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Retail Email Design Inspiration: Unique Ways to Feature Products

Retail Email Design Inspiration: Unique Ways to Feature Products

Spring fever is heating up our inboxes. With the change of seasons, retailers and ecommerce businesses are shifting gears from winter sales to spring promotions. The email designs we’re seeing for these emails reflects the freshness and newness of the season. We’re inspired by the creativity, color, and clever copy we’re seeing in retail email right now. Check out the best retail email design tips we gathered from messages showcasing products in unique ways.

Focus on one special product

Instead of showing a breadth of new products, zero in on one that’s really special, and go behind the scenes to show what makes it so great. That’s exactly what Sperry did in this message featuring their customer favorite Gold Cup shoe:

sperry-email-1-optzCoupling graphics with up-close product images, Sperry walks readers through what a great shoe they’ve produced, emphasized its quality, comfort, and small customizations that make the shoe a favorite. It’s not enough to tell readers to buy your product; you have to tell them why. This deep-dive look at the design behind this shoe is a smart way to visually show customers exactly why it’s great.

Feature great customer feedback

There’s nothing more persuasive to potential customers than seeing how excited and satisfied existing customers are with your products. Show off great reviews you’ve received to demonstrate how happy your clients are. Bumble & Bumble pulled great customer reviews in this recent email campaign, The Best of the Best, featuring some of their favorite products:

bumble use

Pairint high quality images and those recognizable 5-star ratings, this email proves potently clickable. The technique is a great way to reinvigorate attention toward existing products and take advantage of content that already exists.

Think outside the box with photography

One way to grab readers’ attention is to present your products in a way they haven’t seen before or didn’t expect. Not only is it a fun approach, but it shows readers your dedication to email design that’s both playful and sophisticated. You’re positioning yourself as a brand that pays attention to the details, thinks creatively, and knows how to engage its audience. Here’s a recent email from Moo, where they’ve strung up their new business card line like lightbulbs:


It’s simple and cute, and it grabs our attention because it’s not how we’d expect to shop around for business cards. TOMS, similarly, had fun turning their shoes into hearts this Valentine’s Day:


We wouldn’t normally think of business cards are lights or shoes as hearts, but that’s exactly what makes these emails work. Take the time to plan an eye-catching email campaign with creative photography, and readers will take note!

Show your digital product in action

Maybe your product isn’t one customers can hold in their hands. If that’s the case, you might have to get creative with how you can liven up emails and show readers how your product functions and how it can improve their lives. Animated GIFs—easy to implement in email and powerful for catching reader attention—are a great option for “intangible” products. Noble Desktop, the training school, often includes GIFs in its emails to showcase coding tips in a snappy, visual way, like this one in from recent message:

noble desktop

Here’s the module for context:

noble tip

Lacking time or resources to create a GIF? Simple, high-quality screenshots are a good option, too. Grammarly, the writing enhancement platform, uses multiple shots of its product in action to show readers exactly how it can help:


Headers tell readers each featured benefit, followed by screenshots that tell the rest of the story. The story is well-told with a balance of text and images, and with a quick scan we get an understanding of how the free extension functions.

Engage readers with a clever CTA

BirchBox, the makeup subscription service, wants readers to sign up to receive its products. But instead of the expected structure of presenting a product, showing why it’s great, and giving readers a clickable CTA button, Birchbox reframes the whole CTA. The subject line of this recent email reads “Choose Between Two Rifle Paper Co. Boxes,” and the email shows readers how they can choose between two makeup options if they sign up today:


Instead of the option of whether to subscribe or not subscribe, readers are instead focused on which option to choose when they subscribe. It’s a smart customer engagement tactic on Birchbox’s part, and it benefits readers when they have an opportunity to customize their experience.

Create a curated list

Presenting readers with a small selection of hand-picked products can call attention to items in a new way. Inspire customers with a product they might have otherwise skimmed over by showing them how to pair it with other products or by calling attention to it in a special email. It’s an especially useful approach in the fashion industry, where retailers seek to inspire customers with how, where, and with what to wear their clothing. Anthropologie, for instance, sent a recent email with the subject “New uniform: kimono, kimono, kimono” and focused on—you guessed it—inspiring readers with ways to wear kimonos.


Instead of featuring different ways to wear a single item, Ann Taylor chose five special items to feature in an “essential pieces” email:

ann tay

Showing readers a shortlist of items inspires and creates focus. It’s a dynamic approach that retailers can recycle in multiple ways in spring campaigns.

Optimize for mobile screens

The weather’s warming and we’re all coming out of our winter shells—which means we’re on the move! It’s so important that spring email campaigns are optimized for mobile devices where we’re most likely to see them.

While the featured emails we reviewed above are beautiful, the image-only approach isn’t an email best practice. A great alternative is to break up your email into modules and use HTML background colors with stunning photography to build a responsive email that looks stellar on all devices.

We spotted Lord & Taylor showcasing a new coat in an email module like this:

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 4.25.30 PM

It’s a perfect way to show a high-quality image of a product while breaking up the email with responsive-friendly design. The column on the right is easy to make with email-safe fonts, an HTML background color, and a well-styled bulletproof CTA button. Check out our tutorial, How to use HTML colors alongside images, to recreate the look.

Wrap up: Retail email design tips for spring

Spring is a time for fresh starts—and for having fun. Get inspired with these creative ways to showcase your products, and let us know how it goes in the comments!

  • Choose one product and feature it. Go deeper to tell a story, add infographics, and show readers why it’s worth the buy.
  • Need content? Use customer reviews. Show readers your 5-star ratings and give them a reason to experience your product’s benefits along with their peers.
  • Photograph your product in unexpected ways. Catch readers off guard and get them talking—and shopping!—with playful product photo ops.
  • Visualize digital products, too. If your product lives on a screen, you can still show it off with screenshots and animated GIFs. Whenever possible, show, don’t tell.
  • Change up your CTA. Engage readers with a call-t0-action that’s unexpected, interesting, and beneficial to them.
  • Curate must-have items. Too many choices might lead readers to click on nothing. Instead, offer a small list, and get customers thinking about your products in new ways.
  • Use responsive design best practices. It’s a must! Make this spring the time you go fully mobile optimized!
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BEE Team