What does it take to stand out in retail emails? It’s a crowded market where only the most creative campaigns get clicks. Fortunately, Cheetah Digital’s Creative Services team is always up to the challenge of thinking of innovative ways of engaging retail customers. The team, led by Senior Director of Global Creative Services Dave Kepets, recently accepted the award for Best Use of Interactive Email for client Neiman Marcus from MediaPost’s EIS awards.
Partnering with Neiman Marcus, the Cheetah Digital team looked to create a new kind of interactive email feature for mobile users. Their target? Transforming the lovely, yet flat, call to action (CTA) into something more engaging. Thus, Cheetah Tap, an animated overlay feature, was born. Cheetah Tap revitalized the CTA experience and created a more “shoppable” email.
To learn more, I recently spoke to Dave about what inspired Cheetah Tap, how retail emails have changed over the years, and what email trends we should keep an eye out for.
Dave, tell me more about the need for a more "shoppable" email. What spurred the project?
Email has always been a feasting ground for testing. The ability to get an immediate response on what worked (subject line A vs. B) and what didn’t work is a marketer’s dream; however, the true workhorse of the inbox, the CTA button, hasn’t changed much.
We continue to provide recommendations around the size and positioning, as well as for the color and contrast as it pertains to ADA compliance, but outside of that, it’s still typically one button that calls all the shots. We wanted to see how we could evolve this button and bring it to a place that matched the experiences one would have with any other app on their phone.
Over the last year, we’ve been working on trying to solve several problems: How can we evolve the CTA in a way that engages users again, particularly on mobile? What do we need to do to bring a sense of consistency to the inbox, especially for the CTA? And if we do bring forward an interactive solution, how can we do this at scale?
Where do you draw inspiration from?
User behavior in email is not going to change overnight. It’s important that we pay close attention to some of the other experiences users are having on mobile and desktop. From there, we can consider inserting these into the inbox in a similar format, and then modify and grow them. For Cheetah Tap and our focus on enhancing the CTA, we looked at the shopping feature on Instagram, which allows you to have multiple tap points within one specific image. This seemed like an approach that people could relate to and one that would provide a unique experience in the inbox. In general, though, email has its own box of tools. It’s the endless combination of them that allows us to explore the possibilities.
Neiman Marcus worked with Cheetah Digital to try out a new kind of interactive email feature for its mobile users. Inspired by recent mobile UX, the call-to-action (CTA) button was revitalized with an animated CTA overlay named Cheetah Tap. As the user begins to scroll, the animated CTAP buttons added to a number of products within the email prompt customers to take action.
The scrolling feature feels like existing apps, like Instagram, that a mobile audience already uses. The new button exceeded expectations and, most importantly, generated more clicks.
In general, how have retail emails changed in the past 3-5 years?
We’re seeing more and more brands take a mobile-first approach to how they execute their emails, focusing for the most part on the user experience for mobile devices and then backing into the desktop environment. They’re also considering how they optimize their campaigns for mobile.
As we use certain responsive and mobile-friendly elements together in our approach, we’re finding plenty of hybrid options that essentially adjust or resize the content and imagery accordingly based on the size of the screen. The one drawback with a responsive approach is that so many emails can fall prey to template fatigue, where layouts and/or campaigns all start to look very similar. The real challenge is finding the right balance between design and code while keeping campaigns fresh and exciting. Thankfully, mobile has also opened up alternative solutions that allow us to insert new techniques specifically around interactive.
What current trends in email design (or really anything email related) are you most excited about?
Our creative team is constantly trying to push the limits of email, and interactive has been one area over the last few years that we’ve explored extensively. Our process looks at all of the different components of an email; structurally, as it pertains to design and content, and any key metric components, like buttons or other CTAs. We’re also keeping a close eye on AMP for Email, which will only amplify the opportunities around interactive for other inbox environments. While it’s still too early to tell what kind of impact that could have, we’re curious to see how far we can stretch it. It seems like every few months we’re greeted with some new feature or change – in design or code or both – that we have to adapt to, but that’s a large part of what keeps email exciting. Dark mode is an example of this, and we’re watching adoption rates.
Curious how our Creative Services team can enhance your emails?
Brittany Luebke is a Content Marketing Strategist at Cheetah Digital. You can find her writing through our corporate social media channels, so follow Cheetah Digital on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. She has worked with email marketing programs since 2007, and her work has won awards from dotComm, Hermes Creative, and MarCom, as well as recognition from Really Good Emails.