Email samples

Grabbing Attention in 3 Seconds or Less

Alyson Salva Blog, Content and Creative

What is your email saying in 3 seconds?

The answer is more important that you might guess. According to eMarketer’s Email Benchmarks 2014 report, around 40% of marketing emails are read in fewer than 3 seconds. That leaves marketers very slim on time to catch attention and encourage engagement.

eMarketer also reported that “…mobile devices often serve as email-vetting tools, enabling consumers to quickly read and determine the value of an email upon its arrival.” With that in mind, it’s easy to understand the process in which users are quickly scanning and sorting their inboxes to find the most personally relevant content. What does it take to avoid the trash? An exploration of marketing emails shared across the web reveals a few key trends.

Catchy headlines
Headlines appear front and center in many of today’s most noted messages. “Take a Creative Leap” and “Wash Me Over” each help set the tone for their respective emails without being exceptionally forward. Both create curiosity which, for the right user, is sure to carry you through the 3-second mark.

Creative Leap sample

Wash Me Over sample

Other marketers choose to highlight promotions — for example, “20% off Tabletop” and “30%” use headlines to dominate the visual space while making the message clear. With undeniable awareness of the message content, users are more likely to continue through the message, increasing read time.

30% typeTabletop promo
Focused visuals
Design, at times, can be less about your image and more about where your image leads the user to look. The latter is especially appropriate thinking when designing for email — and noting strategic efforts to guide the user through a message makes the point overwhelmingly clear.

Take a look at the “Top Rated” message by Sephora. The curved lines created by the products guide the user through a visual library. While weaving through the options, it becomes very natural for the user to read the accompanying text blocks — then, before you know it, you’ve read the entire email. Bet it takes more than three seconds.

Top Rated sample

You can see a similar effect in the “Shoe and Boot Shop” message. The shoes, while highly relevant, guide the user’s focus to the text in the center of the message. The clean black on white type gives a clear CTA, and while the email may not need a ton of time to digest, if the user hangs around past those first three seconds, it’s pretty likely to snag a click.

Shoe sample

Products, products, products
Especially prominent in the beauty and fashion industries is the showcase of as many products as seems possible from the top to the bottom of the email. Overhead shots, unique patterns and mostly on-white images put emphasis on the products for sale and let the images do the talking to drive clicks.

Heart sample

Fresh Mint sample
Quirky creative
The alternative spin on such product focus is using the product to emphasize a more creative treatment. Tiffany & Co. does this beautifully with a stack of rings acting as the basket of a hot air balloon, perfectly punctuated by the “love is the in air” headline. “Fresh Picks” uses fruit to play with headline while also bringing to life an awesome paper pattern being subtly sold while serving as the backdrop. Even the “stud” message dots the background in earrings that look like confetti for a fun pattern that is directly relevant to the message.

Love sample

Picks sample

Stud sample

While these aren’t the only ways to hold a user’s attention, they’re certainly among the most popular at the moment. Browse our Pinterest gallery of marketing messages and share your thoughts and ideas on how to capture attention beyond the three-second mark.

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About the Author
Alyson Salva

Alyson Salva

Alyson is the Team Lead for AdStation’s Advertiser Account Management team, based out of Kansas City. She has managed client relationships with some of AdStation’s most strategic email partners for nearly 5 years. When not working, she loves family time, refurbishing old furniture and baking sweets.