Avoid these 4 creative gaffes in emails

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When it comes to interactive, marketers are spending a lot more time on customer acquisition than they are on retention, according to the latest Direct Marketing Association/Winterberry Group “Quarterly Business Review.” According to the report, which is based on results from an April 2012 online survey of 234 DMA members, in the first quarter of 2012, marketers allocated 61.7% of their overall direct marketing budgets for customer acquisition methodologies, including email marketing. It's not surprising then that customer retention creative gets short shrift in many cases, said Regina Gray, VP-strategic services at Experian CheetahMail. “Emails are the last thing in the list of priorities, so design isn't optimized,” she said. “We tell customers that they have to start thinking more strategically for creative.” When they don't, she said, they make several common mistakes. Below, Gray details the top four creative gaffes that email marketers are making today.
  1. Placement or use of images is all wrong. When people code emails using images, they often use one large image at the top and place text underneath, Gray said. The problem with this, she said, is that when images are turned off, you might not see any text above the fold. Another problem is that images may not render well on mobile devices. “The size of an image might be wrong. The call to action isn't big enough to read on the screen, or a button doesn't have enough space around it so someone can push it on a touch screen,” she said. Gray suggested alternating text and images—not creating a single image but a series of images. She also said marketers should test and use alt text tags so the design is engaging even when images are off.
  2. Multiple columns are used. On the Web, one long column looks boring—which is why most pages have multiple columns and fields. However, in email, especially on a mobile device, one column is the design-of-choice, Gray said. “It looks clean and crisp and renders well on all devices,” she said.
  3. Video is embedded in an email. Plenty of marketers are using video in email just because they can, Gray said. However, even when it is warranted, most aren't presenting it in a way that it can be consumed, no matter which device an end user is viewing it on. Video should never be embedded in an email, Gray said. Marketers should provide a link to a video on a Web page that does not start automatically. Users should have the option to press “play.”
  4. Social sharing is lumped together with email housekeeping notices. Social shares links are being added to the bottom of emails alongside unsubscribe links and CAN-SPAM compliance information, where they get lost. “People don't even look at them,” she said. “Marketers should think about how they can add those links and make them engaging rather than just an afterthought.” One strategy, Gray said, is to use customer-generated social content in conjunction with sharing links. “Obviously, you're not going to do that in every email, but it definitely makes it more engaging,” she said.
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