In the first article of our two-part series on designing real-time email, I gave a few examples of real-time content, demonstrated why designers (and their companies) should want to use it, and presented tips to help choose the right real-time experiences. In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

Now it’s time for Part 2. In this article, I’ll give you specific email design best practices and tips to help design memorable, engaging, and effective real-time email experiences. 

What should you consider when designing real-time email content?

I always tell designers that they should start the process in much the same way they would with a traditional static email. But this is just the starting point. From there, you should think about the entire user experience, which will include every touchpoint as a recipient opens your email, digests the real-time content, and then engages by clicking through to a landing page or interacting with your real-time elements. 

I also recommend that you get creative in the way you think about using advanced email experiences, and how you can use them to present personalized content in ways your audience might not expect (but will love when you get it right!)

For example, Discover used our LiveRender capability to personalize emails by embedding an animated graphic that showed recipients their exact mileage balance and how much they would gain with a special matching promotion.

real time email design

In this case, the design became a win-win: Consumers loved the experience, and Discover increased click-through rates by 46%.

One quick note: The Discover email is just one example of well-designed real-time content. To see many more—in all phases of the customer lifecycle—download our LookBook today.

Other creative approaches

Real-time email content can accommodate branding styles and approaches that aren’t typically seen in traditional emails. This means that designing these kinds of emails may give you the chance to have fun and be a little more creative.  I’ve found that real-time emails usually go hand-in-hand with the most innovative (dare I say cool), design work.

Liveclicker’s RealTime Email platform can even accommodate your branding “must haves,” such as custom fonts, CSS formatting, branded images and animations, and other branding necessities that typically aren’t applied to dynamic content. 

Use video!

Also, if your company has video assets, flaunt them in email. Research from Campaign Monitor shows that including video in email can boost click-through rates up to 65%, and at the same time, it helps minimize the struggle to find or include new content.

With RealTime Email, video can play directly in the inbox, delighting your audience by giving them something they might not have expected to receive. So give video a try! Welcome emails are a great place to start, especially since you’ll impress your customers with your very first message.

Design responsively

It also helps to keep responsive design in mind. Remember that your audience will open your emails on a wide range of screens. So take a look at your email and its landing pages on mobile, tablet, and desktop. Generally speaking, it helps to know what specific device the majority of the audience will be using.

Even beyond that, it’s good to know additional details such as operating system, email client, or if they’re using Web-mail such as Gmail to receive emails. 

Go Retina!

It’s also important to think about how your creative will look on higher-resolution screens. For the best results, I recommend using Retina images, a higher resolution that is twice as many pixels per inch (ppi) than the normal web 72 ppi. Even if the rest of the email doesn’t use such high resolution, you will still get the best results using Retina-quality images for your real-time content.

You probably know how to set up Retina images, but if not, here’s a quick tip. Make your image resolution 144 ppi instead of the normal 72 ppi. If you’re entering this information in Liveclicker’s RealTime Email platform, enter height and width dimensions that are half the height and width of the retina image(s). 

Simplify content and present it in new ways

Don’t you hate it when the marketing team wants to force too much content into your elegant design? You can use advanced email experiences in creative ways to deliver this content in a more efficient space and help you stay in control of your design. These include LiveSlides, LiveVideo, LiveImage, and more.

slideshow in email design

Thoughts on testing

You should also think about quantifying your real-time email results by testing them against a static email. This will help you understand what works and what doesn’t and help you develop innovative new ideas to improve future emails with real-time email content.

You can even test your campaign within our RealTime Email platform. Our Adaptive Testing capability lets you automatically roll out a winning test as determined by statistical significance. This makes sure the winning creative is launched effectively, without having to wait extra time to manually deploy this version as a future campaign.

Don’t forget the versioning

Finally, remember that some experiences require creative assets for different states—for example, for LiveHover you’ll need to think about the cover state, hover state, animation fallback and create images for all.

dynamic email image design

I hope these tips are helpful as you continue to design innovative emails that connect and engage consumers in new ways. If I can answer any questions, please feel free to contact me. And don’t forget: for even more real examples of well designed email campaigns, download our LookBook now!

designing for real-time email hero

Despite its place as one of the most developed and mature digital marketing channels, email continues to evolve. And like any other technology that grows and changes over time, it’s important that designers adapt to continue providing compelling, competitive experiences.

Today’s designers have many options available that were once considered all but impossible: fully-embedded video in email, web UX functionality like rotating carousels, dynamic elements that adapt to users’ context at the time of open, and more.

The rise of real-time email is redefining best practices and creative capabilities for designers. It’s time for us to catch up and adapt!

So What is Real-Time Content?

The concept of real-time email content is a broad term that encompasses a variety of different (but related) pieces. But as far as designers are concerned, there are a few specific things you can look for and consider using yourself:

real-time email design best practices

What Real-Time Content Does for Designers

It’s better to see this deluge of new real-time email capabilities not as an obstacle to beat or a problem to solve, but as an opportunity to revolutionize and update an ageing medium. The reality is that these design elements are a godsend for designers, who long have had to fight with email’s technical limitations and its slow-to-evolve clients. Just a few of the advantages of real-time email content for designers:

real-time email design statistics

Get Inspired: Where to Find Your Real-Time Muse

Sometimes it’s hard to visualize the possibilities of real-time content or understand the use cases of a particular element until you actually see it in action. If you’re in need of some real-time inspiration, I recommend starting with these resources:

real-time email design guide

How to Choose the Right Real-Time Experiences

Email marketers have a long menu of powerful real-time experiences and personalization elements to choose from. Some will be more effective than others at accomplishing certain goals.

Never Stop Learning

In a dynamic profession like digital marketing, designers can’t afford to get complacent. Never stop trying new things and pushing your creative boundaries!

Stay tuned for part two of our ‘Designing for Real-Time Email’ series where I’ll explore some of the details and technical considerations when approaching the next generation of email design.