How images affect your email marketing success

Woman in a grey dress stood with her back to the camera while looking at paintings

With the ability to target opted-in users who know your brand, email marketing is a communication medium with unparalleled potential. But the design of your emails and the images you use can make or break a campaign, says Matt Bird of StinkyInk

Few companies are optimising or testing the impact that images can have on email performance. At my company, we have found three ways where images have had a positive impact on our email marketing performance.

1. Solving image display problems

How many times have you opened an email with big blank squares or red Xs where the images should be? These often appear when you receive email from a sender not in your address book, as most email clients require you to confirm it's OK before downloading the images.

Here marketers are failing at the first hurdle, risking the user deleting the email without bothering to scroll past the large blank image boxes to the written content.

Action: Save your images at the exact size you'll need - instead of resizing them in your mailing template. Then delete the width and height dimensions in the email marketing program. This way, if the recipient hasn't added you to their address book, the missing images will simply disappear instead of showing a blank box.

Implementing this has boosted click-through rates from our emails by up to 10%.

2. Researching image "types"

Good website designers and content writers research the words and phrases customers search for and respond to. A good email marketer will extend this to the types of images people relate to.

Yes, the final stage of the customer's buying process needs the complete product image and details, but the first image to set the customer off on this chain might not be anything to do with your product.

We tested by sending offers showing an image of the ink cartridges, versus one showing just the manufacturer's logo, and the latter email yielded vastly more visitor click-throughs and conversions:

Canon Cartridges

Action: Split-test your image choices - even if you've always used certain types of image. We sell printer ink, but were surprised that images of a cartridge are less effective than the relevant manufacturer logo.

3. Controlling the reader's eye

Most marketers are fully aware of the industry norm to use attractive people in sales collateral, and it has been shown that things such as varying face ratios and the amount of their body that is visible have an impact on email results.

What most marketers don't take into account, though, is the direction in which the person in the image is looking. This plays an important role in directing the reader's attention. Naturally their eyes will be drawn to that spot - enabling you to highlight, for example, a particular offer:

Offers Expiring

We have managed to swing visitor behaviour significantly. With one mailing we were generating 51% of clicks on the headline area of the email, with 26% of clicks on sub-offers. By changing where the individual in the image was looking, this changed to just 8% on the headline offer, with 61% of clicks on the more targeted sub-offers.

Action: Decide what you want to draw to the user's attention. If you have one stand-out offer, put it side-by-side with an image of someone looking right at it, or their body gesturing towards it. If you have multiple offers, utilise a picture of someone looking down or around the area where those offers are located.

Written by Matt Bird.

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