Eagle

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Come back soon – items remain in your cart!

Williams-Sonoma adds some urgency by placing a time limit on how long the product will remain in the shopping cart. If you’re not ready to bring down the price as an incentive, this is an easy way to add motivation without hurting your bottom line. I also like the inclusion of the product image, the offering of product support, and the recommendations.

Williams-Sonoma Home

From: Crazy 8
Date: 10/18/15
Subject Line: Going, going, gone! Don’t let the items in your Shopping Bag sell out.

I am really impressed with how specific this email is! Rather than just telling me that I left items in my cart, the email shows me my entire shopping cart with products and current prices! They also finish it off with a few recommendations at the bottom. Nicely done.

Crazy 8

4) Browse
We saw you eyeing this, take another look.

From: Crate and Barrel
Date: 10/26/15
Subject Line: Thinking about it? It’s still waiting for you.

I like the customer support angle that this email took. They make reaching them effortless while keeping the email personable.

Crate and Barrel

From: Express
Date: 10/19/15
Subject Line: These are definitely worth a second look…

I loved the wording Express chose for this email. My favorite is actually easy to overlook; in the preheader, “It’s called retail therapy for a reason.” Followed by the body copy, “Not to make you feel guilty, but your closet is getting pretty lonely.” It’s clever and fun, making the email feel less generated. They also include related products without calling them out as being such, continuing the natural flow. The varied image sizes add to the design. Finally, they include best sellers.

Express

From: Best Buy
Date: 9/09/15
Subject Line: ⚠ Friendly reminder | Amy, thanks for checking us out:

I like how Best Buy mentions their price match guarantee. It’s important to remind your customers why they should chose to shop with you over your competitors. This email also includes my name, which is a nice touch. Although, both of these things aren’t very prominent in the email. I might suggest testing the name in the body copy and make the guarantee part of the main message. What if they headline was, “We’ll Match Any Price!”

Best Buy

5) Back In Stock
This item is now available!

From: Pottery Barn Kids
Date: 9/25/15
Subject Line: This item’s back in stock and we wanted you to be the first to know!

What a helpful and unique way to use target messaging! By reminding a customer that a product they viewed in back in stock, it may light a fire to order it before it goes out of stock again.

Pottery Barn Kids

From: Forever 21
Date: 12/09/15
Subject Line: They’re Back! Your Waitlist Items Have Arrived!

Here is a similar email from Forever 21. Their copy includes more urgency, “Snag them now before they’re gone (again!).” They also include additional must haves.

Forever 21

6) Sale
That item you’ve been eyeing is on clearance!

From: Williams-Sonoma
Date: 12/18/15
Subject Line: Now On Sale: Williams-Sonoma Giant Snowflake Cookie Cutter With Cutouts

Similar to the emails that offer an exclusive discount, this email makes the customer aware that the item is on sale. I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist a deal, so I would LOVE to know when a product I’m interested in is available at a lower price.

Crate and Barrel

And a final note — something I would love to see included in all product targeting messages:
Not interested in this item anymore?

Half of the time my targeted messages are based on items I bought for someone else, food for a cat I no longer own, or because I clicked on a product by mistake. This link could help save customers from the annoyance of a message that “missed it’s target.”

If they do click that link, turn a negative experience into a positive one. Allow the customer to select categories that they ARE interested in so you can better understand and target them in the future. Maybe even offer a discount or other incentive for filling out their preferences!

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November Design Inspiration Hero

Design Inspiration of the Month

The holiday season is here! Are you in need of some fresh design ideas? Break out of that template and make your emails stand out. Here are some cool designs that hit my inbox this month.

GEOMETRIC IMAGE GRID
I just love this image layout! Cutting images into diamonds and triangles and forming them into a geometric shapes… Just so much yes. Creative. Stunning. More of this please!

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/22/15
Subject Line: BOGO 50% off the sweaters (& everything else) you need now.
See the email

American Eagle Outfitters

From: GUESS
Date: 11/23/15
Subject Line: Online Now: Up to 50% Off + Free Shipping
See the email

GUESS

TINY PEOPLE
Neiman Marcus first sent an email with animated little people painting the border around the email. So clever and cute — as if they were setting the scene for the beginning of the holiday season. Then, a couple weeks later, I received another email with the return of some tiny people. This time they were sort of photobombing the scene (as was the product). It gives the image a little something special to grab your attention.

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 11/05/15
Subject Line: The Love to Give Collection is here!
See the email

Neiman MarcusNeiman Marcus

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: Triple Point Event + Our exclusive gifts!
See the email

Neiman Marcus

RIBBON ACCENTS
Sephora sent an email using red ribbon for a little holiday accent and a pop of color. It’s a classy (and holiday neutral) graphic choice that I love. It’s reminiscent of another email they sent back in September with gold ribbon weaving throughout the products and design. The ribbon adds flow, dimension and a little fun to the email.

