Adam T. Sutton

Email Marketing: Dynamic images get 5 opens per reader on a single email

August 9th, 2011

Email marketers, start your engines! The MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Awards contest is now under way. Enter today for your chance to win this year’s grand prize – a paid trip for two to Email Summit 2012 in Las Vegas. The contest is sponsored by Responsys, and entry is free-of-charge.

I recently received a stark reminder of the types of emails we look for in our “Best Email Innovation” category. Anna Yeaman, Creative Director at Style Campaign, described to me a technology her team developed that can dynamically update an email’s images at the time of opening.

For example, Style Campaign tested this system last year by sending a holiday email to its subscribers. The email gradually revealed a fun holiday image over the course of the day. Subscribers could see a little more of the image each time they checked the email, even if they had previously checked a few seconds earlier. The campaign featured a new image each day for five days.

“This was the first deployment of our dynamic imaging technology. We really wanted to test the whole proof-of-concept and see if we could get users to re-open the same email again and again over a period of time,” Yeaman says.Style Campaign Dynamic Image Mobile Email

The test proved successful. Stats include:

    • Average opens per user: 5.36


    • Most opens per user: 278


    • On day two, Christmas Day, the email received 43% of the total opens it received on day one. This is compared to the 11% average open rate the team usually sees for its emails on the second day.


  • 40% clickthrough rate (compared to the team’s usual 35%). This is despite the goal being to increase opens-per-subscriber, and the email’s buttons being de-emphasized at the end of the message.

“You have to remember that [the email] is going to be buried in a stack of emails in your inbox, so you have to actively go back and hunt for it probably. The fact that people were willing to do this was really exciting,” Yeaman says.

Mobile email design and timing

Yeaman’s team overcame some particularly interesting challenges during this campaign.

First, there was the issue of timing. A person who read an email in London would have a different countdown than a person in Los Angeles, and therefore would have to see more of the email’s image. To overcome this, the system detected the recipient’s IP address to determine location and set the timer.

Also, about 20% of Style Campaign’s subscribers view the agency’s emails on a handheld device, the large majority of which are iPhones. Yeaman’s team designed the campaign to accommodate this growing audience, which proved challenging at times.

“You only have 280 pixels in height available on the first screen of the iPhone, so the biggest design constraint was trying to fit the calendar and the shapes into a 320×280 pixel space. You can imagine how tiny that is. As a designer, that was my biggest frustration,” Yeaman says.

These emails are fun, and sure, they have good stats for opens. But does dynamic imaging have a practical application for email marketers? Yes, Yeaman says. She suggests the idea of designing promotional emails to create a heightened sense of urgency.

“For instance, you could put a clock or a stopwatch in an email and have it be accurate. So if you had a two-hour flash sale, then you could have a countdown to the end of the sale and have it dynamically generated whenever the user opens the email.”

Related resources

MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Awards – check out the prizes and entry form

Email Marketing Awards 2011 Special Report – direct link to last year’s PDF


Email Deliverability Tested: How “FREE” produced a 6.7% higher clickthrough rate

Email Marketing: How to capture high-quality subscribers and avoid an inactive list

Style Campaign

Adam T. Sutton

About Adam T. Sutton

Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa
Adam generates content for MarketingSherpa's Email and Inbound Marketing newsletters. His years of experience in interviewing marketers and conveying their insights has spanned topics such as search marketing, social media marketing, ecommerce, email and more. Adam previously powered the content behind MarketingSherpa's Search and Consumer-marketing newsletters and carries that experience into his new role. Today, in addition to writing articles, he contributes content to the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa blogs, as well as MECLABS webinars, workshops and summits.

Prior to joining MarketingSherpa, Adam was the Managing Editor at the Mequoda group. There he created content and promotions for the company's daily email newsletter and managed its schedule.

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