People will form an instant impression of your email campaign the nanosecond they open it. That impression is based almost entirely on design and imagery. Design is how you suck email recipients into your copy.
So, what design principles work best in hotel email marketing?
People consume digital media (web pages and emails) by scanning in an F-pattern. More content on the left is consumed. Optimize the organization of the content to take advantage of this tendency. You should put important content on the left.
Start headlines with an important keyword (we read left to right). This can motivate people to read deeper into the content. Make use of bolded type to reinforce this effect.
The F-reading scan also means that your email should be no more than 600px wide so there is no need for horizontal scrolling. Given the width is 600px, you have room for no more than two to three columns of content.
People should know what your email is about without having to scroll.
Scrolling will provide the details, but the key points are readily accessible up top. Make it easy for people to realize your content is worthy of their time.
Likewise, the CTA should be close to the top to elicit action. But, repeat it at the bottom of the email so folks don't have to scroll to the top to take action.
Directional images (a person facing in a direction, for example) boost CTA click-thru rates. Images near a CTA can increase conversions by 28%.
But don't crowd your CTA. It needs white space to breathe.
Your CTA also needs a bold color that attracts notice. There is no one color that is best for CTA buttons, except that black often does not perform well because it does not contrast with the mass of text.
CTAs should look clickable, so a subtle shadow effect can be better than a flat button. Remember also buttons with hover effects may not render the same in all email clients or on all mobile devices.
Because email clients interpret code differently, coding emails gets complicated. It is not handled the same way as web pages, although it uses HTML and CSS like the web. Read Chad White's article for a deeper dive.
Many people have image blocking turned on, which means your gorgeous hotel lobby shots are not going to be seen unless the recipient decides to allow it. The rest of the email (the HTML text) has to be compelling enough to arouse the curiosity of recipients.
Do not embed important content in images. Like on the web, you want to use alt-tags to describe images that do not display and for screen readers used by sight impaired people.
Remember to size images properly so that when they load, they do so quickly. This is especially important because many emails these days are read only on mobile devices. Sure, a mobile device performs great when connected to Wi-Fi... but your images have to be optimized for low-speed connections too.
It is generally a best practice avoid background images, gradients, and patterns because they are stripped out by many email clients. Solid color backgrounds are safest.
However, most email clients can handle animated GIFs. These may not be appropriate for a luxury brand (do you really want a dancing cat?). But it is an option if you create an animated GIF that supports your brand.
Finally, when you do use images... use gorgeous, large high-quality images if you want to boost conversions. Grainy or tacky stock images don't cut it.
One of the problems with email technology is different email clients like Gmail and Yahoo handle coding differently. Stick with basic web fonts like Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, etc.
People scan an email in about 11 seconds. So you need to keep your copy sections short – about three lines or less. The landing page should do the job of selling and converting your reader. The email is just to get them to the landing page.
It goes without saying that your landing page and email campaign should have the same design approach and aesthetic.
You can add image sliders or video to your email. In fact, video can increase click through rates by 65%, according to Campaign Monitor.
But clients like Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird and others don't support playing video inside the email. This means you need to host the video elsewhere (like YouTube or Vimeo) and include a link in the email.
Apple iPhones can play embedded HTML 5 videos, but not Gmail and Android devices.
Yes, you need a link to your landing page. But you also need the critical "view in browser link" if the email client's limitations prove too daunting yet the user is motivated (yay!) to read your content.