The Email Design Conference

Last week, Litmus hosted the first ever conference devoted to email design and build, bringing together a whole community of experts and practitioners from designers to strategists — and I was lucky enough to attend.

Email design can be a pretty lonely specialism, and can also sometimes carry a bit of a stigma now that social media provides another platform through which to directly engage with your audience. But the conference definitely renewed my pride in being an email designer; the speakers emphasised that it’s still possible to be both creative and innovative, even when working within tight constraints.

Mobile email opens are on the rise, now accounting for 50% of total opens (that’s a 350% increase in two years). So, naturally, responsive and flexible email build was a key topic — focusing of email design and development to deliver the best experience on all screens.

Dan Oshinsky from Buzzfeed said, “Email can be incredible if done right. People are inviting you into their lives — what are you going to do that’s amazing?” This was a great reminder that email offers you a unique opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Your email should tell a story and reflects your brand personality, providing content people actually want to read.

As emails allow you to get immediate access to results, you can quickly find out what’s working for your audience, iterate, redesign, test, iterate… Out of one website visit, you have the chance to then contact a user maybe 20 times — think of it like a periodical building of trust. I love this quote from Marcus Sheridan that Brendan Schwartz from Wistia shared: “Answer the questions your customers are asking, educate them about their interests; this builds trust, trust builds sales.”

But the main highlight of the conference for me was the insights into ‘live content’ provided by Elliot Ross from Action Rocket, which now allows you to deliver different content depending on how, where and when your user opens the email.

This offers exciting opportunities for mobile device specific content; for example, if you’re promoting a branch of shops, the closest outlet to the user’s location could be displayed on a map. Or if the email was opened on an iPhone, you could include a link to download your app directly from the App store. Another example was time relevant opens; say someone opened your promo email a few days after an offer had actually ended, you could arrange for them to see a ‘sorry’ message rather than the expired (and now useless) offer.

This is a brilliant technological development that means brands can provide users with even more relevant content and a whole new level of engagement. I’m really looking forward to applying these methods to future client work.