From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 11/21/15
Subject Line: 12 party-perfect samples, 1 festive bag
See the email

Sephora

From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 9/15/15
Subject Line: They’re here
See the email

Sephora

WRAPPED PRODUCTS
I really like how Michaels added bows and tags onto their products. It’s a great way to make an ordinary item feel more in the spirit of the holiday season. It also takes less imagination to consider the products as being gift worthy.

From: Michaels
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: The Latest Creative Tech Tools – Now on Sale!
See the email

Michaels

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Glitch Hero

A Nice Recovery

It happens to the best of us — an email goes out with a mistake, a promo code doesn’t work, a website goes down… No one is perfect. But when something like this happens, you need to be quick on your feet. Let your subscribers know that you’re aware of the issue, and offer something in return for the inconvenience. Your offer can be anything from a heart-felt apology, to an extension of the sale or additional savings. Here are two emails that did an exceptional job.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/18/15
Subject Line: Son of a glitch.
See the email with animation

AEO AEO glitch gif

When you’re in a crunch to get this message out fast, it’s easy (and often necessary) to cut corners on the design. Surprisingly, American Eagle Outfitters presented a well thought out design while under pressure. I love the subject line (Son of a glitch) and the animated hero (of a picture with a glitch). Well played, AEO. So what can we learn from this email? Plan ahead. You never know when you might be in this very situation, so create a design ahead of time. Have it coded and standing by. When the time comes to use it, plug in the details and send it out the door.

From: Christopher & Banks | CJ Banks
Date: 11/13/15
Subject Line: Oops! Our Bad…

Christopher & Banks

Here’s another example from Christopher & Banks. I like how they incorporated the original email into the response message. It makes it clear which email they’re referring to, and even adds a bit to the design. A message that is purely text can get overlooked, but they did a great job addressing the issue in a scannable way. When the glitch was corrected the next day, they resent the email and updated the subject line to “Festive Friday is now Festive Saturday!” They also included this message at the top of the design: “Festive Friday is back on! … and extended through Saturday. Thank you for your patience. Happy shopping!”

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CTA hero

C-T-yaaaaaaay!!

More times than not, an email’s success is measured by the number of clicks it receives. An important factor in getting that reaction is having an effective call to action. Get yours noticed with my tips below.

USE CONTRASTING COLOR
Make sure your call to action stands out by giving it high contrast. Whether it’s a link, a colored box or a graphic, do whatever you can to keep it from blending into the background.

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 11/08/15
Subject Line: It’s the last weekend of BOGO, sooo…
See the full email

Charming Charlie

Here’s an example where Charming Charlie used a dark plaid button to contrast the white background.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
You should always aim to keep your call to action above the fold (aka where subscribers will see it without needing to scroll). Also, place it where the eye flows naturally.

From: maurices
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: Fa la la la fab!
See the full email

Maurices

Maurices does a good job getting their call to action above the fold in this example.

BE SPECIFIC
Subscribers should know where the link will take them without reading the email. For example, “Shop the Sale” would be a better approach than “Shop now.”

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/14/15
Subject Line: Get your shirt together.
See the full email

American Outfitters

Although AEO’s call to actions are below the fold, they do a great job naming the buttons. Without reading anything else, I know exactly where the link “Shop Women’s Flannels” will take me.

KEEP IT SHORT
If your call to action is too wordy, it will become unscannable and could lose clicks. Making it too wide may also make it less apparent as a button.

From: Gap
Date: 11/13/15
Subject Line: a merry mystery awaits…
See the full email

Gap

Gap’s wording is borderline long in this example. It could be shortened to “Reveal Your Deal.” However, they do a good job calling attention to the call to action by giving it contrasting color, and by using the tree background which works as a giant arrow.

From: aerie
Date: 11/07/15
Subject Line: Welcome To Dreamland. FREE Boxer!
See the full email

aerie

Aerie kept their copy short, but they decided to go super wide. Because of this, it’s slightly less apparent as a button/link. If different wording was used, it could be mistaken for a headline.

USE INVENTIVE WORDING
Put your copywriter thinking cap on to make the link fun and unique. Take into consideration who your audience is, the theme of the email and the tone you’re trying to set.

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 11/12/15
Subject Line: Hours Left to Get 30% Back
See the full email

Moosejaw

Moosejaw used some clever wording in this email. Their sub-message title says: “It’s getting Cold,” the call to action is “Bundle Up.”

CALL ATTENTION TO IT
Try animating your call to action, adding graphics to it, or making objects point to it. The sky is the limit.

From: aerie
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Last Day For BOGO 50% Off Collection!
See the full email

aerie

Here’s an example from Aerie where a heart was included in the button. I ❤ this.

