How to make an email look great but work from a template – Air NZ


One of my previous post (Who has the best designed emails? Air NZ) focused on why Air New Zealand have the best designed emails, this one looks at the different elements that are reused or templated between the emails (ie the consistencies).

How often are Air NZ sending emails?

This is a really important question when you are using templates. If emails are sent daily (eick), then the email template needs to be very similar with just minor changes being made prior to sends. Unlike the other airlines (particularly Qantas and JetStar), Air NZ doesn’t spam their base (well not me anyway). Below is an overview of the amount of emails they have sent since December 2008 (total of 14 over 6 months – just over two per month). This means that at least Air NZ don’t need to compromise the design for frequency.

Air NZ emails sent

Air NZ emails sent - 15 December 2008 - 7 June 2009

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WHAT ELEMENTS ARE THE SAME?

Air NZ’s emails are divided into four sections:

  1. Header – each individually designed dependent on the offer/email theme (UNIQUE)
  2. Body – follows a similar format across all emails, but designed dependent on the email theme (PART TEMPLATED)
  3. CTA – exactly the same across all emails (TEMPLATED)
  4. Base (email preferences) – exactly the same across all emails (TEMPLATED)

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Body – below are two examples of the email body and the similarities between them. The two examples show an international email (Aussie Airfares) vs a domestic email (Domestic Airfares). This section is divided into two key parts:

  • offer information
  • functional area where the subscriber can start their airfare search within the email.
Air NZ offers template (email body)

Air NZ offers template (email body) - International

Air NZ offers template (email body) - version 2

Air NZ offers template (email body) - Domestic

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CTA – each of Air NZ’s emails have a really strong call to action and it is consistent across all emails. There are four options for the subscriber (see below) giveing them the option to be directed to the different business areas within Air NZ (holidays and airfares), as well as communication channels (web or phone).

Air NZ calls to action (CTA)

Air NZ calls to action (CTA)

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Base (email preferences) – at the bottom of each of the Air NZ emails, your email preferences are displayed. I really like this feature because you can see which email address you have subscibed with (very beneficial if you have multiple addresses) and also can update the email format easily.

Air NZ email options (bottom of email)

Air NZ email options (bottom of email)

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LEARNINGS

  1. Templates don’t need to mean matching luggage – you can make elements of an email the same without it looking boring.
  2. The design of the header (preview panel) is key – this is the most important part of the email and must be different and appealing to get the cut through. This shouldn’t be templated too much. Some elements should be the same (email not visible, safe list, mobile device, navigation), but there is leverage to be creative and push the design.
  3. Consistent CTA is madatory – rather than try and teach your subscriber how to use the email every time, keep some things consistent. Particularly the CTA element.
  4. Highlight email preferences – don’t hide the subscribers preferences, highlight them and show them what else they can be doing. It adds value.

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How many emails is too many? Qantas Frequent Flyer, Air NZ & Apple


After being consumed by work for the last few weeks, I’m spending the weekend cleaning out my Gmail account. I’d forgotten how many marketing related emails I receive on a weekly basis. There are a few corporate emails/newsletters I keep so I can learn more about their communication strategies. There are three that I find really interesting: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Air New Zealand and Apple. Each of them a little different:

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer – I’m on the mailing list because it is a program I’ve been a member of for 8 years and a service that I use about once a month. They have a lot of information on me and my flying habits.
  • Air New Zealand – I’m on the mailing list because I entered a competition about 12 months ago.
  • Apple – I’m on the mailing list because I have a number of their products.

Below is an overview of their email send patterns.

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QANTAS

Qantas Frequent Flyer send on average an email a week, which for a service I only use once a month seems a little excessive. Rather than sending me so many emails, it would be great if Qantas know that I am loyal to their service and only send me emails that are relevant. I’m a Frequent Flyer, a Qantas loyalist and majority of my flights (domestic and international) are with Qantas, they have a lot of information about me, so they can make some simple assumptions and predictions about my travel behaviour. I’m more than willing to give them more information so they can tailor offers or remind me of seasonal travel that are specifically about my travel.

