Articles, Email Content, Email Design, Email Marketing

How to Design Winning Email Templates for your Most Important Emails

What actually makes up a “winning” email template? From welcome emails to abandoned cart emails, we’re here to break down the content and design elements that you should include in your templates to improve overall performance.

While there are many different types of emails and marketing goals, there are a few design best practices that you can apply across all of your templates. We recommend reading up on these below before jumping straight into template design ideas.

Email template design best practices

  • Lead with personalisation. Use your wildcards to address the contact by name and conditional content to personalise the image and text blocks.
  • Keep the layout and structure simple so you don’t overwhelm your readers.
  • Highlight your CTAs so that they are easy to read and engage with. For more, read our 7 tips for crafting an email call to action that works.
  • Separate information with colour blocking. This will help create a visual hierarchy and keep readers eyes moving down the email. 
  • Ensure it’s responsive and mobile friendly, as 61.9% of email opens now occur on mobile.
  • Choose your images carefully, ensuring they are optimised for different email providers and devices.

Want to learn the ins and outs of email design? Read our blog: Everything You Need to Know About Email Design (With Examples).

Ideas & tips for designing winning templates


Your newsletters act as a regular touchpoint with your subscribers. They work at keeping your brand front of mind through delivering valuable content like sharing industry news, how-to guides, and promotions. If done right, they can become something your subscribers look forward to receiving in their inbox

Rather than using your newsletter as a dumping ground for all of your pre-published content (like blogs), use it to hone in on one topic and deliver insightful, useful content to your audience. 

COntent tips:

  • If you want to share educational content, think: guides, tutorials, video how-to’s, and feature articles. Userback’s newsletter below shares a great selection of educational content, with webinars, articles, and useful new features.
  • If you’re including some promotional content, like a competition, giveaway, or upcoming sale. Try to keep it to a minimum (aim for 90% educational, 10% promotional). 
  • If you want to share company updates, think: team announcements, new products or services, or a recap of recent events.
  • Or you can focus on inspirational content, like links to photo galleries, case studies, recipes, or design examples. 

Design tips:

  • Keep it simple, don’t overload with too many text blocks and large images. This will overwhelm readers and make it hard to skim the email. 
  • Clearly indicate the type of content and provide handy links for your audience to read more. The Queensland Government’s newsletter below is a great example of how to do this. 
  • Personalise your content using wildcards and speak directly to your readers. Whether your tone or voice is conversational or professional, make sure it speaks to your audience and brand personality.  
  • Create a visual hierarchy so that readers know where to look and keep their eyes moving down the email. Put your most important information above the fold and then use a consistent visual theme to keep them scrolling. The images overlapping the colour blocks in the Queensland Government’s newsletter do a great job of moving your eyes down the page.

Welcome emails

Welcome emails are a crucial part of your onboarding process, generating 4x more opens and 5x more clicks than regular email campaigns. As you know first impressions are everything, so it’s important to use them to build trust and set expectations around your communications right away.

COntent tips:

  • Lead with essential sign-up information and clearly lay out any next steps subscribers need to make.
  • Be personal. Use wildcards to welcome subscribers by name and customise your messaging and content using conditional content. Think: their closest store using location data, discounts based on interest data, or useful resources depending on the product or service of interest.  
  • Include your USPs, standout features, or brand ethos to help create a strong brand impression and build trust. Our newsletter template below has a simple and engaging section to share “Our Best Features” and lets readers find out more about them.

Design tips:

  • Create a strong brand identity in your template to help with brand recall. Include your logo at the top, focus on a few, simple brand colours throughout, and include ways for people to interact with your brand on different platforms, like including social media icons and links to your website. 
  • Structure the email using an information hierarchy, opening with the most important details and CTAs above the fold. Then follow with value-add content, like Upskill have done in the welcome email below.
  • Include eye-catching visuals to set the tone. It could be an illustration to demonstrate your set-up steps or a fun GIF to communicate your brand personality. Just make sure all your images are optimised for email. 

Promotional emails

If you want to promote your products, services, events, or anything in between, email remains one of the most effective marketing tools for businesses large and small. In fact, email generates $36 for every $1 spent, which is an impressive 3,600% ROI.

While email is a great sales tool, it shouldn’t be overly pushy. Keep your promotional emails light, eye-catching, and focus on the benefits for subscribers. And for best results, segment your campaigns to deliver the most appealing promotions to the right audience. Marketers who use segmented campaigns see as much as a 760% increase in revenue.

