Responsive design for email marketing, part one

Making emails mobile-friendly, one template at a time

Emma’s a strategic gal. When the time is right to release a new product, there’s much thought that goes into what the story is that we want to tell our customers. That story – ranging from the latest Zadie Smith to Are You My Mother? – is inspired by our own habits as well as what we’re gleaning from you.

Toward the end of last year, Mashable called 2013 "the year of responsive design." Their article speaks largely about web design, but if you’re anything like us, you wear glasses while consuming emails on a variety of platforms, too: smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

That’s why it’s important to optimize your email campaigns so that they look their best and brightest, no matter the stage.

What responsive design means at Emma

Our product developers and designers have been thinking about mobile-optimized email design for a while now. And with the release of our new drag & drop editor and new template language to go along with it, Emma is poised for responsive design in the inbox. Wherever that inbox may be. 

So, how do we go from being poised for responsive design to actually achieving responsive design? We experiment with our own email newsletter, of course. 

We coded our last email newsletter to change format when viewed on a mobile device.

Emma UX designer Cale Mooth – who’s done the actual template work, coding, CSS, HTML retrofitting, whozywhatsit to optimize our own email and some of the templates in our readymade design collections – said adaptive emails improve your recipients’ experience.

“Looking at something on a small device versus a desktop or laptop, it’s a totally different experience,” he said. “So if you can cater to those specific devices, I think it’s just one more chance for users to identify with the content you’re putting out there, react with it, interact with it.”

So what is mobile optimization, and should you be scared? It means that your email design responds and adapts to the device your recipients are using to experience it. And yes, of course you should be scared: Haven’t you noticed the uptick in zombie TV shows and movies?

According to eMarketer, the average American adult spent almost an hour and a half a day last year on their mobile busy with non-phone activity – That’s twice what it was in 2010 and a 50 percent increase from 2011.

“There’s been a big trend just in overall website design, not so much apps, just as far as conveying messaging to let that content be optimized,” said David Wright, a senior product owner at Emma who has researched trends in the market. “With the trend of more and more email being read and interacted with on a mobile phone, you’re not tethered to a computer anymore or tethered to a big screen.”

Are you ready to optimize your emails for mobile?

Emma customers can access mobile-ready templates in our collection of free readymade email templates. Our design team is working on optimizing each free design, but for now you can spot the mobile-ready ones at a glance. 

Stay tuned for next week's conclusion of Emma's Responsive Email Design: Zombie Slayer


Read more about making smart email design decisions in our Brainiac Guide to Images in Email


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Break out of your email mold with a seasonal design

See how three Emma customers used our free Valentine's Day email templates

One of the things I love about our seasonal readymade templates is how they inspire our customers to take a break from their regular email programming and try something different. Our Valentine's Day collection is no exception. 

Check out how these Emma customers are using free Valentine's Day template in addition to regular branded emails. 

Love note #1: Dina Ellen

Beloved Pittsburgh boutique Dina Ellen has simple branding that always lets products shine in email promotions (like the email on the left).

But for Valentine's Day, Dina Ellen designed an email promo (on the right) on our Love is in the Air template. The bright blue background pairs beautifully with a striking image of a bracelet. 

Love note #2: Write Life

Write Life is a collaborative publishing company that sends regular newsletters on a custom designed template (like the email on the left), but this week they mailed a sweet note (right) to subscribers on our We {Heart} You template.

The pink hues in the template design play sweetly with the pink accents in Write Life's content images. 

Love note #3: Morada Blue Swimwear

Online swimwear shop Morada Blue makes me wish it were swimsuit season all year long. Some emails (like the one on the left) go out on a basic template with their own image as a header, but Morada Blue's February promo (right) was designed on our Valentine's Day Sale template.

The rosy background and photos with overlayed design elements and copy work together to make a beautiful, memorable email.


Happy Valentine's Day! Show us your sweet emails on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram today. 

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A spotlight of three restaurants in NYC

How these Emma customers use email to keep & attract customers

In July 2010, Emma established a presence in the Big Apple. I opened our New York City office, and I lead up our business development efforts here. In 2011, I was joined by my colleague, Claire Burns, who helps our largest clients with some personalized email strategy. Claire and I are located in SoHo, which puts us in an excellent location for some of the (many) culinary delights that NYC has to offer.

