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The Transformation of Emails: From Simple to Sophisticated

3 min

Remember how we used to communicate to our near and dear ones through email? Before Facebook or WhatsApp, around 20 years ago? Well, emails have indeed come a long way. In the present time, emails are now also used as a sophisticated marketing tool by businesses. That has been the fuel of the transformation of emails.

Let’s step back in time to understand how emails came into being. The very first network mail was sent on ARPANET in 1971. This was the stepping stone in the world of emails. Only after late 1990s, pure text emails started getting replaced by HTML based emails. Eventually, through 1993-1997, email clients like Yahoo! Mail, AOL, Hotmail and Gmail presented themselves.

With the advent of smartphones and tablets, responsive emails became necessary in 2009. Embedded video also gained entry the same year. Responsive emails started getting used extensively by 2011. 2014 became the year of interactive emails as HTML got integrated with CSS. CSS in emails became very popular in 2015 and 2016.

The face of emails has totally changed in today’s era and they are getting more and more sophisticated with each passing day. According to Radicati Group, 205 billion emails were sent and received each day in the year 2015. In the next 48 months, this number is likely to touch 246 billion, which implies an average annual rate of 3% till 2019.

Emails become even more engaging by the perfect use of the following elements.

Pre-header text

It throws more light on what to expect in the email by elaborating on the subject line.

Dynamic content

Personalization is the key to create relevant emails and grab the attention of subscribers. By using dynamic content that can change according to different scenarios, different information can be conveyed as per the individual preferences.

Images, videos and GIF

Visual appeal works better than words. Attractive images, videos and GIF in emails can successfully guide the eye movements of the subscribers and reach out to them with the desired information.


Apple came up with Retina display in iPhone4 and totally changed how images are displayed. Double resolution with improved clarity have become the highlight of today’s emails.

Pixel art

How about using sliced images that resemble giant pixels in lieu of ALT-text? It is a wonderful idea that works the best for email clients that disable images in emails.

See how Pizza Express has totally nailed pixel art with their creativity and created brand recognition for themselves.

Interactive elements like countdown

Countdowns in emails entice the subscribers to take action by highlighting the limited time for the offer and creating urgency in their minds.

What can we look forward to, in the days to come?

Technology is advancing by leaps & bounds. With wearables and smart devices gaining maximum momentum, emails are bound to get integrated into the Internet of Things (IOT). The future of emails lie in advanced segmentation and personalization. Emails shall be sent based on different aspects of a customer persona such as:

  1. How often do subscribers use their products
  2. What kind of content do they download
  3. Which websites do they visit

Hyper personalization shall be according to individual interests, products they like to buy (or have purchased) and their position in the sales funnel, rather than bombarding the same generalized email to everyone on the list.

The attention span of subscribers is just 7 seconds, which is even shorter than a goldfish. Taking this into consideration, emails will grow to become “Mailable Microsites” with integrated forms, accordions and tooltip effects creating a flawless experience for users.

Email design is all set to get totally revolutionized as the customer will be able to shop, make payments and even search for the stuff they like from their inbox itself. Marketing automation with behavioral data will be the key interest areas for email marketers, creating more engaging, relevant and personalized emails.

Wrapping up

Email has been plagued with rumors of its death for years. Instead it has paved so many avenues in the world of marketing.  It will create a deep connection with the customers and prospects by offering a seamless experience to them.

Have a look at this interesting infographic by EmailUplers on Theory of Email Evolution that will surely leave you fascinated.

Where do you see email design moving in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.