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With MailChimp’s free marketing automation tools, you can create targeted emails that send when triggered by a specific date, event, or activity. It’s a great way to take some manual tasks off your plate while keeping your customers engaged.

But how do you make your automated messages feel personal and relevant?

By making intentional design decisions and crafting your messages—including your store’s order notifications—with care, you can use automation to build your brand and establish credibility with your audience. Here’s some advice to help you get started.

1. Match the look and feel of your brand

MailChimp’s campaign builder makes it easy to customize your layout and design, so your audience will always know the email is coming from you. Include your logo, name, or other familiar imagery in a prominent location—like the header of your email—to foster brand recognition.

Select a color palette and font similar to the ones you use on your website. Add relevant images to showcase new store arrivals or give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your business.

And, if you’ve connected your store, you can even include personalized product recommendations to suggest items your customers will love.

2. Make your campaigns accessible for everyone

According to the World Health Organization, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, and that number is growing.

It’s important to make design choices that allow people with disabilities to access, perceive, and interact with all your content. A beautiful email that isn’t accessible can negatively impact your business and potentially alienate a portion of your audience.

For example, when choosing font sizes, try implementing the “arm’s length” rule for mobile. Send a test of your email to a mobile device, then hold it at arm’s length to see if the content is still readable. If it isn’t, consider increasing the font size and weight.

Designing with all users in mind can be difficult, but we’ve compiled a list of best practices that can help make it easier. There are also tools and resources, like WebAIM, that help show you how your email will be received by people with different disabilities. They have simulators for screen readers, low visibility, dyslexia, and distractibility. Their contrast checker helps you test the readability of your text, links, and buttons on different background colors.

It’s important to make design choices that allow people with disabilities to access, perceive, and interact with all your content. A beautiful email that isn't accessible can negatively impact your business and potentially alienate a portion of your audience.

3. Consider the structure of your email

The way words are organized on a page is just as important as the words themselves. Does the layout you’re using make sense for the type of information you’re presenting? How will things look on a phone? Is the email scannable? These are all critical components to consider when building your email.

One-column layouts typically work best for short, simple messages, while multi-column layouts are good for heavier text and image content. And if your email has long sections of text, consider using headers to organize related content and make your email more readable.

4. Have fun with your design

Once you’ve made sure your email’s design is on-brand and functional, you might decide to add some more visual elements to liven up your content.

MailChimp’s campaign builder includes a number of web fonts, and while email client support for web fonts is limited, learning how to pair them can have a positive impact on your email design.

If you’d like to add high-quality images to your emails but don’t have the resources (or budget) to buy expensive equipment or hire a photographer, consider stock photos. Some sites, like unsplash.com, even have free assets that you can modify and use in your email.

Need more inspiration? Websites like Pinterest and Really Good Emails can give you valuable insight into current trends and help you overcome designer’s block.

5. Humanize your messaging

Thinking of your brand as a person can help you create content that feels natural. After all, nobody wants to read an email that’s clearly been automated and sounds like it’s been written by a robot.

Including personalization (with merge tags, for example) is a nice way to shake off some of that automated feel, but be sure that you have a default state set up for subscribers who haven’t given you their personal info. A busted FNAME merge tag isn’t a great way to start off a relationship.

6. Set up subscribers for success

Be sure to include all relevant information in your emails. If you’re sending an order update, for example, make sure you provide customers with all the details they might need to reach out about issues or concerns. Or, if you’re requesting information from your subscribers, make sure your email’s from name is easily recognizable and your reply-to address is set to an inbox that’s actually monitored.

7. Schedule time for routine maintenance

Your automated emails will run as long as their conditions are met, so it’s a good idea to set aside some time to perform a review of them every once in awhile. This will help ensure that your sending triggers are still relevant and allows you to make changes to any content that may need a quick update.

A real-world example

Let’s take a look at the automated welcome message that The Peach Truck sends to new subscribers.

screenshot of Peach Truck's welcome email

What makes it a successful email:

  • There’s a nice big logo at the top.
  • The full-width feature image is compelling and mobile-friendly.
  • Its look and feel matches their brand.
  • Content is short, relevant, and organized in a way that makes sense.
  • The tone is natural and friendly.

The Peach Truck could take their welcome email to the next level with a larger body font for readability, but overall, they’ve struck a balance between a professional, clean design and a message that sounds conversational and human.

Design and content are big parts of your automation strategy, but it’s also important to pay attention to how people are interacting with your emails. If you’re seeing a drop in engagement between emails in a series, you may want to re-evaluate your messaging and optimize your send triggers. The suggestions above are just that—at the end of the day, your automations will be most successful if they grow and change with your business. Don’t be afraid to experiment!