Email Newsletter Design Formula for 2021

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the best email newsletter design for your business. Let’s start there.

No, I didn’t lie in my title: there are email newsletter design elements which help you achieve specific goals in your marketing strategy.

email newsletter design

Your subject line is one of them.

It might strike you as odd that I included the subject line as a design element.

But riddle me this:

Defining email newsletter design

You go to the supermarket looking for a box of cereal.

You find this glossy box of cereal, crazy ingredients, full in protein and taste, but there’s something about the name.

It’s called “PIGEON”.

Would you buy that? Chances are you’d think twice.

Even if everyone is raving about it, even it’s taking the fitness world by storm, you just can’t get past “PIGEON”.

I understand, the connotations and imagery are wrong. Unless of course you are addressing a culture where pigeons are sacred.

Same goes for your email subject line. If it’s irrelevant or elicits the wrong feelings, your subscribers will ignore it.

So, trust me on this one (and the upcoming 21 items).

What is email newsletter design?

Your email newsletter design comprises a number of elements.

Some of these are:

  • Your subject line,
  • The sender name,
  • Your buttons,
  • The background of your design,
  • Your newsletter layout, etc.

The list is long for the email newsletter design elements that influence your email performance.

For instance, what design element is this?

email design ideas

Exactly. Its success depends on unseen elements:

  • Branding is on point,
  • Focus message is successful (i.e. to promote Mother’s Day sales)
  • Brand loyalty is achieved (i.e. with complimentary gifts),
  • Brand value is built on (i.e. by forging maternal instincts), and so on

All of these play a different role in the newsletter design, depending on what the goal of your newsletter is.

So, for the purposes of clarity, I am drawing a goal-based distinction: Are you…

  • …looking to increase your open rates?
  • …going for click-through rate?
  • …exploring ways to dial up your sales?
  • …trying to boost brand loyalty? Or maybe,
  • …aiming at enabling smooth flow of information?

Let’s get this party started.

Use email design elements to increase your open rates

Everyone has access to the same newsletter design elements.

So, how can you get more out of the same tools?

1. Invest in your Subject line and Preview text

email newsletter design

Let’s say you want to send a newsletter regarding a 1+1 pizza offer.Your subject line could be “Always looking for more?”, but it could also be “Are you going to eat that?”.

Which of the two will eventually play out depends entirely on your target audience. How will you find out which will perform better?

A/B test it, darling. It’s 2019.

But hey, if you really want to write subject lines the 2020 way, try this free AI subject line tester.

Our data scientists built this to double check our subject lines on our newsletters. We liked it so much we decided to share it with the world. For free.

You enter a subject line, your industry, and mailing list size.

It will give you back an estimate of opens, whether the Susans of the competing businesses of this world are going to do better than this.

Better yet, you get specific recommendations about how you can preemptively outdo your competitors’ subject lines.

email newsletter design

Your Preview text is due some love, too

Your preview text is your second chance to make your subject line work (if it didn’t) or your only right to punchline.

You don’t have to add one every time, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t. It’s fun to try to come up with a preview text every time.

Ok, now you’re in. What’s next?

2. Choose your Sender name every time

It might not have occurred to you just yet, but you could try different sender names depending on the email and your goal.

For instance, say you want to set up a Cart Abandonment email. It’s best to send it from the same sender as you do your “NEW IN” newsletters. This way, if “Jenna from” updates subscribers on the newest items/products every week, getting a Cart Recovery email from her will be more personable for your subscribers.

As a result, it will be more likely to elicit engagement on their end.

At Moosend, each of the members of our Marketing team is responsible for a niche: Customer Happiness, Marketing, Setups and Integrations, Company Announcements, and so on. That’s why the get to send using their own names as senders.

This way, we can leverage emails and writing styles to match the personality of the sender and establish this bond with each target audience. This way, everyone knows what to expect.

