By Anne Holland, President
MarketingSherpa's research team has just completed an all-new round of eyetracking tests -- this time on email design. This time, we went into the eyetracking lab (operated by our research partners at Eyetools Inc.) in San Francisco with some real-life emails we had received.
One was an email newsletter, one was a Forrester white paper offer and one was a sales alert from an ecommerce site marketing a range of New Balance footwear. If you'd like to see a live sample of that New Balance email, including a heatmap of results, click here http://www.MarketingSherpa.com/exs/EMBG07_execsumm.pdf
for our Executive Summary PDF.)
In all cases, small-seeming design changes wound up causing significant changes in the ways that consumers’ eyes looked at the email -- including how many words they read, how far they scrolled down and whether or not they clicked on anything.
The last point is the most fascinating for me -- and may be the most surprising for your design team. After all, your email goal is probably to get clicks that your site can then convert, right?
When we set up our email samples at the lab, although they were real-life creative samples, none of the hotlinks were "live" at the time. So, when consumers scrolled over the email with their mice, they didn't get that little "clickable link" hand icon that you would normally see.
You might think that this would discourage clicking. In fact, it didn't appear to at all!
Every single email we tested got plenty of clicks. However -- and this is the fact you need to share with your email design team -- many clicks were not on areas of the creative that normally would have been clickable.
People don't limit their clicks to just underlined text or specific buttons. Not one bit.
In other words, when people click on your email, they don't always carefully figure out where the clickable link is. They just bang away at their mice. As with the Web pages we've tested, some of the most popular 'non-clickable' clicks are on images, including product hero shots, logos and photos of people.
How should this affect your design?
Option #1. Make your entire email clickable
Unfortunately, if you make the entire email clickable, your campaign will be stopped as spam by some filters. So if you plan on that, be sure to invest in email deliverability and certification services beyond your routine broadcast software or service.
Option #2. Make all photos and images clickable
This is the better option, but it does mean you'll have to figure out where hotlinks should lead. If you have photos or images such as happy models or article author headshots on the email, should those clicks go to the article or top sales item you are offering or should they go to information about that human being?
In any event, designers who 'dress up’ an email by slinging stock photos on them should be discouraged unless you've tested both ways first. You're wasting attention and clicks on images that may not further your purpose. (If your branding relies on stock photos, you're in trouble anyway.)
Option #3. Add more right-side and top-of email hotlinks
Many of the click patterns we noticed were right-side and top-of-creative clicks. Consider adding extra hotlinks at the very top (aside from or perhaps in place of your 'please whitelist us' copy, which can be lower down) and at the right side of your copy.
Hotlinks buried within text, especially in the middle of a paragraph, may not work as well. Move those to the edges of your copy -- and consider making your headline clickable as well as your "read more" link.Useful links related to this article
MarketingSherpa's Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2007: