What can eye tracking tell us about email design?

Jul 20, 2016

Email marketing software provider Campaign Monitor have shared some insights after they teamed up with Look Tracker to conduct eye tracking analysis on some email examples, giving us some useful pointers for when putting our campaigns together.

Eye tracking studies use software and cameras to follow the eye movement of a subscriber as they look at a screen, and in this case, an email, and they can be really useful in helping us understand what captures attention and where we, as email marketers and designers, should place certain elements, such CTAs and text.

We’ve summed up the takeaways below, but the full blog is worth a read so click here to see it.

1. Design emails using an inverted pyramid layout

The eye tracking study shows the effectiveness of an inverted pyramid design which grabs attention and then builds anticipation as you deliver your message leading to a call to action.

The blog has its own example but I checked my inbox and found this example from Pizza Express, sent yesterday, which uses an inverted pyramid layout.

pizza express email example

This email also uses some animation which is a nice touch but use GIFs with caution, they are not supported by all email clients (looking at you Outlook) and make sure you consider the file size – in an increasingly mobile world, large GIFs both cut into subscribers’ data and can be slow to load and play.

2. The value proposition – what’s in it for the subscriber?

Always keep in mind what your subscriber might expect for handing over their contact details to your mailing list. You need to make them feel special and can do this by including a value proposition in your campaigns.

You’ll notice in the Pizza Express example above that this takes the form of a discount which you’ll only get as a subscriber of the email but it doesn’t always have to be a discount, it could be advance notice of a sale, some exclusive content or the opportunity to enter a competition.
3. Use a CTA button

Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are the very obvious buttons you use in your emails to guide your subscribers towards your goal conversion and the eye tracking study shows the call to action button in the email gets the most visual attention.

Go back to the Pizza Express example and you’ll see the CTA button popping out in a different, eye catching colour and this is key because you want it to stand out. Keep it clutter free, make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to see it and use two or three action words to encourage them to click it.

Back to my inbox and here’s another example, this time from Aer Lingus. I would probably have tried to centre the button a little more but it certainly stands out in bright orange.

Aer Lingus email design

4. Test your emails

While the eye tracking study provides some valuable insights the report also stresses the importance of carrying out your own email testing to see what works and what doesn’t with your subscribers and A/B testing is really useful for this.

With A/B testing, you tweak an element of an email, (such as the subject line, CTA button size, CTA copy, layout, colours and more) send it to different groups of subscribers, and see which version email subscribers respond best to. The results of A/B testing can dramatically increase your success rates.