For instance, when a subscriber sees “Iné from Moosend” knows that a certain mention to the Susans and Kevins of this world will be made, if not Rihanna and any Kardashian family member as well (yes, even Rob).

email newsletter design

email newsletter design

3. What does your Sender reputation look like?

Sender reputation refers to your sender history.

What you have been sending your subscribers, if it resonated with them or not, if they found it to be of interest or value to them, all count towards your sender reputation.

So, if you send a newsletter to a segmented list and your open rate is below 10% (and haven’t been deluging them with newsletters for the past week/month/or even year), consider this a red flag.

Drop everything you are doing and set up a re-engagement campaign right now.

4. Timing is everything. Or is it?

Let me get this straight: there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all time and day that works for every industry.

Even if there was, it’d be cluttered with every business’ emails.

Take it from me, a person who will subscribe to every newsletter I come across, I always check all my inboxes on all my email addresses.

So, I always choose what to read and what not. Irrespective of the time or day it was sent to me.

I know that I may not be the norm, but essentially, our goal as email marketers should be to make highly engaged users out of all our subscribers. How do we do that?

email newsletter design

We add value to every action they take: one way is through our loyalty program, another is through gamification, and another is to set up an automation to reward those who clicked on a link or more in more than X campaigns over the past Y months.

By rewarding every subscriber showing up for you, not only are you using positive reinforcement for them to keep it up, you also encourage them to spread the word. Ultimately, you earn the most valuable of all types of marketing: word of mouth.

5. It’s not you, it’s them: Circumstances

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.

Even though you ran your A/B tests, used Refine to craft the best version of your subject line, still, things didn’t go as planned. It happens.

There are certain time periods within a year which might take their toll on your newsletter’s performance, for the very reason that you weren’t fast enough, impressive enough, or haven’t built that strong a relationship with your subscribers.

For instance, on Black Friday (in the US) or Singles’ Day (in China) billions of emails are sent to subscribers.

Every business in your industry will be competing for your target audience’s attention.

In such cases, there are two ways to go about it:

i) you schedule the campaign to be automatically resent to those who haven’t opened it withing the first, say, 3 hours,
ii) you travel back in time, back to when they all signed up for your newsletter, only this time you set up a proper Welcome email sequence / Onboarding drip campaign.

6. You, as an authority on the topic

For your newsletter to be a hit, you or the sender need to be an authority on the given topic.

Picture this: Eric Ries (aka The Lean Startup) sends out a newsletter about the top 5 holiday destinations of his CMOs/CFOs, etc. How many would actually read that article? Maybe a few.

But what if he kept this up and sent one such newsletter every now and then? I guess that his open rates would plummet every time the subject line would read something so Vogue-like.

What I’m getting at is that, for every topic you write about, you need to establish your authority on the topic.

Otherwise, your subject line will be no better than a brick wall to stop all your subscribers for tapping to read. Just like Vogue does.

email newsletter design

7. Stay relevant

How do you stay ahead of the curve? You make sure you find out about trends first. Better yet, you look for trends (instead of waiting for others to fill you in).

How do you do that?

Here are a couple of my favorite ways:

i) you set up Google Alerts for the topics which are of interest to you. For instance, “email marketing”, “marketing automation”, and “email marketing trends” are some of the alerts I have set up. I may or may not have set up an alert or two about some of our competitors.

ii) every time you come across an interesting topic, say “neuroscience marketing” you write a quick article about it. If that resonates with your audience (and traffic and SEO and Google approves) you might as well update it and expand it along the way.

If your CTR is stuck, try these email newsletter design tips

1. Employ Visual hierarchy in your design

The goal is to navigate your openers’ gaze to where you want. To achieve that you need to create some sort of visual hierarchy. How do you do that?

Assign different weights by enlarging or highlighting/creating space around your headers.

This way, you will be able to draw attention to the items that interest you the most.

Garnish your Title

The title is, commonly so, the bigger text on your newsletter, or the more highlighted one.

