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Preview “Pains” – First Impressions DO Matter

80% of business professionals and 54% of consumers decide if they’re going to open your email based on the preview pane. And to make it tougher on email marketers, they make that decision within half a second.* That’s a huge chunk of your target audience that you will lose if your preview pane sucks. If it looks good, people want to see more. We are naturally drawn to that which is aesthetically pleasing.

Because there are so many email clients, including web-based ones like Gmail and Yahoo!, it is essential that email marketers ensure their messages display properly in all the various email clients.

Look at these examples from Groupon.com.  This company (Think: Group + Coupon) specializes in emailing you a deeply discounted local deal of the day, and their business is HOT.  But viewing it from the preview pane, it doesn’t look so hot.

We see three major improvements (In order of importance) that could be made here:

1. Alignment. The alignment is all messed up. It’s obvious to us that someone created this email template without any regard to the various email clients in which it will be read. We’ve included two samples below – the first for the Mail client in Mac, and the second from Gmail through a Chrome browser. These were the first two options that tried it in, and they both look terrible. We’ve examined the code for the email and it’s cliear they need help in coding for email because it’s different than coding for the web. Just because it looks good in one browser, does NOT mean that it’s going to come through all the various email clients unscathed. You have to test it and tweak it to get it right.

2. Missing Alt-Tags. What are those question marks about?  I don’t know, and I’m too lazy to display the images, so I’m over it and deleting the message.  After all, if my attention span is the same as most people who open emails – it takes me 8 seconds to click something on average.* And unless your email message and preview pane kicks ass, it’s going to be the delete button. Adding alt-tags for each image will help insure that your message is coming across even if your user doesn’t download images.

3. Top Line Message Missing. As we mentioned, you have a very limited amount of time to get your readers attention. Why then would you not have the very first line of your email describe your offer? Notice how the very top line of this Groupon email says “Your Daily Seattle Groupon | View this message in a browser | Unsubscribe”. This is a completely missed opportunity. Some email clients, like Gmail, show the first line of your email in the “preview” pane, before the user opens the message. Is “Your Daily Seattle Groupon” the most important thing they could say? Uh, duh, since the From address says Groupon – I already know it’s a Groupon. Why would you use such valuable real estate to repeat yourself? And if you’re trying to “create intrigue” how about something like – “Get a Head to Toe Fix from Blix.” Sure, it’s a little more work to change your template every day, and to think up something creative – but don’t your clients deserve it Groupon?

The daily discounts offered by Groupon are undoubtedly good bargains, but is business so good that they’re too cool to be concerned with aesthetic details? Do companies like Apple care about aesthetics? Maybe for Groupon, it’s “good enough,” but that’s a dangerous marketing mentality. What about your company’s image?  Can you afford to overlook the details? Utilizing Groupon’s advertising is an investment for their clients. They pay for Groupon to create messages, so those messages had better look damn good down to the smallest detail in our opinion. If I was a Groupon client and my promotion looked all discombobulated, I’d be pretty upset–I don’t want to pay and settle for “good enough” because good enough never is.

Email Broadcast understands that an email campaign’s vitality rests on presentation of relevant content. Therefore, we hand-code each message in HTML to W3C standards and TEST IT against a battery of multiple email clients, so we know it’s going to look amazing no matter what web service or email client is used to view it. We also use ALT TAGS to make our messages “disabled-image friendly”, so just because our reader may not see the image, they still receive the central message of the content – which is key to getting them to the next step – downloading images. And of course, we always create great “Top Line Messages” and often personalize them.

True story: At Email Broadcast, we love a good deal—but when a team member got the email above from Groupon last month, we cringed. So we emailed Groupon back, a simple heads-up, pointing out how their preview pane looked with a suggestion that they take a look at it. It’s been over a month now and we have yet to receive a reply.

So Groupon, here’s a little Email Broadcast “coupon” of our own, just for you:

100% Off One Hand-Coded Template So You Can Get It Right


* Lyris Webinar: *Turn your Email Marketing Up A Notch – 5 Ways to Improve Performance Now” 6/2010

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