‘Tis the season for deals and discounts. According to The Wall Street Journal, online shoppers are getting 30% discounts on average this holiday season. And many of those discounts, deals, and offers are delivered by email—email marketing drove a record 25% of orders this past Black Friday. With businesses small and large offering product discounts, free shipping, bonus gifts, and more—and sending a higher volume of emails than usual—great email design is a key differentiator among brands, making or breaking a discount email’s ability to stand out, communicate well, and get conversions on those discounts.
Today, we’ll look at a recent promotion email from BarkBox, provider of subscription-based pet products, breaking down what makes this discount email effective, with must-have tips to incorporate in your own discount email design.
Here’s the email from BarkBox:
Tip #1: Create urgency
The subject line of BarkBox’s email reads “Last Day: Save Big on BarkBox,” and the first thing readers see when they open BarkBox’s email is a message that reinforces that sense of urgency: there are only a few hours left to get the deal.
It’s a call to action that tells readers to act now, and it’s done well. The bright red—used only at the top of the email—makes the message stand out, while the dog illustration on the right balances the immediacy of the text with a playful and approachable component. It’s a busy time of year, inboxes are flooded with emails, and we all procrastinate—shoppers need a reason to act now, and BarkBox delivers that message right off the bat.
Tip #2: Leverage your visual brand to communicate
Visual design carries the story in BarkBox’s email. The first section has a bright, cute photo that shows the product and is true to the BarkBox brand. It incorporates its characteristic font and brand colors, along with an eye-catching animated GIF detail.
The second half of the email contains an on-brand illustration (you’ll see this same style in icons and design elements on its website) that communicates the deal again in a visual, simple way:
Together, the combination of photography, illustration, color, and branded font perfectly reflects the BarkBox brand. Each element exudes playfulness. There’d be no mistaking the sender of this email for any other company. Communicating in a visual manner allows readers to comprehend the discount messaging much more quickly than having to read about it, and the visual storytelling reinforces the BarkBox brand, building trust with readers (they always know what they can expect from the company).
While this approach allows BarkBox to leverage its brand identity to create a beautiful, compelling story in multiple formats—improving reader comprehension of the discount—the drawback is that the entire email is image-based. For users without image-viewing turned on, BarkBox’s cute email could show up like this:
BarkBox makes good use of ALT text—an email design best practice—but the message is still compromised without image-viewing enabled. When making design decisions like this, it’s essential to know your audience and understand the number of recipients in your database who may have these preferences. When in doubt, follow our recommendations for avoiding the pitfalls of image-only emails.
Tip #3: Get to the point. Be clear. Repeat.
Check out the content of this email in plain text:
You only have a few hours left to save big on BarkBox!
Get a free membership to our extra toy club!
Save up to $108!
That’s an additional free premium toy in every BarkBox for new multi-month subscriptions.
Get a free premium toy in every BarkBox in any multi-month subscription.
Save $9 a box – that’s up to $108 a year!
No coupon needed — just click ‘yes’ when prompted for a free extra toy.
Get BarkBox + free extra toy club!
The sentences are short and easy to understand, and they almost all say the same thing, over and over. The word “free” is used 5 times. “Toy” is used 5 times. “BarkBox” is used 4 times, and “save” is used 3 times. Repetition is a common tactic in marketing. Some advertisers believe a consumer needs to see your message at least three times before understanding it; some go by the “Rule of Seven;” others say it takes even more times. Whatever the case, telling the story in simple, clear terms more than once is a smart way to optimize audience retention. It’s impossible to miss the fact that BarkBox is offering a great deal.
Notice there’s no “fine print” in the main body of the email: the text is large and always in an easy-to-read high contrast color (white on a blue or red background; black or blue on a white background). All effective emails should have a single focus and objective, but discount emails are a great opportunity to be more straightforward than ever. The message should be simple: give readers a reason to act (a great deal) and an incentive to do it now. Don’t overcomplicate or distract with multiple calls to action or more information than is needed. The only “extra” information BarkBox provides, to give the reader further instruction is placed at the bottom of the email where it doesn’t detract from the main point:”No coupon needed — just click ‘yes’ when prompted for a free extra toy.”
Tip #4: Tell the story… and then tell it again
To drive home the email’s key message, BarkBox uses a modular structure to clearly define each section and organize their story. Here’s what we mean:
The modules mirror themselves: Sections 1 and 2 are book-ended with the BarkBox logo and intro and closing summary boxes are similarly formatted (each with two lines of bold white text on a brightly colored background). The two main sections tell the same story (Get a free toy with a multi-month subscription and save up to $108) in two formats: first by animated GIF, then by illustration. The format works well on mobile, too, with each section fitting nicely within the screen of an iPhone:
BarkBox uses two visual stories to communicate the deal, driving home the offer to readers. If you didn’t get the message in the first half of the email, you probably got it in the second half. Using repetition to communicate discounts increases subscribers’ likelihood of understanding—and acting upon—an offer.
Wrap up: Best practices for offering discounts in email
There’s plenty we can learn from BarkBox’s promotion email to incorporate when designing our own discount emails.
- Create a sense of urgency. Try placing a deadline-driven message at the top of your email, making it stand out with a bold background color that within your visual brand guide.
- Communicate visually. Visual design elements like product photos and simple line illustrations can be more quickly comprehended than lines of text. Have fun and grab attention with animated GIFs. But when you show your deal in a visual way, avoid sending an image-only email unless you’re confident the vast majority of your audience will see the message.
- Repeat your key message. Tell readers what your discount is in simple, short phrases, then rinse and repeat. Decide what’s most essential and compelling for readers to know, and drive that home. Save the fine print for the landing page, after they’ve clicked on the offer in your email.
- Make the same offer twice. Try a mirrored modular layout like BarkBox’s to present your offer two times in two different ways. Open and close your message with clear calls to action, and don’t waste space with a complicated header.
Are you implementing any new design tactics in your discount emails this holiday season? Let us know in the comments, and try using the BEE editor for free to create mobile-responsive emails that are easy to design with drag-and-drop modules.
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