Copy-wise, make sure that it’s punchy, intriguing, and promising.

Choose your Fonts

Choose a font that reads well.

Try different colors combinations and formatting.

email newsletter design

Images, vectors, GIFs

When selecting images, vectors, and GIFs to include to your email newsletter design, aim for brand alignment.

To achieve this, you can select everything based on your taste and newsletter goals and then apply matching filters.

This way, you will have a cohesive result.

A few quick Do’s and Don’ts

Be bold with colors. Don’t be bold with colors. (A/B test it).

top email newsletter design

Do try one image VS multiple ones.

top email newsletter design

Additional Email Newsletter tips:

  • Try different styles regularly and A/B test for higher CTR.
  • Always use an email testing tool to see if the design shows correctly
  • Not stretching photos or upload blurry ones.
  • use filters, text, logo, or icons.
  • Do not go too far with filters, text, logo, or icons.
  • Try memes (A/B test included).
  • Match your filters to your branding.
  • Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.

Draw inspiration

Add images or don’t. A/B test different styles and come up with a style that will become your iconic style.

email newsletter designs

Look for ideas and new trends on Pinterest, editing apps (such as Unfold or Canva), Dribble, Deviant Art, etc.

You’ll soon find out there are so many ideas out there. See how you can tailor them to your branding.

Bring your CTAs forward

To really make your CTAs stand out you can try a number of things:

  • Round VS rectangular CTA buttons VS no outline buttons,
    email newsletter design
  • Serious VS playful CTAs (“Find out” VS “I knew it”),
  • One VS multiple CTAs (Note: Hierarchy based on the size of the CTA button)

With regard to the color of the CTA, you could try either shades of the same color for uniformity and hierarchy, or apply the same color to all buttons (and play with the size).

2. New format VS familiar one

Depending on your brand personality and what it stands for (innovative VS traditional) you could reflect that using a standardized layout or break the mould every few newsletters.

If you decide to go for the latter, you will be able to collect more information about what your subscribers prefer.

3. Choosing your layout

Using White space (or not)

To draw attention to an element of your design you can either add clutter around it or create some white space around it.

Depending on the aesthetics of your brand on the on the extravaganza-minimal continuum, you may use a clean layout with margins and wider padding or go for a background pattern that matches your visuals.

email newsletter designs

Regarding the overview of your email newsletter design, consider the alignment of all well-defined sections so as to achieve a symmetric presentation.

Otherwise, going for a variety of alignment choices can create visual noise and subscribers might not engage further.

4. Mobile responsiveness is not optional (not in 2019, at least)

To ensure that your email newsletter design stays flawless across devices, do check how your responsive design looks.

email newsletter design

On Moosend, you can easily choose mobile responsiveness by checking a box on our customizable templates.

If you design your own from scratch, you can always check what it looks like without having to leave our platform.

The rule of thumb, however, is that single column newsletter designs are safer to make responsive.

In contrast, more columns in your newsletter might require some smartphone users to slide right and left in order to read everything.

Beef up your Sales with 7 newsletter design tips

Your Sales team can finally catch a break with the best email newsletter design hacks:

1. Add a Countdown timer

How do you get an email newsletter design to make you money?

You create a sense of urgency using a very useful tool: a countdown timer! Before the clock strikes 12, your subscribers will have turned into customers!

Try the feature for free here: (no signup required).

2. Expiration date: use it or lose it

For every offer/ discount/ benefit/ product or service that you advertise, always include a deadline.

Check out how Fulcrum Tech used “Save me a seat!” as a CTA to connote urgency:

top email newsletter design

By allowing subscribers a specific time frame to grab a deal, you are inviting them to consider the deal on the spot. If they forget?

Worry not, for a Special Offer reminder automation will take care of the rest and remind everyone who viewed the offer to claim it while there’s still time.

3. Prove your worth with competitive pricing

Spare your subscribers the trouble of visiting every single one of your competitors’ pages.

