A hit counter, glittery animated GIFs, Comic Sans and an under construction sign – just like 90s websites have evolved from questionable DIY projects to beautiful designs, so have newsletters.
In 2019, you have all the tools to create eye-catching newsletter designs and fill it with kickass content.
Can your newsletter use a little sparkle? A modern makeover? Read on to discover what 2019 newsletter best practices you can apply today to improve your layout design and content instantly.
Getting seen in your readers’ inbox isn’t an easy challenge, but 3 elements come into play when trying to mark your spot:
Your “from” can be anything you want it to be (just don’t lie). Your name (Ilma), company name (MailerLite) or your name and company name (Ilma from MailerLite) are often used. Some add an emoji or experiment with construction like “Hey, it’s Ilma.”
There’s no secret sauce, just a lot of A/B testing to see what works best for your email campaigns.
Same goes for the subject line. Though you do need to keep an eye on the character amount (50-60 for desktop and 25-30 for mobile), the rest of the rules are all up to you!
When we dived into our database and filtered the companies with crazy high open rates, we were as disappointed as when watching the Game of Thrones finale. Turns out; it was highly anticlimactic!
These MailerLite customers didn’t ask their readers million dollar questions or used secret open-rate-boosting emojis or personalizations we hadn’t thought of.
Instead, they wrote subjects like:
Their secret was that they all found their niche. One owned a farm, the other is a romance writer, the third a soap maker.
These companies understood that building a relationship with your readers is more important than trying to craft that perfect subject line, which makes sense. Your mom could write “weekend” or leave the subject line completely blank, but you wouldn’t leave her email unopened... now would you?
As for the preheader, this snippet is the first bit of text that shows up right next to (or underneath on mobile) the subject line in email clients like Gmail and Outlook. It’s a subject line extension, and when used well, the preheader can have a positive impact on your open rates.
Tip: Read here how to increase your open rates by using preheaders the right way.
Use A/B testing to find your winning formula for the subject line, preheader and sender information, but put your main focus on building customer relationships to achieve consistent success.
We get it, you and your subscribers are technically just virtual pen pals, but in a world full of Tinder matches and collective meme-bonding, everyone on the internet already acts like acquaintances. Which is why you don’t need to be stiff in your emails. Unless that’s how your audience communicates in real life.
Talk to your subscribers like you would talk to a friend. In our experience, a human to human approach works very well to get your message across.
This means you have to amp up your email personalization.
If you’d sit down with your friends to talk about must-read books, you would call your buddies by their name, give personal recommendations and explain why these books fit so well to their interests.
That’s exactly what your newsletter should convey too.
To gain inspiration, subscribe to the Amazon, Netflix or Spotify newsletter. These companies use their collected data very cleverly to offer targeted advice and product recommendations. If you don’t have this data, try to see what you can start collecting or ask readers directly using email surveys.
Tip: In this ultimate guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about personalizations in newsletters.
Talk to your subscribers like you would talk to your friends and make the conversation as personal as possible.
Depending on when you’re reading this, the term “beautiful design” can be interpreted very differently.
In 2019, a lot of companies define it as pastel-like gradient colors, big fonts, enlarged paddings and a more free take on where to place images (open compositions). Plus, many vector folks that come in all shapes, ethnicities and sizes (and we’re all here for it!).
Obviously, you don’t need to change your newsletter design ad-hoc to match these trends, but you can take note of the main shifts that are happening in the digital design world.
Another email trend is that there’s a lot more room to play with element positioning. Email design is not structured and linear anymore. Instead, elements overlap or are placed freely and unarranged in the email layout — making it visually more playful.
Surprise the reader by thinking outside of the box and don’t get too stuck in “how things should look."
We’re so used to images above a text followed by a button underneath that a surprise element can decondition the reader and positively affect the user experience.
Levi’s is great at keeping readers engaged by playing around with different newsletter layouts. In the newsletter underneath, the brand used background images and placed text on top for a lively look.
Have fun with your newsletter design! Think out of the box and play around with different elements to surprise your reader.
The right image can convey a message in a much smaller amount of time. It can explain a complex product, set a mood or help direct your customer’s attention to the call to action.
But did you know that what picture you choose can make a big difference?
The right image complements the text and supports your message. Which is why email software with built-in image editors are all the jazz in 2019 (yep, that’s us too). It allows you to add a personal touch to each of your uploaded newsletter images.
