Email has long been the cornerstone of most marketing strategies and, rightfully so, as many marketers believe it is their most effective channel for revenue generation.
Despite the ongoing prioritization of email as a core marketing strategy, the way in which emails are created is long overdue for an overhaul and modernization. It is still a very manual, laborious process which takes too long, is overly complex, and requires significant human resources whose specializations often result in siloed working. Most email marketing teams spend the majority of their time on the execution of work instead of strategy. If we intend to move toward marketing agility, with the ability to respond to trends quickly, as creatives we must figure out ways to produce email with greater speed and efficiency.
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The traditional email creation process typically involves several distinct stages in which a variety of disjointed tools are used among various specialists. This makes collaboration challenging and can lead to significant delays in production timelines.
The request for email creation is commonly initiated by a creative brief supplied by marketers. That brief then goes to a design team who typically uses creative tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch or Figma to create mockups of the email. Simultaneously, copywriters draft content in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Once design and content are complete, developers code the email using an HTML editor like Dreamweaver, then perform quality assurance (QA) using rendering tools such as Email on Acid to see how the final email will display across a variety of display types. Review and approval often come last in this process, so any required changes may delay the final email by weeks depending on the number of stakeholders involved.
Despite the desire of creative operations teams to adopt a more agile approach to content creation and deployment, this process is rooted in linear, waterfall rigidity. And, unfortunately, the speed demanded by consumers these days is not achievable by simply throwing additional resources into this cumbersome workflow. A new way of leveraging technology to enable a fundamental change to the existing process is required.
The QA portion, in particular, of the “Design to Code” workflow presents a major bottleneck to the overall process and it’s understandable why. Every email which is custom-created by developers must be render-tested to see if it will work properly across all major email clients. This QA has historically occurred following the coding by the developer. If QA fails, the email must go back to the developer for scrubbing and the process is repeated until no errors are found.
What if QA could occur before the developer gets involved? What if we removed the need for coding altogether?
Modern technologies are doing just that. Tools which fall into the category of Email Creation Platforms (ECP) provide a module or “block creation” approach to the email creation process. Like building a new structure using a set of Lego pieces designed to fit together, a designer simply uses these blocks to customize the email with the creative liberty they are approved for and nothing more (brand guidelines can be enforced in the permissions structure of the blocks themselves). To ensure deliverability, these building blocks are continuously QA’d by the technology platform itself for compatibility using the same email rendering utilities which would be used on the backend against custom email creation. The only difference is that we have inverted the phase in which QA occurs.
By modifying the schedule of render tests away from the end (during email finalization) and bringing them into the phase of initial module/block production, QA and code generation occurs more rarely. This results in an average QA review once every 6 months instead of every time an email is assembled (multiple times per week).
On top of the efficiency gained in adjusting rendering tests, an Email Creation Platform can auto-generate the code required to be delivered into your Email Service Provider or Marketing Automation Platform, so manual coding is eliminated and emails can be created without the need for expensive developer resources.
With a modular design approach to email production through an Email Creation Platform, developers can address higher value needs for the organization. Instead of coding emails, developer resources can and should be applied to your business’ marketing automation. Visual sections such as text blocks and the company header and footer, can be standardized within the template, so designers can focus on the highly creative portions of the email. And ultimately, marketers can focus on the overall strategy of the email (segmentation, targeting, deliverability) and performance and insights from the email campaign, instead of managing the administration of its execution. How’s that for operational efficiency!
Cella’s consulting practice has tremendous experience managing the rollout and adoption of new technology platforms to optimize creative operations across the Martech landscape. If you’re interested in learning how your brand can benefit from new tech such as an Email Creation Platform, don’t hesitate to get in touch!