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showroom hero

Straight from the Showroom Floor

I like how these emails give you a feeling of shopping in the store by showing the products as you would see them in person: displayed on a table, carefully folded or hanging on the rack. It makes the images seem less doctored when they’re not being worn by a curvy model or in a perfectly decorated setting.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 11/01/15
Subject Line: Take 25% off, ’cause we APPreciate you!

american eagle outfitters

I ADORE this email design. The wood grain background that extends the full height of the email sets a nice inviting and rugged tone. The leaves add to the ambiance, giving a sense of fall. But the best part (as it should be) is the products. The way they overlap on top of one another, along with drop shadows, really give them interest. The way they’re positioned draws your eye around to each item and down the page.

From: maurices
Date: 10/21/15
Subject Line: Top picks for 9 to 5.

maurices

I love how the folded clothes overlap the hero to draw your eye into the next section. The products are fanned out and folded in interesting ways to add movement. The call to actions are well placed to fill the empty space and connect with the items.

From: Express
Date: 11/06/15
Subject Line: New Express One Eleven! Let’s hang

express

Puns galore are included in this email from Express. The hero image shows a rack of clothes on hangers. The subject line says “Let’s hang” and the headline is “The tops you need for major hang time.” Cute.

From: babyGap
Date: 10/22/15
Subject Line: snoopy’s here!

baby gap

Baby Gap shows off its new Snoopy collection by folding and laying them all out as you would see in a store. It’s effective at fitting a lot of products into a small space while also giving a true sense of what each garment looks like.

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DOs and DON’Ts for Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs can be a great way to make your email stand out, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. Check out my DOs and DON’Ts for using animations in emails.

DO: EMPHASIZE YOUR CALL TO ACTION

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/16/15
Subject Line: Win a Full Ski Outfit From Black Diamond
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_mj_gif

I LOVED this animated hand from Moosejaw. It not only moved in an up and down motion (pointing at the call to action), but it also changed into a variety of funny hands. There’s no way anyone would miss the button in this email.

From: LOFT
Date: 10/24/15
Subject Line: Everything’s on sale (so don’t hold back)
View the Animation

LOFT 1103_gif_loft_gif

LOFT’s flashing call to action is also sure to grab your attention. I’m a little on the fence about this one though. Although it stands out, the flashing can get a tad annoying.

DO: USE GIFS TO DRAW EYES DOWN THE PAGE

From: aerie
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: 31% Off! All Treats For Our Girls. No Tricks!
View the Animation

Aerie 1103_gif_spider_gif

I really liked Aerie’s dropping spider animation. The spider itself looked nicer than your standard clip art and the drop shadow was a nice touch. By having the spider drop down the page, your eye is drawn down so you don’t miss anything in the email.

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/27/15
Subject Line: Five new faves! Starting at $19.
View the Animation

Charming Charlie 1103_gif_acorn_gif

Charming Charlie used a clever method to draw your eye downward. They used an acorn that rolled along the diagonal lines down the page, passing the products along the way.

DO: USE FLUID MOTION WHEN POSSIBLE

From: Aéropostale
Date: 10/12/15
Subject Line: ENDS TODAY! Extra 30% off during our bdayyy
View the Animation

Aero 1103_gif_aero_gif

Taking the time to add the extra frames can really make a difference. I like how smooth the GIF is of the candle blowing out — almost like a video.

DO: USE THEM TO ADD A LITTLE INTEREST

From: MoYou-London
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: ❅ New Festive Plates! ❅ This Friday!

MoYou MoYou

Like in this example from MoYou London. The subtle snow falling and blowing hat adds value without being too flashy.

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: Get 30% Back on Almost Everything
View the Animation

Moosejaw Moosejaw

Or in this email from MooseJaw. Check out the banner near the bottom. A window washing dinosaur? Why not! It doesn’t take much to go from meh to magnificent.

DON’T: CUT A SINGLE GIF INTO TWO PIECES

From: Gap
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: news you’ll love: gap factory is now online
View the Animation

Gap Gap

Here’s an oopsie from Gap. The animated GIF was cut into two pieces, resulting in out of sync images. In this situation, it was the top of the peoples’ heads that were cut separately so it resulted in humorous hairstyles atop the wrong heads.

DON’T: GET SLOPPY WITH YOUR ANIMATION

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/18/15
Subject Line: How you love to shop–by color!
View the Animation

Charming Charlie

This email from Charming Charlie animates between color swatches and products. Instead of using one large GIF, each color is cut and animated separately. This results in an unpredictable and somewhat chaotic flashing of images. Sometimes multiple products will show up at once and other times there will be seconds with no animation. When creating an animation, be very purposeful about where and when you want someone to look at something – draw their eye around the page and keep them engaged.

