Do you ever wonder what your subscribers look at when they open and read your email? Where do their eyes go? Are they drawn to visuals over text? Eye tracking studies can answer all these questions.

Essentially, eye tracking studies use computer software and cameras to follow the eye movement of a subscriber as they look at an email. Knowing what catches your subscribers’ attention can help take the guesswork out of email design. For instance, eye tracking can dictate things like where to place your call to action, how many images you use, and how you stack content.

So, how can you get your hands on eye tracking data? We’re glad you asked. Campaign Monitor partnered with LookTracker to go beyond basic click data and conduct eye tracking analysis on an email sent by one of our customers. We’ll share the results and give you actionable tips you can easily implement to improve your email marketing campaigns.

Eye tracking study background and results

LookTracker conducted the eye tracking study on an email from Campaign Monitor customer, SXSW, which hosts an annual film, media, and music festival and conference for hundreds of thousands of attendees.

LookTracker had ten people, five women, and five men, open and look at the email on a desktop computer. The results are converted into a heat map so it’s easy to understand.

Here’s a look at the results along with an intensity scale. The areas in yellow and red are where participants focused their attention the most.

Here’s what the eye tracking heat map suggests:

  • The majority of participants focused on the call to action, or CTA, button.
  • The email has an inverted pyramid design, which funnels a subscriber’s eye down the middle of the email.
  • Adding a value proposition to an email can draw attention.
  • If there’s an image of a person in an email, subscribers will follow their gaze. Since the man wearing the virtual headset is looking up at the call to action, a subscriber’s eye line is drawn to that place too.

Lessons you can learn from this eye tracking study

What tips can you learn from this eye tracking study to make your next email campaign more effective? Here are four actionable tips that the study supports:

1. Design emails using an inverted pyramid design

The eye tracking study shows support for the inverted pyramid design, which is a specific way to layout your message that attracts attention, delivers your message and encourages the subscriber to click-through.

Here’s an example of an email from Campaign Monitor customer, FreshBooks, which uses the inverted pyramid.

FreshBooks - pyramid example

Notice the information is displayed in the shape of an inverted pyramid. It starts with an attention-grabbing headline that’s in large text. Under that, you’ll find several sentences that support the headline in smaller text. At the bottom of the pyramid, you’ll find the call to action. Notice the call to action is a button, not just text, and is a different color that makes it stand out.

Here’s a template to follow to create an email using the inverted pyramid design.

Inverted pyramid

2. Write a value proposition

It might sound a little selfish, but when your subscribers open your email, they’re probably thinking, “What’s in it for me?” To answer that question, marketers should create a value proposition, which quickly explains the benefits of your product or service.

You’ll notice in the email from the eye tracking study that the main message refers to a discount to the SXSW conference. It instantly explains the benefit that subscribers get from the email.

Every email should contain a value proposition. Here’s a quick checklist you can use to create a value proposition for your product or service:

·Clear and concise
You need to sum up the value of your product or service in a nice, neat sentence or two.

·Outline the benefits
The value proposition must outline the benefits, or explain the value of a product or service to subscribers.

Use this opportunity to set your brand apart. Explain why your product or service is superior to others, without mentioning any competitors specifically.

3. Use a CTA button

Another valuable piece of an effective email is a call to action. The eye tracking study shows the call to action button in the SXSW email gets the most visual attention. That’s great news for SXSW, which is looking to increase the number of registrants to its conference with a strong CTA.

The takeaway is simple here: use a CTA button. In addition to the eye tracking study, Campaign Monitor statistics show click-through rates are 28% higher when a CTA button is used compared to hyperlinked text.

What makes a button so great? Overall, a button stands out. You can alter the size, shape, color, and design of the button to make it visually appealing. You can include two or three action words that entice the subscriber to act too, known as CTA copy.

Here’s a great example of an email with a CTA button that pops from Birchbox:

Get CTA inspiration from these 75 different CTAs you can leverage.

4. The power of testing emails

The eye tracking study shows that testing emails can provide valuable insight that improves the overall effectiveness of email marketing.

While the eye tracking data provides some great takeaways, think about how much more you could learn if you combine these tips with testing of your own.

Everyone that uses email marketing can – and should – A/B test. A/B testing is a lot like exercising. Everyone knows they should do it on a regular basis, but most find excuses not to.

With A/B testing, you tweak an element of an email, send it to different groups of subscribers, and see which email subscribers respond best to. For instance, if you want to test the size of your call to action button, you’d create two emails. One email has a large CTA, and one has a smaller one. You send the emails to two different groups and keep an eye on your metrics to see which one gets better results.
What should you test? There are a lot of components that you can A/B test, but here’s a quick list of options:

  • Subject lines
  • CTA size
  • CTA copy
  • Email layouts
  • Email templates
  • Messaging
  • Color scheme
  • Visuals
  • Email frequency

The results of A/B testing can dramatically increase your success rates. At Campaign Monitor an A/B test to compare email templates resulted in a 127% increase in click-throughs. So, no more excuses. Test, test, test.

Wrap up

Eye tracking studies can provide a wealth of knowledge that businesses can use to improve their email marketing, but we understand that not everyone has access to this kind of resource. That’s why we teamed up with LookTracker to give you a real-world example that can provide actionable tips that every brand can use.

The next time you sit down to craft an email, run through these four lessons to give your campaign the best possible chance for success.