Give them the lowest price/ price match guarantee.

This way, you build trust with your subscribers that they can always count on you to find the best price.

Another, less flexible or dynamic way, to go about this is to send subscribers a list of your slashed prices compared with those of your competition, even with direct links on their sites.

4. Start them young: Student Discounts

There is no fast way to your customers’ hearts, but being there for them is certainly key.

When do customers need you most? When they can’t afford you (but still love you).

More often than not, your most price-sensitive audience is that of students.

By granting them student discounts you allow your brand to become part of their everyday life.

As they grow up, your brand can grow with them.

email newsletter design

For older audiences, you can partner with “Afterpay” or other similar services.

What Afterpay does is that it allows customers to purchase an item now and pay for it in equal installments.

best email newsletter design

5. Fine tune the Length of your email

Depending on the industry you are in, the length of your email could make or break your conversions.

First things first, you need to ensure that there is one focus message in your newsletter (and maybe two or three secondary ones).

Then, you need to show this hierarchy by employing different size structures, background colors, and CTA button sizes.

The bigger the structure, the more important the deal.

Keep things scannable, short and sweet or long and detailed. How will you find out? Yep, A/B testing.

Test a couple of different versions over a few months time and see what works best with your audience.

This is one of my favorite examples: J Money (aka Mr Budgets are sexy) sends regular updates on his catching his dream $$$ goal, as well as a series of interesting topics. This is what his latest newsletter looks like (clipped version):

email newsletter design

I’ve tried this for Moosend users a few times with A/B testing.

It didn’t fly, so this is what our latest newsletter looks like:

email newsletter design

Here is another one by this subscription box company called Cratejoy:

newsletter design ideas

6. Landing page responsiveness

Nope, still not optional. Click here to read the section again if you skimmed through it.

7. Establish a uniform look

Don’t lose any customers from the point they click on a link to the point when they leave your page. How?

 newsletter designs

First, make sure you don’t oversell your offers in your newsletter. You don’t want to fill your subscribers with dismay upon visiting your landing page/website.

Second, surprise them with a popup offering them an extra 10% off if they take a specific action (e.g. refer a friend, complete their user profile, etc.).

Third, spread your bestsellers throughout your search results instead of listing them in order of popularity. Essentially, you will keep website visitors engaged and excited for longer!

Last, make sure your newsletter design is aligned with that of your landing page so that visitors aren’t alienated or get suspicious.

Instead, a familiar website design will inspire them to feel at home and browse/do their shopping.

Check even more email newsletter design tips!

How can email design get you brand loyal customers?

To maximize brand loyalty on your customers’ end and harvest it to your brand’s best interest, here are a few newsletter design elements that lend a helping hand:

1. Your consistency is your identity

Brand loyalty is built through consistent and ever-evolving branding.

From the logo to your choice of colors, the fonts you use, the copy (writing style and brand personality), or how you treat seasonality (winter holidays, Easter, etc.) in your email newsletter design, everything counts towards this commitment of your to your brand and customers.

What most people get wrong about branding elements is that they go for identical instead of consistent.

As years go by, your branding elements should not stay the same; instead, they should evolve but at the same time maintain the essential DNA of the original branding.

2. Refresh your Loyalty program

Another way to reward customers’ loyalty and thus encourage it is through loyalty programs and rewards programs.

But where do email newsletters come in?

You can create a tiered loyalty program from scratch or refresh the one you already have.

Then, by integrating your website with Moosend’s tracking code you can track customer behavior and act on it automatically.

This way, you could set up Marketing Automation to keep track of users’ purchases/views/clicks and as soon as they reach a minimum you have set (e.g. “User has made 3 purchases in the past 2 months”) to trigger an automation which notifies them that they qualify for a loyalty program upgrade/ a free gift/ etc.

3. Endorsement of a favorite star

A newsletter can help communicate more effectively a recent/new endorser.

