Optimize Your Emails for Preview Panes

Could you engage over half your subscribers better with a simple design adjustment?

If you send business-to-consumer (B2C) emails, about 53% of your subscribers first see your emails in a preview pane 1. If you send business-to-business (B2B), the number is even higher (around 80%).

The preview pane is part of the inbox in some email clients. It lets users peek at part of their emails to decide whether or not to open them.

If those few inches of space don’t entice previewers to open, they’ll simply ignore or delete your message. Don’t let that happen. Get the corner on the preview pane market with these easy design changes.

What to Include

Some preview panes show a horizontal strip of your email, while others display vertically. To accommodate both kinds, fill the top of your message with items that snap previewers to attention.

(As an added bonus, your email will be more mobile-friendly as well.)

Make sure to include:

  • Your logo, company name or other indication of your brand. This is especially important if your subject line and from line aren’t strongly recognizable. Subscribers are far more likely to open emails from senders they know and trust.
  • Compelling copy. Hook subscribers with a strong offer or interesting tease near the top – don’t let them slip by unnoticed!
  • A table of contents, if you have enough content. Any one of your article titles could grab readers from the preview pane, so make them all available.
  • The call to action. Some viewers may feel they don’t have time to read your email, but your call may be to an action they like. Providing it in the preview pane lets them take action immediately.

Preview Pane good practice

Fitting all this in the top of your email can be tough, depending on your design. Avoid unsightly cramming with this trick: a side column lets two items exist in harmony near the top.

What to Avoid

When filling the top with sticky content, you may need to make room by removing less compelling items. Make sure these common culprits aren’t hijacking precious preview-friendly real estate:

  • Large images or headers. These drain the efficiency of your design. If images are turned off, they’ll appear as blank space. If they take too long to load, readers may just move on. If they show up, but don’t create the desire to find out more, they’ll waste space where you could put more compelling content.
  • Too many navigation links. These can be very helpful by providing many opportunities to click back to your site and letting you track which options are most popular. But they can get in the way of more compelling items. Consider shrinking them, reducing how many you use, or listing them across the bottom of your message instead.
  • Ads. Place them elsewhere, unless you want your previewers to click through to your advertisers’ sites instead of your own.

Preview Pane bad practice

You may be thinking, “This is really going to change our design. Is it worth it?” As always, changes are important to test.

Think about which of these changes might be most effective in your own campaign, then split test your broadcast to monitor the results.

Do You Accommodate Preview Panes?

Do you use any of the techniques above? What kind of results are you seeing?

Do you have a favorite technique for appealing to the preview-pane market? If you do, please share your ideas below!

*according to Marketing Sherpa’s Best Practices in Email Marketing handbook.