October 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Putting a pretty face on e-mail to boost conversion rates

Including a company’s name or brand in an e-mail subject line results in open rates 32-60% higher than in e-mail without such branding, and the average click rates for b2c e-mails with lifestyle photography was 6.3%, compared to 5.4% for e-mails without it, Silverpop found in a new study.

Marketers know that the right product at the right price targeted to the right audience at the right time is the key to success. But a campaign’s creative elements are the icing on the cake, and the truth, as stated in a new study of e-mail creative best practices from Silverpop Systems Inc., is that the right icing can help sell even bland cake.

For marketing e-mail, top creative is a necessary ingredient in the marketing mix, both for merchants selling what’s truly tasty and those looking to maximize an offering that’s less so. The study, “E-mail Creative that Works,” confirms some common beliefs in winnowing out best e-mail marketing practices from an analysis of 610 e-mails, both b2c and b2b, sent by 430 companies to 100 or more recipients.

Among them: including the company name or brand in the subject line resulted in open rates 32% to 60% higher than e-mail messages without such branding. And lifestyle photography, that favorite tool of ad agency creative directors, does pay off in higher e-mail click rates, but only for b2c marketers. The average click rate for b2c e-mails with lifestyle photography was 6.3% and only 5.4% without it, but for b2b e-mails, the click rate for those that included lifestyle photography, 4.1%, was lower than for e-mails that didn’t include it, 5.3%.

The analysis also revealed a few surprises. While the postcard design remains a favorite of b2c e-mail marketers, at 36% representing the largest share of the layouts in the e-mail analyzed, it doesn’t produce the highest click rates for those marketers. That distinction goes to the newsletter format, which produced an average click rate of 7.1% for b2c marketers, versus 6.2% for e-mails using the postcard layout. The study’s conclusion: b2c marketers should take a serious look at newsletter-style copy and layouts.

One more surprise was that while the senders of b2c marketing e-mails including a promotion most often featured a percentage off the purchase price, it’s dollars off that generated higher clicks. “Click rates for e-mails offering a specific dollar amount off were 45% higher than those offering a percent discount,” according to the study. “Apparently shoppers are more interested in receiving $2 off a $10 purchase than in getting a 20% discount.”

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