Qantas Frequent Flyer emails - Jan - April 2009

Qantas Frequent Flyer emails - Jan - April 2009

Qantas Frequent Flyer Points emails - Jan - April 2009

Qantas Frequent Flyer Points emails - Jan - April 2009

OBSERVATIONS:

  • Between 1 January – 4 April 2009, Qantas have sent me 16 emails.
  • There are three types of emails: points balance, offers and press releases. Points balance sent out monthly, offers sent out a weekly and press releases sent out occasionally.
  • The lag time between emails is around a week. Only once have there been two emails sent on the same day.
  • Points balances are usually send out mid month, ranging between 16 – 21
  • The subject lines are inconsistent for offer based emails and quite lengthy. Points balance seems to have a formular, as to press releases.
  • Majority of emails are sent in the late afternoon or evening and it’s only been the last 3 sends that have been delivered in the morning.

LEARNINGS:

  • Be relevant: Qantas knows me and my habits, so give me information you think I want. Find out more about me and what I want from Qantas.

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AIR NEW ZEALAND

The competition I entered, and gave my details to Air New Zealand, was for a domestic competition for flights within New Zealand. Majority of the emails sent to me are for domestic travel. It seems that Air New Zealand don’t have any strategy to the email sends and they are all offer based. In January 2009, they sent 3 emails about a week a part. In February 2009, there were only 2 emails sent, spaced evenly throughout the month and in March 2009, there was only one.

Air New Zealand emails - Jan - April 2009

Air New Zealand emails - Jan - April 2009

OBSERVATIONS:

  • Between 1 January – 4 April 2009, Air New Zealand have sent me 6 emails (10 less than Qantas).
  • There are two types of offer emails: domestic offers and international offers. Each email is very focused and only tries to communicate one message.
  • The subject lines are inconsistent, but quite short. Most subject lines include a time based message: 48hrs or 72hrs.
  • Majority of emails are sent outside work hours. I’m not sure if this is because I am Sydney based rather than in NZ.

LEARNINGS:

  • Push me: I’m not a member of Air New Zealand’s frequent flyer program, so why aren’t Air New Zealand giving me free membership, offering me an incentive to join or ask me why I’m not a member.

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APPLE:

I have countless iPods, an iPhone, a laptop, Mac mini and an iMac, however, Apple rarely remeber this in their communications to me. They do a great job in keeping the emails single minded or product focused.

Apple emails - Jan - April 2009

Apple emails - Jan - April 2009

OBSERVATIONS:

  • Between 1 January – 4 April 2009, Apple have sent me 8 emails.
  • There are two types of emails: new product launches and event reminders (Valentine’s Day, starting uni). There is no structure to the email sends, they are sent when ready or relevant.
  • In January 2009, there were 3 emails sent all after mid way through the month. In February 2009, there was only one email sent in the latter part of the month. In March 2009, there were 4 emails sent, fairly evenly split over the month.
  • The subject lines are inconsistent and occasionally lengthy. The new product emails seems to have a formular, either ‘introducing …’ or ‘The new …’.
  • Majority of emails during work time, usually in the early afternoon between 1 – 3pm.

LEARNINGS:

  • Remember me: I’m a customer, a very loyal one with multiple products, so why aren’t you being relevant to me and sending me upgrade messages. Stop pretending not to know who I am.

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OVERALL THOUGHT STARTERS:

Email is such a powerful communications channel and there are so few companies using it for more than just a collection of stories the companies want to push out to consumers. There is little focus on the customer and what they want from the communications. If it is relevant, consumers are more inclined to read and get involved (buy, upgrade, provide info). There is so much potential for companies to show that they truely know their consumers through email, so why isn’t anyone doing it.

What are some thought starters for emails?

  • Know your subscribers: understand why people have signed up to your newsletter. Put some thought into what might be of interest to them and help move them down the purchase funnel based on relevant content.
  • Ask your subscribers questions: subscribers are more than happy to give companies more information if it is going to be used to give them information they want. Before asking questions, think about where the information will be stored (is it in the legacy database or a specific email database), how often you want to refine the database (half yearly, yearly) and what is the optimum number of versions for the newsletter you can afford to create.

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