While consumers might not be paying attention when watching ads on TV or YouTube, they will definitely consciously read a newsletter (yes, provided they open it).

By uncovering the underlying buyer personas in your audience, you will be able to choose the right endorser for your brand and thus harvest sales and loyalty.

Another idea is to communicate a national or special awareness day to raise awareness and celebrate with your subscribers:

email newsletter design

4. Authority of the sender on the topic

Your unquestionable authority on a topic is what will have subscribers keeping their eyes peeled for your emails.

top email newsletter design

So, besides increasing your open rates as mentioned above, establishing your authority will also help boost brand loyalty.

Start building your Omnichannel marketing with email design elements

Why do you need your email design elements to harvest omnichannel marketing?

Actually, you’d be a fool not to, since it a)doesn’t cost you anything, and b) it leads subscribers to take middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel actions.

Here are some ways in which you can make more out of your email newsletter design elements:

1. Harness your Header and Footer

Every decent newsletter is packed with legal or other information that users might need, but this is pulled off in such a concise way that does not compromise users’ experience.

Here are a few ways to go about your header and footer.

Your Header goes here

One of the most common and popular is to include your brand’s logo in your header. Some brands also mention their product categories, student discounts, and free shipping (if available).

This way, every newsletter comes as welcome news with these subtle reminders:

email newsletter design examplesemail newsletter design ideas

Brand consistency is a prerequisite for your reliability as a brand.

To me, a good newsletter (branding-wise) is much like the catwalk: will those who see a snapshot know this was your brand? Then you’ve done a good job.

Your brand consistency is achieved through the use of brand colors and your color palette.

It’s also established through your brand personality and the copy and imagery you employ to come across to your readers.

Last, your brand aesthetics are expressed through the visuals you create, the originality and authenticity of your content, the use of the right font, and so on.

Finding your Footer

Here subscribers will normally find the Unsubscribe button.

Besides this, brands usually include in their footers various links regarding legal or other company details such as Terms and Conditions, Exclusions, their Privacy Policy, why you are receiving the email (“You are receiving this email because you subscribed to…”), FAQs, View email in Browser (this is also quite popular with the header content), etc.

To create a beautiful footer that pops out, I suggest you use color fiercely like Skinny Dip London below:

email newsletter design tips

I love how they’ve used contrasting colors (green and pink, anyone?) so as to guide users’ eyes further down. See the social media buttons?

Significantly bigger in size compared to the fonts used around them, followed by the official hashtag of the company (which should come in handy, should you click these buttons).

Also, I love how the use of pink lends itself to highlighting the Unsubscribe button, but only subtly so.

In the examples that follow, I included some footers which do not stand out as much, rather they blend in, but use text formatting (bold, underline, italics) to set them apart:

best email newsletter design

Below is a footer from a Topshop newsletter:

email newsletter design

2. Get sales out of your email newsletter images

Add direct links to every product image, word, or CTA button in your newsletter design.

Ideally, match the visuals of the newsletter to those of your landing page.

This way, when subscribers click on your links they will be sure that they landed on the right page.

For instance, a newsletter section promoting 30% off sitewide should lead to a landing page reading “30% off sitewide” as well as reflect the same branding and colors used in the newsletter.

Funny story, just minutes ago, I got this in my inbox:

email newsletter design

Upon clicking on the link, I was redirected to their eshop which featured this banner:

best email newsletter design

3. Turn your newsletter into a Social media promotion

Make it easier for your subscribers to follow you on social media: choose your social media buttons and set up their respective URLs.

Tip: To convert more subscribers into followers, include the benefits of being friends on social media, such as i) new offers, ii) giveaways, iii) contests, and so on.

Is there a formula for email newsletter design?

A formula for newsletter design? For your industry? And your very own business? Matching your brand personality?

You’re not looking for a formula, darling, you’re just being lazy.

Enough with reading this post, let’s get to #work.

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