As retailers move online and brick-and-mortar stores remain closed, the touchpoints available for brands to connect with their customers have been dramatically reduced. For many retailers this means a reliance on other touchpoints, including social media, apps, ads and even old school email marketing.

As a result, consumers are not only seeing brands on social platforms, but they are also receiving emails from retailers such as their local supermarket, pet store, doctor, restaurant, gym and the list goes on. This brings new challenges for retailers and enforces the need to be creative in email communications to cut through the noise.

Visual content is key

Email marketing is one of the most consistent channels for driving sales, even without COVID-19 impacting the way Aussies shop. Research shows that for every $1 spent on email marketing, marketers can expect $42 in return.

Images can improve email marketing by having the simple advantage of visualising large amounts of information more clearly to a brand’s audience. This results in deeper connections between retailers and customers which in turn helps to drive sales and conversions.

A recent study with Shutterstock and Constant Contact found email campaigns that used Shutterstock images had, on average, a 36 per cent increase in click-through rate (CTR) versus the average for all other Constant Contact emails. It also found that email campaigns that used Shutterstock images had an 8 per cent increase in open rates compared to the average Constant Contact email.

Aussie ecommerce giant, The Iconic, uses a mixture of text and visual images in its email campaigns to engage and captivate consumers. The Iconic leverages visual images to show how customers can use and style products as well as keeping them updated on sales, trends and more.

Not only does the use of images help educate customers on what’s in stock, but it also increases repeat purchase and additional sales. Product images that reflect the key features mentioned in a brand’s emails create consistency and credibility. If a feature or benefit is important enough to have text devoted to it in an email, the product image should reinforce this clearly to consumers.

Picture perfect 

We know that images and colour triggers emotions. Colour in particular is used to make people feel a certain way — hungry, happy or sad, it encourages trust, feelings of calmness or energy, and countless other ways.

Retailers should work with images, colour and videos that trigger an emotional response, coupled with email copy to compel the audience to take the desired action.

For example, Aussie luxury bedding and linen retailer, Bed Threads, wanted to evoke feelings of comfort and warmth during its winter campaign. They did so by selecting images that made these adjectives and feelings come to life, making their audience feel a certain connection to the brand itself.

Retailers that use images and colours that coincide with these feelings are able to make quick connections with their audience and often drive sales. Bed Thread’s winter campaign featured a lot of orange tones, which according to colour psychology is used to encourage feelings of warmth, comfort and excitement. This means that when choosing images for email marketing campaigns that retailers need to take care to ensure the visual content used evokes the desired feelings in consumers.

Connecting with your audience 

To drive sales through any marketing campaign, and avoid that dreaded ‘delete’ button, retailers need to remain personable and connect with audiences by telling a clear story.

The most effective images are contextual and relatable, meaning that audiences should be able to see themselves integrating with the product or services. Commonwealth Bank does this effectively by showing visual images of their target audience interacting with a service. For example, a recent campaign focusing on first home buyers, showed Aussie couples in their late 20s to early 30s achieving their dreams of buying their first home — this was thanks to the help of Commonwealth Bank. By using images to tell a story, Commonwealth Bank was able to remain personable, paint a picture and connect with its desired audience.

Retailers that use a mix of visual images to connect with their audience are able to engage on a personal level. Imagery should be considered a key tactic for brands to not only build long term relationships with customers but also cut through Aussies’ full email inboxes.

Garth Williamson is country manager for Australia and New Zealand at Shutterstock