How to structure the perfect email in 2020

The CloudApp Team

Oh, the perfect email! It’s said to be a myth and a mystery that not even the boldest marketer has solved… but is it true?

Writing a compelling message and structuring an email that will deliver great results is not an easy feat. As Campaign Monitor revealed in 2019, the average click-through rate across several industries was 2.69%, and the average open rate was 17.92%. However, there are businesses out there that get way better results because they have mastered the art of email campaigns.

ZURB, a product design company, introduced automated welcome emails so well designed and tailored that they have upwards of 70-75% open rates and 40-45% click-through rates. Meanwhile, email segmentation used by Vero lead to a 450% increase in conversions.

So what this tells us is that it can’t be that hard after all! On the other hand, many companies work tirelessly to craft and implement email marketing strategies, run A/B tests and spend tons of money on email campaigns but still don’t get the expected results. This happens because they don’t focus on a simple, yet essential element of an email - the right structure.

While working on an email marketing campaign, keep in mind that every email consists of three major sections. You have to edit and properly adjust each section to get the most out of your email marketing efforts. Also, remember that the success of your email campaign depends on several factors, as well as its purpose: whether it is a promotional message, a thank you message, or an email to new subscribers.

It may seem a bit complicated, but after reading this article you will be ready to achieve your email marketing goals. However, if you are an email marketing beginner, you may want to read this guide first.


What is a proper email structure?

Every email sent from your database should include the following sections:

  • Header
  • Body
  • Footer

Keep reading to learn more about the essential elements and characteristics of email sections.

Header

The header is the first element that users see when receiving an email. The first impression they get from the email will determine whether the recipients will be interested in reading the message or will ignore it instead. The structure includes:

  • Subject line
  • Preheader text/Preview text
  • "From" name (sender's name) and email address
  • Reply-to address

Do your best to catch the recipient's attention here, as you won't get a second chance to do so.

You’ll need data about your consumers to unlock the whole potential of a header. Information such as what might appeal to your users, what tone of voice they use, and what their interests are, will help you connect with your consumers.

  1. Subject line

According to research from Invesp, 69% of recipients mark emails as spam based on nothing but a weak subject line. The subject line should be compelling, personalized, and aim to capture a user's attention.

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all email length, so consider what devices your clients read emails on to determine the best subject line length. In 2018, 61% of emails were opened on a mobile device, and in 2019 the number went up to 77%. Therefore, we recommend that your subject line is less than 50 characters long so it can display correctly on mobile devices.

Think about what message you want to convey to your users in an email. It sounds very simple, but sometimes the little things are the most difficult. Ask yourself: "What am I offering?" "Am I talking about a new feature?" "Am I launching a new product that I want everyone to know about?"

As mentioned above, the subject line must be attractive to have an impact on the recipient. The shorter and more direct it is, the more attention it will receive.

Campaign Monitor analyzed thousands of campaigns to shortlist 15 popular words that, if used in a subject line, positively influence the open rates.

Email text with highest open rate


The first power word on the list refers to the recipient’s name. If their name is missing, then the word "customer" will be inserted instead.

If you want more people to open your emails, our recommendation is to include at least one word from the list above, in your email subject line.

Moreover, it's essential to distinguish new users from those who are already your customers. Email marketing is not only about a personalized subject line, but also about knowing exactly at what stage along the customer journey each lead is. For example, messages sent to first time buyers should be different than those sent to recurring customers.


Look at the differences between the following subject lines:

  • Subject line for a repeat customer: "Did you find the content of our online course useful? Check out our brief summary!"
  • Subject line for a new user: "Join our online class. Register today and get 50% off your first course!"

If you use the same subject line in all your emails, you'll clearly have a lower chance of success. The most important thing to remember is that you need to know your customers to target them effectively.

Although there is no magic formula for creating a subject line that will always be noticed, a better understanding of your consumers and your brand may work wonders for your email open rates. Don't forget to be clear and concise.

