The more choices an individual is presented with, the less likely they are to make a choice
Back in 2004, psychologist Barry Schwartz published ‘The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less”, where he presented the hypothesis that eliminating consumer choices reduces anxiety in shoppers. When applying this simple thesis to your email marketing strategies, you will consistently achieve your email goals time and time again.
Aside from behavioral theses, inbox providers also factor in the amount of images and links in an email when deciding whether or not a message hits the recipient’s inbox, promotions folder, or spam. Estimates differ, but the general text-to-image ratio consensus is somewhere between 60/40 and 80/20.
The bottom line is this; a gorgeous email, unbeatable offer, top-notch product, and optimized checkout is useless if the email doesn’t hit your subscribers’ inbox. Deliverability should always be #1.
To back up this statement, this article features a blend of industry knowledge and data from our case studies to show why less images, more copy, minimal links, and one, clear call to action is the clear path to achieving the goals of your email marketing strategy.
Less Images, More Copy
Although the emails you may receive from big-name corporations are 95% images, take notice of where they land; either spam or Promotions. Again, a pretty email is useless if your customers don’t see it.
Opting for a copy-heavy email with personalization tags also provides a more human element to the email; you want to sound like a person talking to a person rather than a company talking to a customer. Let’s dive into some data.
Getting Past Spam Filters
Most major inbox providers assess the length of the HTML code of your email as one of the many determining factors of inbox placement. Although the numbers aren’t exactly clear, it’s a safe bet to choose either the 60/40, 70/30, or 80/20 test-to-image ratio based on the following:
If your deliverability is poor, go 80/20. If it’s decent, 70/30 works. If you’re an established reputable sender, you can begin to play with 60/40.
Once you’re confident with your inbox placement, split test different text-to-image ratios. From my experience, an audience that is passionate about the brand or niche responds better to 80/20; if the brand or product is difficult to get passionate about, go with 60/40.
Goal of the Email
Finally, determine whether or not the goal of your message requires images in the first place.
If the goal of your email is to sell a visual product, 60/40 may be a good choice; conversely, you can create a mystique around the product by blurring or reducing the amount of images. If the goal is to get subscribers to read a blog post, 80/20 is a better option with a preview of the post in the body.
This split test was a launch of a new collection of apparel. The constants were a clickable header, copy, and button. We split test the following variations beneath that constant.
ST-A: Four dynamic product blocks of items in the collection
ST-B: One non-clickable image combining six of the items in the collection
ST-C: Nothing beneath the constant
ST-D: Four dynamic product blocks of items in the collection with an additional ‘Shop All’ button beneath
ST-E: Non-clickable header with one non-clickable image combining six of the items in the collection
The highest performing variation was ST-C with a 2.52% click rate which featured one clickable header image (the only image in the entire email), copy, and a button to the new collection.
The lowest performing variation was ST-D with a 1.08% click rate, which featured four additional clickable images of products in the collection with an additional ‘Shop All’ button beneath.
This split test is one of many examples we have showing us time and time again that less images is indeed more.
Tips & Things to Consider
You can cut down on the amount of images in your email template by combining them together; for example, instead of having a lifestyle image of a product and a separate image of your logo, overlay the logo on top of the lifestyle image.
Optimize for Dark Mode
A recent survey of 2,500 Android users from Android Authority found that 81.9% of Android users use dark mode on their devices, and it’s wise to optimize their experience. Don’t go crazy with complimenting colors, but do download images with a transparent background wherever possible.
Fill Out Alt Text
Alt text is the alternative text displayed within an image. It tells the inbox providers what the image is and provides context for visually impaired subscribers or for subscribers who don’t have images set to load on opening, so take the extra 20 seconds to fill out the alt text field with a succinct description of the image.
Users Who Don’t Have Images Set to Load
For various reasons, not all subscribers will have images set to load upon opening. Although clickable images are a great way to increase clicks when done right, always have a secondary link to the call to action as a backup for these users in the form of hyperlinks or buttons.
Reduce the Amount of Links
We again return to the ‘less is more’ principle, even if we’re talking about multiple links that lead to the same call to action. At a glance, subscribers won’t be able to differentiate between identical links and different links; all they see is more choices, which again, reduces the likelihood of making a choice.
Let’s move on to the perspective of inbox providers.
More Links = More Promotional Intent
Another factor the tech giants responsible for delivering emails take into account when determining where to place your email is the amount of links. The more links these algorithms see, the more the algorithms will view your email as promotional or spam, which decreases the likelihood of inbox placement.
How Many Links Should an Email Have?
Preferably no more than three (including the unsubscribe links), and no more than five. If you struggle to hit this, remove links to social media pages and whittle your message down to one clear call to action.
Case Study for Less Links
This split test featured a bundle of products. Both variations were identical with the exception of hyperlinking the individual products within the bundle.
ST-A: Only linked to bundle
ST-B: Linked to bundle as well as the two other product pages of the items in the bundle
Although both campaigns saw optimal click rates, the clear winner was the ST-A with a 2.92% click rate which only linked to the bundle.
Tips & Things to Consider
Get Rid of Header Links
Just because your ESP has a logo with header links block or your competitor has header links does not mean it’s a good idea to use one. Removing header links altogether will help you hit your 3-5 link goal, reduce the choices the subscriber has to make, and drive more clicks to your main call to action.