Choosing a restaurant in NYC is both exciting and overwhelming. In Manhattan alone, which is only 23 square miles, there are over 4,000 Zagat-rated restaurants, and in all five boroughs, there are nearly 26,000 restaurants. As a patron, you almost have too many options.

I generally decide where I'm going to eat based on what's at the top of my mind on any given day, and guess what I think is the best way for a restaurant to stay top of mind? Why, by sending emails, of course.

What makes email marketing so successful for restaurants?

First, it allows you to trigger a customers's vicarious experience. They're looking at well-placed images of your food, hearing about your specials-of-the-week and picturing themselves sitting down to happy hour on your porch. (It's such a lovely porch, after all.)

Now, let's imagine someone's already been to your restaurant. A few times, even. In that case, your emails have the opportunity to strengthen your fan base. Use personal stories to let them know more about your brand and your beginnings. Profile particular waiters, waitresses or chefs, so visitors have a feeling of getting to know them.

In the end, you've created an experience that's more than just about the food. And that helps encourage repeat business – and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Three restaurants who do email well

I love signing up to receive emails from Emma customers in NYC, and some of my favorite restaurants have recently caught my eye.

Monument Lane, a favorite new restaurant in the West Village, does a great job of gathering email addresses with a card placed in the bill. (Folks are most likely to sign up for your emails right after they've had a great experience with you.)

Their email stationery mimicks the styling of their menu – that continuity of branding is a fabulous idea, as it triggers customers' memories of the place. 

See the online version of the email >>


I'm also a big fan of Mario Batali. May I go ahead and call him a genius in the kitchen?

He's also got talented folks in his marketing department, and they share recipes, videos and more with their email audience.

Their new Monthly Molto! newsletter is a great example of how to make email content relevent, timely and replicable.

See the online version of the email >>


Finally, Danny Meyer uses Emma to keep folks up to date – and announce new locations – of one of my favorite burger joints, Shake Shack.

He's also using email to promote his newest restaurant, Maialino. Email is one of the quickest and most affordable ways to leverage your existing customer base when you've got a new announcement to make.

See the online version of the email >>

What can email do for your brand?

Of course, in these three examples, I'm talking about established restaurants, but the nice thing about email is that it's cost effective and equally easy to implement whether you're running a large brand or just getting started. Emma's tools are simple to use, so they work well for businesses with marketing and graphic design teams, as well as one-person shops.

We want to help you by ...

  • Finding the design option that works. Whether you choose one of the templates from our template gallery or order a customized email design, your email will look like it's coming from your brand.
  • Giving you creative control. Our drag & drop content editor allows you to flexibly build your email layout, any way you'd like. Add a text box here, an image box there, then drag and drop to reorder and rearrange your content.
  • Working with you one-on-one. Have you chatted with our support team yet? They're real people, ready to answer the phone and solve your email marketing quanderies. (Unless those quanderies involve superstring theory. In which case, you're on your own.)

Know of other brands doing email marketing well? We'd love to hear of them. Comment here to keep the conversation going.

New to Emma? Learn how to get started for free.


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Get inspired: effective emails created in our new editor

Spot the new features (& old stand-bys) our customers are using to make great emails

We're pretty excited about our brand new content editor and email template gallery (have ya noticed?), and we're even more excited to see how our customers are using the  editor's shiny new features to create stunning email campaigns. I rounded up a few recent examples to show you how folks are communicating in style and getting great results.


Here Pottery Merchant uses a postcard template from the Toronto collection to frame this quick event announcement. 

Why we like it:

See the full campaign >>


Nashville Children’s Theatre took advantage of our newsletter template from the Faraday collection and our new content editor's flexibile layouts to spotlight information about upcoming shows.

Why we like it:

See the full campaign >>


In this example, Digital Edge Learning customizes the Mayfair Trenchcoat newsletter template to highlight a featured contest. 

Why we like it:

See the full campaign >>


The newsletter template of the Toronto collection looks completely different than the Toronto postcard above, thanks to some customization by Dovetail Solution. They added their own logo and spin for a professional-looking company newsletter.

Why we like it:

See the full campaign >>


Micah Stansell added just a touch of flair to the postcard template from our Hemingway collection.

Why we like it:

See the full campaign >>


We hope you’re enjoying our new editor features and finding ways to incorporate email best practices along the way. We’d love to see some of your handiwork! Share your campaigns in the comments, and we may just feature you in a future post.

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Email Marketing in Style
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