Example of clear email preview text CTA
source




  1. Preheader text/Preview text

You may have the best and most original subject line, but you must also work on crafting another crucial element of an email - the preheader. Many companies make this mistake: they think preview text is just a secondary part of the message and that no user pays attention to it. However, you can and should use it to your advantage to reinforce your message.

The preview gives you between 8 and 20 additional words to support your subject line. Depending on the email client you use, your preview text can be from 40 to 1000 characters long.

Therefore, you should make full use of it's potential. Unfortunately, the most common texts we can find in preheaders are: "This message contains blocked images", or "Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to view it in a web browser." These types of messages don't make a big impression on a customer, and therefore should be avoided.

Again, to craft a great preview message, you must think about your recipient. Think about the industry you’re in -- what kind of preview text would catch the eye of a consumer and entice them to open your email?

The screenshot below should give you an idea of how some businesses waste their opportunity to use the preview text properly. This kind of preheader mistake may nosedive your email open rates.

Example of email preview text mistakes
source


As you can see, the preview texts are not optimized. One includes the boring “Having trouble reading this email?...” line, while another one shows source code. Not enticing at all!

However, there are also many examples of outstanding preview texts. Check them out below, maybe you’ll get inspired.

example of preview text in email
source


When reading these preview texts, you can tell that the authors put some thought into them. The preheader in the first example is fun, and the one from One Kings Lane does a great job of informing readers what awaits in the email. The third preview text seamlessly connects with the subject line, while Novica's email gives the recipient a quick summary of the main message.

  1. Sender's name and email address

I'm sure that you receive hundreds of no-reply emails from random companies, but you can't check the sender's name or email address. You also don't know who the author of the email is or what they do.

donotreply email name


You probably deleted many messages like the ones you can see on the screenshot above, right?

If you want the users who receive your emails to trust you, we strongly advise against using a no-reply email address. It’s important to show your email recipients that there's a real person behind your messages.

  1. Reply-to address

Make sure your corporate email has enough capacity to receive many emails. Why? Prevent your mailbox from running out of space and eliminate email bounce backs. If a customer tries contacting you but the email can’t be delivered, they will feel frustrated which can lead to a loss of interest in your company.


Email body

Email bodies of text are the backbone of your email campaigns, as most of the information you want to disclose is in this section. When you’re creating the body, you have a clean slate that allows you to create a design that will be aesthetically pleasing to your customers.

  1. Optimize your email for mobile devices

As already mentioned in this article, most users check their email from a mobile device. Therefore, it's vital to keep up with the times and create responsive email designs. The content of a message that will be read on a desktop or laptop should also be correctly displayed on any

smartphone or tablet. It’s time to cater to your customer’s needs and habits. Your users should be able to read your email from any device they want, and still receive a perfectly readable email.

But how do you create a responsive email? We’ve outlined some best practices below:

  • The fewer elements in the message, the better. A single-column email can be displayed on any mobile device screen.
  • The ideal font size is between 13 and 14 points for body text and 20 points for headers. This way, the user can read it without zooming in.
  • CTAs should be placed in a strategic position. Avoid including hyperlinks in your text, as they can make text illegible.
  • Make use of blank spaces, as it allows users to focus on your message.
  1. Use calls to action

Calls to action or CTAs are used to attract users' attention and, according to WordStream, can increase clicks by 371% and sales up to 1,617%. If you send an incredible message, but don't encourage your readers to take action, then they will just read your message and close the email. Don't let this happen! Ask them to sign up for your newsletter, suggest learning more about the company on your website, or make use of a welcome discount.

Just as subject lines are customized depending on the type of customer, CTAs can also be customized depending on the stage of the sales funnel they’re in.

The creation of an effective CTA will have to be done based on what you want to achieve. For example:

If your email serves as a welcome message from a newsletter, add a call to action that directs the reader to your website where they can learn more about your company. Prove to your recipients that you have what they need, and that you are there to serve them.

If you share a product catalog, insert a CTA with more details on how the product works, how it can be used, and what it looks like. Later, in the same message, offer a direct purchase option.

