Fresh Ink

September 26, 2016
Author: Christina Hagopian

Litmus Email Design Conference Recap

Our key takeaways

litmus email design conference

We recently attended the Litmus Email Design Conference in San Francisco – a collective meetup for email designers, strategists and fellow email geeks to discuss emerging trends with other leaders in email marketing.

We learned a lot! Here’s a recap of our favorite talks and key takeaways to help you step up your email marketing game.

Be human

When crafting your email copy, it’s important to remember that you are a human talking to another human – relatability is key for connecting with your audience.

Sarah Esterman from Simple gave an example of turning a Privacy Policy email–a standard communication that is generally quite dense—into one of their most engaging email campaigns. Knowing that very few people take the time to decipher the fine print, they “translated” the legal copy into easy-to-understand lingo—and their audience loved it. See more about their campaign here.

screenshot-2016-09-20-15-26-02

Key takeaways: Have relatable copy to engage your audience, and don’t be afraid to take risks!

Use email automation

Email automation is the automatic generation and sending of emails based on a user’s actions. These can be anything from a welcome email series, explaining your business’ capabilities, confirmation emails, or any messaging to lead users through your sales funnel. Timely, relevant messages will always result in higher engagement, so why NOT do it? The best part is that once you have this set up, it’s automated – your emails will be sending and creating engagement for you while you focus on other things!

Your email automation plan should summarize the “perfect path” that a customer will take – whether this is leading to a purchase, an app download, or whatever is relevant for your business. Once you have clearly established the ideal customer journey, you can decide where in that journey your customer would benefit from an email push. With that in mind, you can set up specific trigger actions or timelines that alert these automated emails to send. Trigger actions can be specific dates, changes in user status, signup date, plan type or upgrade, a renewal date, and much more. Once you designate an action or event as a trigger, whenever the action or event is completed the corresponding email will send automatically.

Message content should be tailored to a user’s action. By doing so, each user has a customized experience with your brand through a variety of different emails. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Up front, maybe, but the return on investment is more than worth it. Email automation has been proven to result in 50% conversation rates in B2C, and 60% revenue growth in B2B.

email automation
Thank you Ros Hodgekiss from Campaign Monitor for your insight!

Key takeaways: Establish a “perfect path” for your customer’s journey, and plan your emails around the trigger actions you’ve established. Your emails will automatically send when these actions are completed. Automating messaging requires planning, but your emails will be sending and creating engagement for you without you needing to hit send!

Cart abandonment and conversion

Everyone has abandoned a shopping cart at some point – even we are guilty of doing it! Have you ever received an email prompting you to complete your transaction? This is actually a form of email automation (see our point above for more on that topic), and requires a plan for what you want your users to do once they’ve abandoned their cart.

Top reasons people abandon carts:
1. Window shopping
2. Shipping costs
3. Form frustration
4. Login fatigue
5. Payment errors
6. Site speed

What about your audience? Do you know why your users are abandoning their carts? This may require analyzing your entire checkout process to identify your “pain points”. But when it comes to trying to convert your customers via email, you’ll need to do some testing.

Start with a series of 3 emails, ideally 45 minutes, 24 hours and 3-5 days after the initial abandon. You had your customer’s attention before they abandoned – by keeping your messaging timely, you can (hopefully) recapture it quickly. You can even reuse the same creative and simply swap your subject lines, like the example below.

abandoned cart
Thank you Megan Merrifield and Katie Montgomery for the tips!

If you think your shipping costs may be to blame, try offering your users free shipping and see if this helps with conversion. Maybe your customers just need an extra push or reminder – try giving them a percentage off. Every tactic will work differently for each audience, so test, test, test!

Key takeaways: Conduct some research to find out why users are abandoning their carts, and use this information to create incentives for them to complete their purchase. Be sure to test messaging, incentives and timing to establish what works best for your audience.

Image based emails are NOT bad

Studies have shown that image-based emails have a tendency to not perform as well in certain email clients. For example, Outlook likes to turn images off by default – which is problematic if your offer exists only in your images! Thankfully, these issues have slowly been getting resolved by email clients adapting to displaying images better, and the ability to style your alt-text when images are turned off.

Photos and imagery can evoke a feeling better and faster than copy can. We stress how important this is with our clients by encouraging less copy in emails – images are more powerful. With a photoshoot, yes, you can sell a dress. But you can also sell the lifestyle, feeling, and emotion that also comes with owning that dress – all important things to establish, in the short few seconds of attention you have with somebody interacting with your email.

image emails
Many thanks to Jared Stivers for the inspiration.

Key takeaways: If your business or brand is visual, invest in photoshoots or high quality images for your website and emails. You can not only sell the products in the images, but also sell the feeling they create – which can last longer and be more impactful than copy alone.

Contextual Email Marketing

Contextual email marketing allows you to send dynamic and highly relevant and personalized email campaigns to your users. It can be based on their location, previous products they’ve clicked on, or specific style suggestions. By creating relevant and personalized experiences for each user, you will significantly bump up engagement.

Collecting this data can be as simple as sending an email asking which products they are interested in; once you know what they like, you can further personalize their emails. The result is dynamic content being pulled into each email, meaning hundreds of thousands of versions of the same email to your users – each one with specifically tailored content!

contextual email marketing
Thank you to Laura Sullivan for the awesome examples!

We love the work SmarterHQ and Movable Ink are doing in this area. See some more examples of contextual email marketing from Movable Ink here.


Key takeaways: Creating relevant, personalized experiences for each user makes big difference in engagement. Companies like Movable Ink and Smarter HQ specialize in these areas, and are changing email marketing for the better!

Gamification in email

Gamification uses game tactics to make something fun that typically isn’t. For example, Fitbit has gamified exercise by introducing challenges between friends. Mint.com encourages users to save money by holding them accountable and showing where people stand amongst others in their age group. Duolingo has made learning a new language into a game.

All of our attention spans are growing smaller and smaller, and gamification has increased engagement with many different age groups. The next question is: how can we translate this tactic into email? Gerry Blakney’s talk on Gamification had a few examples of new ways to engage your audience.

Create a reason for people to keep coming back to your email and experience it in a different way each time. These concept emails should be for certain instances—a special announcement, a big event, or a communication with a segment that is highly engaged and eager to participate.

So how do you make an email change every time somebody views it? You can now create live twitter feeds in an email – see how Litmus used this idea to announce this conference!

Last year, Litmus gave away free tickets to the Boston Email Design conference, calling them “golden tickets”. Once the golden tickets were found, the original email updated to show who specifically found the tickets – and who doesn’t want to see their name front and center?

Key takeaways: Create a reason for users to engage with your emails in a fun way. Emails that change each time you view them, whether it’s live twitter feeds, or unlocked content, you can reach your users in a new way through a familiar format: email.

Email design conference
We <3 our new Litmus shirts!

thank you litmus for a great conference

We can’t wait to start implementing all of these suggestions with our current email clients!