Email Marketing

Six Pointers for Formatting Your Ecommerce Emails

Ecommerce merchants from all industries are utilizing email as a valuable retail sales channel. However, some merchants may be confused about how to optimize their emails for the dozens of different email programs now available, as well as the plethora of mobile devices that their customers use. The simple fact is different email programs can often display your messages in ways other than you anticipated and designed for.

There’s a secret to designing your ecommerce emails in a way that they’ll be viewed in a consistent format, regardless of the email program or device that’s being used. The secret is: Keep it simple. The simpler your design and content, the more likely that design will look the same across multiple browsers and devices. There is no need to overhaul your ecommerce emails to make any of this happen. All you have to do is take the content and/or design you already have, and pare it down a little using the following six tips.

1. Balance Your Images With Text and Use Smaller Images

Many email browsers have images turned off by default. This can be a huge problem for ecommerce merchants if the sales, promotions or offers rely heavily on images, or if very large images are used in the message. It’s amazing how many large merchants and retailers rely on emails with a sole image containing their offers, instead of using any text at all. In this case, if an email program turns images off by default, then the sales or product images don’t show up unless the recipient clicks a link to turn them on. If your email is too image-heavy, people may not see enough promotional or product-related content that would inspire them to turn the images on, and won’t see your offer or products.

2. Be Selective With Images

Determine which pictures are needed to encourage your customers to make a purchase from your email. Remember, you’re going to be sending simpler emails, so it should be fairly easy to only choose three or four compelling offers. Pick images that stand out visually and relate the most to your promotion or products.

3. Shorten Your Email By Using Teaser Content

Instead of putting an entire offer or promotion in your email, use teaser content that points to more information on your website or blog. This has the added bonus of providing customers and prospects with more of a reason to click a link and make their way over to your site. It also creates the possibility of up-selling other products and services on your website.

4. Include A Call To Action Through Links

Since your business is bound to have relevant merchandise or products available outside of those featured in your emails, you need to make it as easy as possible for a reader to click on a link within the email and reach your related products. Have some variation of a “See More Like This” or “Take Action” link following each section. Turn your headers, titles and images into links.

5. Make Your Content Easier To Digest

Since you have no way of knowing the size of your recipient’s computer monitor and how your text is going to be displayed, it’s important that your content be very easy to read. Some easy ways to simplify your emails and highlight your best products and offers are:

  • Use bullet points.
  • Break larger paragraphs up into two- or three-sentence mini-paragraphs.
  • Highlight important points within those paragraphs.
  • Use at least a 10pt font; 12pt is even better.

6. Consider How Your Columns Affect Your Layout

There are some mobile devices—older BlackBerries are the biggest examples—that are notorious for displaying HTML emails in an awkward fashion. This becomes particularly noticeable if you have lots of separate columns and sections in your message. Even the most basic design may either not display properly or break in some way. Ultimately this will impact your sales and bottom line.

When emailing readers regarding a sale or product announcement, a single column with up to several rows works well if you are pointing readers to one or two offers or products. When using a “newsletter” format, two columns may work better, where you can include your main offers or articles, plus some extra content.


It’s easy to design your sales or merchandise emails in a way that they’ll be viewed in a consistent format, regardless of the email program, Internet browser or device that’s being used. Just remember to keep them simple, and consider making a few tweaks to your images and content. More effective email marketing may translate into a measurable impact on your sales, and increased awareness or loyalty for your products and brand.

Janine Popick
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