5 Ways to Boost Email Conversions Through Context

By Leslie LeCroy in Creative on November 9th, 2015

We’ve all been told content is king. But when it comes to making that content convert, really, it’s the context that rules. According to “One Plus One Equals Three” author Dave Trott, marketers should research and plan conversion strategies around context: “What is the context we are speaking into? What is the context we want to create?”

Contextual email marketing
That’s because you can sway someone’s preference with the context, or the setting, of your content.  Essentially, Trott is saying “Control the context and you control the choice.” This is even more important in email design, where you have limited time and space to focus your viewer’s attention. So how, exactly, do you control the context so that your email influences the kind of choice you want your viewer to make?  Try these tips:

Use one call-to-action

Your email has one job: to get to the click. Don’t get sidetracked with multiple CTAs. Extra links will just distract the viewer. Make sure your main CTA is centered and distinguishable from the body copy and the other visuals on the page. If you must include an additional CTA, make sure there’s a separate, and perhaps more muted, visual treatment from the main CTA.


Trim your content down to the essentials. And then trim it again. For email design, this boils down to a single hero image, large headline, copy and a CTA, all separated by white space. Designs like this can be scaled for multiple screen sizes—which means your email will be optimally received on desktop, web and mobile clients. By using these elements, you can control where the view looks and how, when and why they click.

Conversion-driven copy 

Eight out of 10 people read headlines. Only two out of 10 read the rest.
A writer could spend several hours developing copy, while a designer crafts a beautiful layout with supporting imagery—including an incredible offer. But none of it will matter if the headline doesn’t grab the viewer’s attention and the copy doesn’t lead them quickly and easily to the action you want them to take. So take the time to write a compelling headline that captures the benefit and provides the right context for the offer.  

Now that you have the viewer’s attention, don’t lose them with endless lines of text. Reduce your message to a few meaningful lines of copy. Leave them wanting more by including a link to “continue reading”, “see more”, etc. (Pro-tip: use your context to optimize the link copy so that it truly piques the reader’s interest with something useful, relevant or beneficial to come—the promise of a reward for their click.)

Be sure to use white space and an easy-to-read font to allow the text to breathe. This makes the email look easier to read, which (crazily enough) increases the likelihood of it actually being read.


Only the most creative emails with standout design and compelling content will be remembered. Incorporating animation into your emails is one way to get noticed. To do this, you can include an animated GIF or a cinemagraph.

In email design, animated GIFs are the best alternative for video. Outlook ’07-13 and Windows Phone 7 are the only email clients that don’t support GIFs; they only show the first frame. But as long as you include the most important information first, your message won’t be lost.

Cinemagraphs, or living photos, are the newer, classier version of GIFs, combining a static image with an animated element. They’re more difficult to make than video, more unique than pictures and are guaranteed to stand out.

Emotional Response

This is perhaps the most important and subjective kind of context in email design. The emotional response can make your audience care about your emails and value them above your competition. So ask yourself: what is it that you want your viewer to feel and what do you want them to do about it?

The desired response could be trust, joy or anticipation. Exciting imagery, valuable content, trigger words and a great offer all work together to cultivate these emotions and create the right context, or mindset, you want to invoke in your viewer. The right visuals and copy can create whatever kind of context you’re looking for: summer freedom, winter warmth, jubilance, anxiety, tech-savvy, pride, etc., putting them in the right frame of mind to make the choice that you’ve set up all along.


In 2015, email, as a direct marketing medium, is a very saturated space. The average consumer receives more than 400 messages a month. For marketers, this is an opportunity to engage a fatigued audience. By applying our conversion strategies around context with a strong headline, clear copy, captivating design and an action-oriented CTA, you the advertiser, control the click.

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