Comparison is the Enemy of Joy
Although it’s never a bad idea to keep an eye on your competitor, do not emulate their newsletter just because it looks good. The stunning images and variety of links may look great to you, but you don’t have access to the backend of their email marketing strategy and therefore have no idea if it’s even working in the first place. Just know that if they’re loading their emails up with images and texts, you’re probably already way ahead of them by not doing the same.
Never Rely on Clickable Images
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again before the end of this guide; do not rely on clickable images to drive clicks. If an image doesn’t load for whatever reason, this also means the link that the image holds will not work, costing you potential sales that otherwise would have happened had you just had a backup link somewhere else.
Strategic Social Link Placement
This could have fit as a subheading under ‘Reduce Links’, but it’s such a common mistake that it needs its own acknowledgement. Don’t get me wrong, utilizing your email list to build other channels is a great idea – just not in every single email you send out.
Aside from the obvious increased amount of links and choices you’re presenting your subscribers, take into account the following.
Distracting from the Goal
Every click given to the social media at the footer of your emails is one less click driven to achieve the goal of your email.
One of the goals of investing capital into social media advertising is to build your email list, so why would you drive subscribers back to the platform you paid to acquire them in the first place? If there is not a form to subscribe to your newsletter at the bottom of every social media post or ad, then there is no reason to include social media links at the bottom of every email.
They’re Parallel Channels to Drive Sales
The ultimate goal of every business is to increase sales, and in that sense, email and social media serve the same purpose. Both channels serve the same basic function of driving traffic to your website, so why bounce customers around between the two?
Giving Your Data and Customers Away
Once a subscriber leaves your email for your social, you relinquish the ability to track and gather their behavior to Big Tech giants. You also run the risk of customers shopping from your competitor’s ad while scrolling their feed as a result of clicking the social link in your email.
Use Cases of Proper Social Link Placement in Emails
With all of that said, email is a good opportunity to build social accounts when done correctly.
If you’ve already secured the purchase, including social media links in select post-purchase flows is a great way to build social following.
Utilizing email campaigns to build social following makes sense if the goal of that specific campaign is to build social following. If you want to build your Instagram for example, send out a campaign to your subscribers with one clear call to action to follow your brand on Instagram.
Whatever you do, please stop giving your data and traffic away to social media. You already paid them once to acquire that subscriber.
One Clear Call to Action
Finally, we reach the pinnacle that encompasses all aforementioned points; the singular and unmistakable call to action. Multiple images, different links, and social media icons reduces the likelihood of the subscriber making a choice, distracts from the goal of the email, and lowers the likelihood of inbox placement.
Again, ignore your competitors with pretty flashy emails; instead, look at basic human psychology and the behavior of your audience. Once you’ve done this, follow these four simple steps to begin crafting effective emails.
Crafting a Call to Action
Although it may seem simple enough, it can be challenging to whittle all of the ideas in your head down to one clear call to action. (Pro-tip: Don’t toss all of these ideas away – record them for future campaign ideas) If you follow this basic outline, you’ll be pumping out killer emails in no time.
Determine the Goal
Ask yourself, what is the specific goal of this email campaign? If you’re sending out a newly published blog post, craft the email only around the blog post. New product? Craft the email only around the product. You get the idea.
Write Compelling Copy That Directs to The Goal
New blog post? Give a quick preview of the blog post. Featuring a product? Briefly highlight enough features to compel a click without giving everything away. Recovering a cart? Focus only on getting customers to complete their order. Whatever your goal is, creatively tailor your copy specifically around that goal as a person talking to a person and not a business talking to a customer.
Design Images Around That Goal
If you determine that your campaign requires an image, feature imagery around that goal only. If a simple logo at the top is all you need, that means you’re an excellent copy writer. Keep it up.
Link Only to That Goal
Remove the header bar that links to your home, new releases, and contact us pages and for the love of all things good get rid of social media links if the goal has nothing to do with building a social following. Only link to the goal.
This split test concerned a newly published blog post. All variations featured a clickable header to the blog post, copy, and a button that led to the blog post. We split test the content beneath that constant.
ST-A: Two dynamic product blocks beneath the constant
ST-B: Nothing added beneath the constant
ST-C: Two static product blocks of newly released items beneath the constant
ST-D: Four dynamic product blocks beneath the constant
The winning variation was ST-B with a 2.51% click rate that only featured a clickable header, copy previewing the blog post content, and a button that directed to the blog post.
The lowest performing variation was ST-D with a 1.26% click rate that included four dynamic product blocks in addition to the blog post constant.
Pretty Ain’t Always Best
The overall takeaway from this article is to keep things simple; establish a clear goal, shift your focus away from pretty images and onto a compelling story, direct subscribers to complete the desired action, and only link to that desired action.
Don’t worry about your competitors’ emails that could sell at an art gallery, stop linking to your social profiles, and split test to the stars.
Never forget; a breathtaking email, unbelievable offer, show-stopping product, and lightning fast website is useless if the email that reveals all of this does not land in your subscribers’ inbox. Focus on deliverability and value, the rest will follow.
All the best,