DON’T: ANIMATE TEXT TOO QUICKLY

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/02/15
Subject Line: This. Is. BIG. 20% off Full-price and Sale Stuff.
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_moose2_gif

I really liked the idea behind this email. The concept is clever and the animation is cute. However, the animation moves a little too fast to read. They do finish the animation with the text showing for a handful of seconds so they redeem themselves in the end. This is a good example for being aware of the speed of your animation, particularly when text is involved.

DON’T: MAKE YOUR FILE SIZE TOO LARGE

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Last day for up to $50 off your purchase!
View the Animation

American Eagle

American Eagle backed their headline with a time lapse sunset. Great in concept, but HUGE in file size. Due to the size of the hero and length of the animation, this image is a whopping 14 megabytes! This will dramatically slow loading times, particularly for those viewing on mobile devises.

DON’T: ANIMATE MORE THAN YOU NEED TO

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Ends tonight! Last chance BOGO jewelry.

Charming Charlie Charming Charlie

This example from Charming Charlie is a good reminder to cut your GIFs in the most efficient way possible. Only the call to action blinks in this email, but the entire email was cut as a GIF. This resulted in a very low quality, grainy image. Keep in mind that GIFs don’t have the same color range as JPGs. Think ahead and cut your design appropriately. (NOTE: The web version of the GIF was actually higher quality than the one in the email. To see how it looked in the email, see the larger image above or click here.)

Lastly…
DON’T: FORGET OUTLOOK!

Remember to include all of your pertinent information (or the best looking portion of your animation) in the first frame. Why? Because Outlook doesn’t support animated gifs — they will only show the first frame.

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No Pants Hero

Will Drop Pants for Clicks

Just in case you didn’t get the memo: Pants are out. I found it inconceivable and hilarious that I recieved these two strikingly similar emails in the same month. Both feature an animated GIF of a man dropping his pants to reveal his underwear. It’s sure to grab anyone’s attention and maybe even cause a little chuckle – I’ll give them that!

I’ll break down the pros and cons for each email, but I have one suggestion that applies to both. In each, the animated GIF is used to show a multitude of products. For AEO, 5 boxers are shown; in Moosejaw, 3 pants cycle through. I would suggest adding images of these products below the GIF. This will allow the subscriber to 1) get a better view of the product, 2) let them see it for a longer amount of time, and 3) will also provide a link to each product.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 10/05/15
Subject Line: Pants off, sale on.
See the animated email

American Eagle Outfitters  AEO GIF

PROS

  • Large clear image and headline. It’s eye grabbing and straight forward.
  • The way the links are integrated over the hero image is a nice touch. It’s a nice way of bringing everything together into one solid message.
  • Cute preheader. “More AEO underwear = less laundry…#winning”

CONS

  • 4 Meg GIF = Slow loading time

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/15/15
Subject Line: Keep Your Pants On | Free $10 for Taking a Survey
See the animated email

Moosejaw  Moosejaw GIF

PROS

  • 700K GIF = Quick loading time
  • For those that read the copy, it’s hilariously well written. Here’s a snippet: “Let’s face it, nobody likes wearing pants. As a matter of fact, I’m not wearing any right now. Ever wonder why some people are jerks in the morning? It’s because they had to put on pants.”

CONS

  • Not very scannable copy. I love the humor, but titles or bolded text could help get the point across quicker for those that don’t have time to read.
  • No flow. Everything is full width and stacked. Not ideal.
  • Lack of hierarchy. The first two messages are related, but the third isn’t. It feels out of place. I suggest treating it more like a secondary message by making it smaller, or removing it entirely.

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The Land of Nod

A Personal Touch

It’s easy to forget the need to build a relationship with your customers, to get past the data associated with each subscriber and remember that you’re reaching out to real people. When I signed up for a (certifiably insane) number of emails recently, my inbox was flooded with a sea of welcome emails that were full of links and content. Each with it’s own mission — to get me to learn or click or DO something. It all felt so forced — action and reaction. Until I opened this email from The Land of Nod.

From: The Land of Nod
Date: 7/23/2015
Subject Line: A special thank you from The Land of Nod.

The Land of Nod

I loved the letter format, the focus being the words welcome and thank you. I didn’t feel like I was a part of some agenda, but was actually being welcomed into a tight circle of new friends. The personal photo in the side column was a great touch. They kept the email concise and to the point. All this, while still delivering a nice design AND including a discount without making it the focus.

I also have to give an honorable mention to American Eagle Outfitters. I liked it for the same reason; it didn’t feel pushy or calculated. I especially loved the wording they chose for the title. Although, I didn’t feel the secondary image was necessary.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 7/23/2015
Subject Line: We’re gonna make a great team

American Eagle Outfitters

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