Borrowing B2C Trends For Your Next B2B Email
Date: January 6, 2016
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If you’ve worked in the B2B world for any period of time you’ve probably noticed that the group tends to be a tad behind the B2C trends. As a B2B designer, this is sometimes hard to swallow.

I often get beautiful, eye catching emails from retailers with these incredible product shots; emails from companies like Warby Parker with glasses I never knew I wanted. Or Etsy, showcasing an incredible selection of handpicked, handmade items just for me. Oh, and a special shout out to the Uber Eats emails that I drool over every week.

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Unfortunately, in the B2B world, that strategy just isn’t going to fly. The truth is, no matter how well designed, white papers and eBooks aren’t that compelling based on their covers alone. And good luck getting your newsletter, full of news briefs and feature articles, to be as appealing as Uber Eats fantastic food shots. The beauty of B2B content lies within the actual subject matter. The information they provide the audience is the real gem here.

Luckily, there are trends we can borrow from B2C emails. Here are 5 trends B2B designers can use for their emails:

1. Full Width Panels. Earlier this year I started seeing more and more emails with these “full width” panels. When I started designing/building emails I was taught that 600px wide was the standard and that was pretty much that. This approach still uses that theory; it just expands on it. Emails breath much better with the full panels. You can also easily break up content that might have been overwhelming into bite size sections that are easy for readers to scan.

TECH NOTE: 600 pixels wide is still the desktop standard. The difference is that this content area lies within a table that’s set to be 100%. This way, it adapts to the user’s browser (or device) width.

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2. Creative fonts. B2C emails often showcase beautiful fonts in their headlines. Something that really catches your eye when you open it. As a B2B designer, don’t be afraid to do this. It’s ok to pull a non-brand cursive into your headline or something big and blocky to emphasize a point. My best advice here, don’t over do it. Most of the time 1 or 2 words in the breakout font is just enough.

TECH NOTE: Email clients aren’t as hip as the web. In fact, most of them aren’t even close. Some aren’t going to support web-fonts. A workaround for this is using images for headlines. People are accustomed to displaying images (thank god!) now but as a fail safe, make sure your alt tags are properly filled out.

(Best resource I’ve found on what does and doesn’t work in email CSS, Campaign Monitor’s Ultimate Guide to CSS.)

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3. Less copy. (More images!) When was the last time you actually read a full email? Every word. Be honest. If there’s one you can think of, how many words did it have in it? A sentence? Maybe two. In the grand scheme, emails are meant to be teasers. They should provide the user with a tidbit of information and a call-to-action for more. They are not the appropriate place to go giving 700 details.

TECH NOTE: We have done some testing at G3 on emails specifically related to the word count. Without question, the emails with less copy do better. Test your audience! It’s the best way to convince those non-believers out there. (And there will be non-believers)

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4. Animated GIFs. Movement is great. It catches the user’s eye. The problem I’ve seen with this is overuse. If everything’s moving, what is the user supposed to look at? Concentrate on small, subtle movements in emails. Maybe your button shakes or your headline fades in.  Keep it simple!

TECH NOTES: Not all email clients will support GIFs. Take this into consideration and  make sure the first frame of the GIF makes sense. If it doesn’t, try replacing the first frame with a still image. Fade it out real quick (I’m talking .1 seconds) and when it displays correctly, users won’t know it was there to begin with. [Check out this Litmus reference for more details!]

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5. Background Images. At least half (if not more) of the emails I get now use background images. The good news, I’m starting to see this more and more in B2B emails too. We used to accept that they would not render well in the majority of email clients and so designers just didn’t use them. There are too many email clients with separate issues that made it more trouble than it was worth. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore! Check out this Bulletproof Background Images method provided by Campaign Monitor’s Stig.

TECH NOTES: Yes, it’s possible that some email clients still won’t render these image properly. Account for that, set a fallback color. Make sure it’s something that your text will still show up on!

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melanie

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