Skip to main content

Time for a total template makeover?

by Ryan Phelan

Mar 15th 2017


According to Adestra’s latest consumer report (watch this space for the release of that!), 74 percent of your email subscribers will delete your messages that don’t look good on mobile.

So, that brings up a major question: When was the last time you updated your email templates to make sure that they render properly and look great on mobile?

I know some companies that change their templates weekly. Others haven’t changed theirs in two years. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Could be both; could be neither, depending on your business, your audience and other factors.

But, we’re living in an age where we move fast and technology evolves even quicker. It’s hard to keep up. That’s why rather than just send email, we need to think about the art behind it.

I can give you three reasons for redesigning your templates for today’s mobile-first world: Production, usability and customer feedback.

1. Production: Flexibility and innovation without complicating your workflow

One of the problems with mobile formatting for every email is the production schedule which can slow down innovation.

I’ve worked with companies where the production took three weeks from brief to deployment.

In that scenario, it’s hard to innovate and be fresh. You’re in an assembly line. If you have a constantly changing design, it’s difficult to get consistency as there’s no tieback to previous campaigns.

You’ll never learn what works and what doesn’t. Your production times are longer because you keep having to develop new creative and code it fresh every time.

Customers don’t come to your website and see a new site every time. Why do they have to have a new design every time you send an email?

Using modular templates is a great way to serve up fresh content without stretching out your production cycle. A modular format gives you a block of content that you can switch in and out as needed. Each email will look different, but the building blocks are always the same and mobile responsiveness is preserved.

Marketers who use modular templates appreciate being able to customize the appearance of each email while maintaining a consistent look overall and reducing production time.

2. Usability: Insights from testing and segmentation

From week to week, test different parts of your email – the call to action, images, copy and more. If you’re testing right, you’re on a plan that lets you progress from Point A to Point B with what you’ve learned from each test.

Those lessons will help you understand how your customers use your emails. Segmenting also gives you greater insights, because every segment is made up of people who have different priorities from those in other segments.

Some customers care about price more than brand. Some prefer more content about what you’re offering.

Usability differs by segment. Taking what you have learned from testing and having a template that you can modify easily to take those lessons into account will make your email program perform better.

Your email customers are learning at the same rate we are, if not even faster. If you aren’t changing the usability of your email, you might be missing opportunities that your customers already have.

3. Customer feedback: What you don’t know will surprise you

When we evaluate how our email program is doing, we might reach out to a focus group and ask, “What do you think about our emails?”

When I did this as a brand-side marketer, I was often surprised at the feedback we got. Things we thought were great either went unnoticed or were undervalued. On the other hand, some minor thing might turn out to be something your subscribers embrace.

If you want to know whether you need to redesign your template, ask your customers and subscribers what they think. Set up a consumer panel that you can consult throughout the year. (I go into more depth about consumer panels in this recent blog post.)

Be methodical and strategic about your approach. Set up interview questions, such as “Does our email design reflect our brand?” You’ll find customers will have some interesting comments on your templates and how your whole email program is doing.

Summing up: Innovate to keep pace with customers

If you haven’t redesigned your templates in a while, or taken a closer look at how your email program is doing, investigate whether you could boost results or KPIs with modular templates, new designs or standardizing your design and production schedule.

Don’t put email redesign on the same schedule as website design because the effort that goes into redesigning your website’s look, feel, navigation and organization is a far more elaborate process.

If your timeline is based on your slowest moves, then your customers will be moving faster than you realize.