7 email marketing best practices for success in 2020

It’s frustrating when your emails don’t get opened and engagement rates are low. But it can come as no surprise when so many of us, time-poor and under-resourced, deviate from the email rulebook.

Email was 50 last year. But brands have only been using it as a revenue-generating channel for around 20 years. It’s frustrating when your emails don’t get opened and no one engages with your brand. But sometimes all it takes is sticking to the email rulebook, those commonplace tactics that actually work.

Email best practice is your bread and butter; and it’s easier and faster to get it right today, thanks to an avalanche of tech in recent years.

So, what are you waiting for?  

Make 2020 the year of email resolution, and start using your tech smarter. Remember, email marketing has an ROI of 4200%. Get your customer engagement up to where it should be with these seven email marketing best practices. You’ll be driving more opens, clicks, and conversions in no time.   

1. Improve your email deliverability

You may find that for whatever reason your emails are encountering deliverability problems. Some of the common ones are:

  • Your contacts are complaining about unwanted emails
  • Your emails are going into the junk folder
  • You’re sending to spam traps
  • Your content contains spam keywords

Taking preventative measures can protect your deliverability in the long term. Otherwise, it may take some time for issues to resolve.

Sending wanted email is crucial, as well as emailing the people who actually open your emails. Make sure you’ve received explicit consent and are acquiring data through a robust process (double opt-in, etc.). Luckily, our data Watchdog protects you – plus catches anyone out who’s not playing by the rules. And don’t neglect your contact list hygiene. Sending to unengaged contacts doesn’t go unnoticed by ISPs, and puts your email sending reputation at risk.   

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For a full flurry of deliverability advice, download our 101 guide here.

2. Nail the subject line

The success of your email campaign rests partly on the subject line. It’s an essential bit of copy, and getting it right makes or breaks your campaign metrics. Communicate clearly what your email’s about. Testing is the best way to optimize the text: maybe your audience reacts better to emotive language; or perhaps emojis arouse more attention?

Check out our 11 tips on how to write subject lines that get opened.

3. Personalize your content

Tailoring your email content effectively to each recipient relies on how well you’re capturing data. Make sure you have a preference center in place that doesn’t ask too much or too little. Let contacts know why you want to get to know them more: to offer more personalized content. 77% of consumers want personalized content, so it’s a no brainer! You can use data to personalize in two ways: through dynamic content or segmentation, or both.    

Relevant data include:

  • Date of birth
  • Location
  • Product preferences
  • Lifecycle interests

4. Use split testing to increase email engagement

Split testing is the best way to find the optimum email campaign. The great thing is that you can test a load of things: from name, subject line, content, call to action, send time and more. We’ve covered subject lines already, so let’s look at body copy.

Test what works best:

  • Fewer or more images
  • CTA as a button or link
  • ‘Shop now’ vs. ‘Discover here’
  • Bestsellers or hottest drops
  • Blog placement – right or left?

Plus, multivariate testing means it’s possible to test various email elements at once, for an even more optimized campaign.

5. Tell stories that get contacts to click through

Storytelling is one of the most important selling tactics in email. People bypass your product features and benefits in search for an emotional connection. If you can’t tell a good story, how are you going to sell your products and services?

Generating an emotive response from subscribers means you need to cut the rhetoric. Put yourself in their shoes. Focus on authenticity and imagination. Provoke feeling. Potential customers need to see themselves using your products and services.  

Here are some tips:

  • Share your customers’ experiences through reviews and interviews
  • Use people – not your business name – to narrate your stories
  • Avoid the classic sales pitch in favour of some inspirational editorial 
  • Be real: use realistic images, videos, and commentary to support your stories 

6. Use contact behavior to trigger relevant emails

Let’s cut to the chase. Triggered emails are highly relevant messages. And subscribers often react positively to them because they’re related to some previous action. Just think about when you receive an abandoned browse or cart recovery campaign.

Sending these emails isn’t rocket science. You need two streams of data going into your omnichannel marketing automation platform:  

Website behavioral data. Look at what contacts are browsing and send an email that complements their previous activity. Was it a high-intent page that needs a follow up from sales? Maybe it was a high-value product page that’s worth nudging the contact about.  

Order history. Once customers start buying from you, you’ll start to understand what they like and how much they’re willing to spend. Use product and purchase data to inform what email product recommendations customers will likely respond to.

7. Measure campaign results and then optimize 

Open rates and click rates are the most obvious metrics to measure for your email marketing. Rather than measure campaign by campaign, look your metrics over a period of time (i.e. 30 days) to get a better idea of your reach. You might discover that email engagement levels fluctuate because of the day or month, who you’ve sent to, or the content itself.

Metrics to consider

  • Unsubscribe rate – Ideally you want to minimize opt-outs and maintain your lists. Ask for feedback on why people are unsubscribing and make changes accordingly.
  • Complaints rate – Marking your email as spam is a serious matter. If this rate increases, consider whether you’ve: purchased lists, missed the unsubscribe link, sent irrelevant content or to old addresses, or emailed too frequently.
  • Conversion rate – Completing a desired action depends on many factors. So, for people who click through to your website, make sure it’s optimized for conversions.
  • Bounce rate – Calculated as a percentage of emails that weren’t successfully delivered to recipients’ inboxes. A good one to look out for any deliverability issues.
  • Forward/share rate – This is a good judge of how many brand ambassadors you have. You want to increase this and generate more leads/customers.
  • Campaign ROI – This is easier to calculate on a campaign-by-campaign basis. But campaign performance is far-reaching; a campaign today could drive ROI in months to come.

Psst… To maintain your list at healthy level, keep your contacts happy with relevant content.

Whenever you change an email variable, watch these metrics like a hawk. They’re a good indicator of optimization and where you need to focus your efforts. To keep on top of your email marketing performance, download our email scoresheet here.


Make email great again

Email will always be the marketer’s preferred channel. But success comes down to best practice. You can’t optimize everything at once, so start with one practice and then move onto the next.

Hit the nail on the head and there’s so much engagement potential with every practice you perfect – your results will soar.

If you’d like some more email marketing advice, check out our guide on best practice here.