The most important thing before creating calls to action is to know the objective-- where you want your consumer to go, and what you want them to do. Check out the CTA that Casper uses in this email:

Example of email from Casper



They know what their buyer persona is looking for clean bedsheets. Instead of using a hackneyed "SHOP NOW" call to action, Casper relates to what they offer their clients by writing a caption that supports the CTA in the copy.

Remember that the content of the message must be clear; otherwise, the recipient won't know what action to take or what the intention of the content is.

The placement of your call to action is also important because it must align with the design, be optimized for mobile devices, and be above all, be visible.

While this element is essential to email marketing, it can also be detrimental when used incorrectly. One of the most common errors is adding too many CTAs. This will only lead to "decision fatigue" for your reader; many options will overwhelm them, and they may prefer not to do anything at all.

The right number of CTAs within an email will depend on the intent of the message. Just remember that two or three calls to action are more than enough to encourage a user to take the steps that you want them to take.

Look at the following example from Olark. It's not just a regular onboarding email. Customers' most common “getting started” questions are transformed into a step-by-step welcome email that focuses on the client.

Example of Email from Olark
source


  1. Personalize

This is already a must for each email marketing campaign. According to this Accenture study, 41% of consumers switched the brands they buy from because of poor personalization. No one wants to feel like just a number on an anonymous client list. When you call users by their name, it makes them feel more valued and makes them perceive your company as committed to their best interests. If you’re unsure about customer segmentation, this article will help you segment your client base for effective personalization.

  1. Use a well-balanced design

The composition of your emails must have a healthy balance between text and visuals. You might think that using more pictures will attract more attention, which is actually very likely. However, a message full of images increases the size of the email, which results in longer loading times.

The same goes for text. If you overload the message with too much text, the only thing you'll achieve is making the reader feel overwhelmed. Your email should be easy to skim through at a glance.

  1. Don't forget about impeccable spelling and grammar

If there are typos or the text is not concise, the design of the message will simply lose its appeal. Some rules of thumb are:

  • Use capital letters correctly. Every company has its own style guide, although you should bear in mind that too many sentences or words in capitals will make the text hard to read. On the other hand, remember to capitalize the names of people, brands and countries, etc.
  • Follow the general rule for headings: subject+verb+complement. For example: "Wendy, are you ready for our great offers?
  • To avoid misspelling customers' names, it's best to copy and paste them from your contact list. If you use email automation, you don’t have to worry about this.
  • Be careful with punctuation. Semicolons, full stops, periods, and commas can easily change the meaning of a sentence.


Footer

The header of your email was awesome and it encouraged the user to open your message. The email body also caught their eye, so... what's next? Take advantage of the last section of your email to inform the recipient how to get in touch with you.

Don't miss the opportunity to ask them to subscribe to your newsletter or to contact you with any questions. The footer is the section where you can get your reader to take action.

The three elements you should include in the footer are:

  1. Subscription

Don't let the user leave without giving them the opportunity to subscribe to your regular email newsletter. If they do so, thank them for the subscription and inform them about what type of messages they will be receiving and how often you will contact them.

  1. Unsubscribe option

No one wants to let go of a subscriber, but you need to give your users the possibility of deciding that they don't want to receive your communication anymore. By providing an unsubscribe link you’re letting your customers know that you value their opinions and choices.

  1. Contact information

Include all communication channels that are available for a user to contact you -- whether it's your phone number, website, social networks or your physical address. This way, the user can see that you are a legitimate business, and that you can be trusted.

This also applies to legal information. You can include terms and conditions of promotions, the privacy policy, and other similar elements.


Wrapping up

To get the most out of your email marketing efforts, you need to offer your recipients the best experience possible - and now you know how to do so! The key to success is an original and concise header, a well-balanced design, and a footer with just enough information and no unnecessary frills. Remember that each section of an email plays a big role in your email marketing success, so try to make the most of them all!

Analyze the performance of your email campaigns until you know what your contacts really like, and we're sure that you'll come out on top.


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