Content tips:

  • Make the most of seasonal offers and timing, like Christmas, Mother’s Day, or Valentines Day. Using scarcity marketing, like time-sensitive offers and limited time deals, is a great way to increase engagement and conversions. Take Dior’s promotional email below: they reference the familiar “countdown” to Christmas and use Christmas-themed imagery and wording to reinforce the importance of the upcoming holiday.
  • Focus on just one promotion, don’t overwhelm readers. It could be a limited-time offer, or a customer-exclusive deal, seasonal or holiday promotions, a new product, contests or giveaways.
  • Personalise your content, including personalised text, content blocks, and images. You can use wildcards and conditional content to deliver the most relevant content to your audience, increasing your chances of engaging and converting them. 

Design tips:

  • Choosing the right images is essential for creating promotional email templates that convert. Use high quality, eye-catching visuals to entice readers, and ensure that they are optimised for deliverability. By testing your email templates across devices and email providers, you can help avoid broken images. You can also use Nifty images to add personalised images and dynamic visual content to your promotional messages.
  • Make sure your CTAs stand out. Use contrasting colours and large fonts to ensure your readers know what to do and where to click, and can easily take a conversion action.
  • Keep your design simple, with one promotional focus and uncluttered layout. This will ensure your offer stands out, readers immediately know the context of your email, and the steps they need to take are clear. Take PPQ’s email for example: they have one clear message, engaging visuals, and a simple layout with a large button CTA to direct readers.

Order confirmations

Once someone has purchased from you, they expect timely and clear communication about their order. The first step in this process is the order confirmation email. While you should keep these short and sweet with essential order details, you can also include a bit of value-add content to help build customer loyalty.

Once you have created your order confirmation templates, the next thing to do is add them to your ecommerce automations. By automating your order communications, you’ll ensure that people get the right email at the right time.

Content tips:

  • There are a few essential elements to an order confirmation template. The most important one is the order information. Start your templates with images and text that address your customer personally and share important order information. 
  • Share your contact information so that customers can ask questions or follow up on their order. By providing customer support information, you are showing them that you care about their order experience. A great example of this is in Postable’s email below. 
  • Include value-add content to increase brand loyalty. Think: account set-up resources, guides for using or caring for products, incentives for their next order, or free gated content. 
Source: Really Good Emails

Design tips:

  • Keep your design super simple. This is not a promotional email or a newsletter. Customers will value a minimal and clean design so that they can access their order details quickly and easily. 
  • Make your branding stand out, with the company logo at the top of the email and on-brand colours and imagery that is consistent with your website or online store. This will ensure your email is instantly recognisable to customers. 
  • Use rows and columns to display order information. This layout is easy to identify and avoids confusing customers. The breakdown that Crate And Barrel have included in their email is a great example for how to display order information clearly and concisely. 
Source: Really Good Emails

Abandoned cart emails

Abandoned cart emails are one of the most effective ways of recovering lost sales, but rather than sticking to a generic template, there are a few things that you can add that will make your communications more successful and generate more revenue.

COntent tips:

  • Include images of the cart items to remind customers of what they’re missing out on. There are many reasons why people abandon carts, and sometimes a simple jogging of their memory can bring them back to complete their purchase. 
  • Incentivise the purchase with things like free shipping offers, discounts, free gifts, or loyalty and reward points. Incentives can be a big deciding factor, particularly free shipping offers, which are proven to be the most effective in convincing people to buy from an online store. Society 6 use a 30% discount to incentivise the purchase, as well as using scarcity to prompt customers to complete their order within in the next 48 hours.
  • You can also include additional items to promote more of your product range and increase order values at checkout. Adding recommended products or popular items is a great way to retarget customers with highly relevant, personalised content, and add value to your communications.
Source: Really Good Emails

Design tips:

  • Always lead with your incentives. If you’re going to offer customers a discount or free shipping, you need to include this at the beginning where it is sure to grab their attention. Use large fonts and contrasting colours to make it eye-catching, and include your incentive in your subject line to improve open rates. 
  • Highlight your CTAs in a similar way: large buttons, bright, contrasting colours, and sizable fonts. This is the best way to ensure your readers won’t miss them and take direct action to complete their order. 
  • Enticing images are an effective way to grab and keep readers attention, as well as communicating the value of your products and brand. Take MOSCHINO’s email for example; they use a high quality, on-brand image at the top of their email to engage readers immediately. Using their brand’s recognisable aesthetic not only reminds customers of their products of interest, but also the appeal of the brand itself. 
Source: Really Good Emails

Now that you know how to design winning email templates, you can easily create your own on Vision6 by using our handy drag-and-drop editor, uploading HTML code, or customising our pre-built templates.

Get started by creating a free Vision6 account today!

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