For each situation, think: “What image would appeal to me if I were this reader?”
First, divide your subscribers into segments using their gender, age, location or interests. This helps you to find a suitable image for each segment.
If you’re catering to women and you’re not sure what they’d like to see, try exploring Pinterest. It’s a holy grail for discovering what images appeal to career-driven millennials, mommy bloggers and Gen Xers.
Or let’s pretend you’re selling a property. In this case, show readers in their late 30s an image of a happy family in their new home, and swap the picture to an older couple when targeting seniors. This makes your newsletter feel relatable for each segment.
Tip: Always try to use real pictures over stock images. Many of us can immediately spot staged happiness and this can affect your attempt to be personal and authentic.
Second, take into account the ever-changing email behavior. In an era defined by 280-character tweets, our attention span has drastically decreased.
Let’s say you’re in the fashion business. Instead of using a picture of a pair of jeans in your product newsletter, show a real model wearing them. The reader can then at first glance imagine what the jeans would look like on them.
Tip: With MailerLite, you can adjust your images directly in the newsletter editor. Resize, crop and rotate, adjust brightness and contrast, write text or add a filter — change and save your new creation without opening any other external program.
Think twice about what images you implement in your emails and ask: “Does this image really appeal to this reader (segment)?”
In the coming years, we can expect a shift towards readers spending more and more time within the email versus redirecting to landing pages.
Emails will transform into mini websites where the action happens directly in the inbox.
There are already plenty of interactive email features available. Think:
Readers love to open their email and shop products directly within the email. Or play games!
Look at the example below from Penguin Random House. In this interactive email, a penguin tours around in a VW bus to promote its favorite summer books. As readers scroll down, they'll see all the recommendations (that btw, were personalized for each state!).
Tip: As a workaround for integrating video in your email, MailerLite works with GIFs. Our software will automatically create a GIF out of your video, so your readers get a taste of what they're about to see once they click on the moving image.
Get familiar with interactivity in emails and use things like a countdown or video GIF in your next newsletter.
Whenever you launch a new product, isn’t the most exciting part the reaction of the audience?
Emails are more fun too when you engage in a conversation with your readers.
In MailerLite, you can use in-email surveys to ask questions and collect feedback about new releases, products and more.
Another communication tactic is to encourage readers to start a conversation by directly replying to the email. Do make sure that your reply email address is one that you actually use and be ready to answer the incoming chat requests. Many marketers use this strategy to turn cold leads into prospects by talking to them one-on-one.
Stimulate one-on-one conversations with readers by asking them questions that can be answered through a direct reply or via a built-in email survey.
While we predict that the time people spend reading your emails will become a much better success indicator than the click rate, for now, clicks are still important. To increase your email campaign click rate, make sure your links are irresistible!
Our customer Sugar and Spice Book Club from Seattle stands out because of their high average click rates. In their newsletters, the book club gives away free monthly romance books and hosts competitions. When signing up, subscribers know exactly that this is what they can expect from the newsletter, resulting in consistently high click rates.
Other customers that show impressive click rates are companies promoting an on-sale property, job openings or sharing city news and happenings. Though these offers differ from each other, the accordance is that they all provide high value for their readers.
If you want to increase your click rates, be sure to make your links worthwhile.
Use CTA buttons that easily catch the reader’s eye. Make it pop with a contrasting color, shape it in a size that’s easily clickable (especially on mobile) and come up with a catchy text.
For instantly better email click rates, make sure that each link you implement redirects to something that is of high value for your reader.
And by “social” we don’t mean merely embedding your social media buttons in the footer. That’s so last year.
Nowadays keeping it social means embedding your social posts directly into your newsletter. With social media email integration, you can integrate your Facebook posts and events, Instagram posts and Tweets directly into your email.
Social media elements catch the reader’s eye and are a fun addition to your text and images.
It motivates the reader more to follow you on social media than just having the social icons in your email design.
Move over social icons. Instead, implement entire social media posts and events directly into your newsletter — fun and good for follows.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2014 but has been updated with the email marketing trends of 2019.
I’m Ilma, COO at MailerLite. I love seeing our customers succeed. When they win, we win (like being named one of the top 5 fastest growing SaaS companies). Email is my passion, although I took a rather unusual path. Before MailerLite, I worked in finance and art, which turned out to be the perfect mix for marketing.