Looking for some fresh ideas for your email marketing program? You might be in the beginning stages of coming up with a new email nurture or want to learn more about how your subscribers interact with a different email design. After all, when they have a great experience with your emails, it has a positive ripple effect on your overall brand. So, where can you find email design inspiration and examples for new strategy, copy, design, and development ideas?
Let us be your inspiration guide! I—along with the rest of the email team—dug into our bookmarks and found some treasures that have helped us along the way. And I hope they help you, too.
Important questions to ask yourself about your email campaigns
When looking for some email inspiration, you can easily turn into a magpie—be attracted to bright, shiny things! Here are some questions I keep in mind when I’m looking for inspiration for Litmus’ email program:
Will this design work for your brand?
Just because something looks cool or has that wow factor doesn’t mean it will fit your brand. When looking for inspiration, keep your brand guidelines and brand voice top of mind.
Did the email actually produce results?
You just saw a really cool interactive email in your own inbox, and it blew your socks off. But what you don’t know is how it actually performed. Just because you liked it doesn’t mean the senders’ entire audience did, too.
Will it resonate with your target audience?
You know your audience best. Especially if you’re looking for email design ideas outside your immediate industry (and you should!) you’ll want to keep in mind what your audience really cares about and how you can solve their problems. No matter how cool the email design is, you must answer the time-honored question: “What’s in it for me?”
Best sources for email inspiration, ideas, and examples
Now, on to the fun stuff.
Where do you find email inspiration? Everywhere. That’s why I subscribe to all the emails! Your own inbox can be a treasure trove of inspiration. I for one have subscribed to more newsletters than I can think of. Seeing how other brands, businesses, and senders send email always gives me ideas. I’m often left wondering how senders have achieved certain things or what their rationale was behind the timing. And I don’t limit myself to specific industries or senders—I will happily sign up to everything. My personal favorite brands to subscribe to are Todoist, Thinx, and YNAB.
I also use Litmus Scope to capture and save great emails for sharing with colleagues, fellow designers, and email geeks.”
You never know what email could inspire your next great email.
Where to find great brands to subscribe to in the first place? Here are a few places Litmus’ own email team gets their inspiration from:
1. Email Galleries
If you’re not a fan of filling up your inbox with promotional emails, there are a lot of websites out there that collect the most inspiring emails for you without impacting your need to hit inbox zero every day.
Your email copy needs to sing as much as your emails’ design. When I’ve hit a bit of a block, I’ll head to Just Good Copy for a bit of copy inspiration. Simply reading what others are writing in their emails is a great source of inspiration for me.
The go-to coding resource for Carin, our Email and Content Growth Marketing Manager, is Good Email Code. In a nutshell, it’s email code that just works. Great resource if you want to try something new, but unsure if it’ll actually… well… work.
The entire team is a huge fan of Really Good Emails. I’ll head to their website if I’m working on a new initiative or email program, and I don’t know where to start with it. What’s great about their website is everything is already sorted into categories that you can easily search. Need some inspiration about a reactivation program? Boom—it’s there. A newsletter? You got it.
You can even save your favorites into your own collections to reference later (kind of like Pinterest).
Want to see emails from brands—especially in retail—you aren’t subscribed to? Milled can help. You can follow brands, and get updates on ‘what’s new from brands you follow’ in your inbox with collated email examples.
Speaking of design inspiration, here’s another website that’ll get those design juices flowing: Email Love. They have a curated selection of very design-led emails.
Sometimes you need some very industry-specific inspiration. And for a regulated industry like pharmaceuticals, looking at what retailers are doing with their email programs doesn’t really help. Hot tip from Carin: OnceDailyPharma has an entire category devoted to pharmaceutical emails for you to get some inspiration from.
Oh, did you know we have our very own email gallery at Litmus? Think of it like our team’s personal swipe file gone public. Not only can you see some of our greatest hits (like that New Year’s swag drop email y’all can’t stop talking about) but some of our favorite brand emails, too.
2. Analyze competitor campaigns
Legendary Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said it best here: “Know thy enemy.” Yes, I subscribe to all of our competitor emails and the rest of the big players in the email marketing industry, too. You can do this with a burner email address or a personal one so you can avoid detection. (Cue the Pink Panther soundtrack.)
Unlike the retail industry, it’s not like an email promoting an ESP is going to naturally land in my personal inbox. You’ll want to make a list of your top competitors, partners, and major industry players and subscribe to keep an eye on what they’re doing, both for your email designs and so you can better strategize promotional emails, nurture flows, and sales or discounts. Then each week or month, take a look at any trends you notice and report back to the rest of the team.
3. Pinterest boards dedicated to email design
In between unnecessarily detailed kiddie crafts, road trip itineraries, family costume ideas, and DIY decor, you’ll find a lot of great email designs on Pinterest if you know where to look. Our friends at Campaign Monitor have a great selection of their favorite emails, for example:
As well as the folks from other design-focused accounts, like digital marketing agency WebTek:
Most creators on Pinterest add to their boards constantly, so either make yourself a board to pin your own design ideas or add a weekly to-do to search for “email design inspiration” or similar phrases to find emails that pique your curiosity.
4. Dribbble for email mockups
Dribbble has long been a source of inspiration for web, UX, and UI designers. But it’s also a great source of inspiration for email designers, too. Lily has been using it as her design inspiration go-to website, no matter what project she’s working on.
5. Email marketing blogs and newsletters
There are a handful of more email-focused websites that feed my constant need for email inspiration. Whether that’s design, strategy, or things that make me go “hmmm,” these are the newsletters that help keep me on top of my email game:
And well, before I worked at Litmus, the Litmus blog was my go-to for inspiration. And even now that I’m at Litmus, it still is! We’ve got a veritable library packed full of ebooks and reports that I still haven’t fully read. I couldn’t go without also giving Litmus Weekly a shout out here, too. Every week, Litmus’ content team takes turns to share what’s got them buzzed in email marketing—from Litmus and the wider community.
6. Email marketing reports
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fan of creative, exciting email designs. But if you don’t pay attention to the data behind them, you won’t end up with much success for your campaigns. Email marketing reports can help you benchmark your own performance, get ideas for future campaign strategies, and provide context for your management team about what’s going on with email today.
At Litmus, we regularly research and write detailed reports using thousands of data points from our own products and in-depth surveys—like the 2023 State of Email Workflows report, which chronicles email marketing best practices from over 400 marketers and designers.
7. AI-powered email tools
I don’t know about your email marketing program, but we send a LOT of emails here at Litmus. It takes time to conceptualize, write, design, and code each one—to say nothing of our big-ticket campaigns where we push the boundaries of what emails can do.
AI has already proven to be a helpful assistant to some of these efforts, especially when it comes to brainstorming ideas, playing with tone and voice, or suggesting compelling subject lines worth testing. You can bounce ideas off of generative AI tools like ChatGPT or use an AI coding tool like Github Copilot to get a quick mockup of a design idea.
These suggestions are a tad long, but with a little tweaking, you’re 90% of the way toward a list for your next A/B test. While you’re still going to want to have a human shepherd your emails to completion, AI can definitely help you work smarter, not harder.
8. Pre-designed email templates
Scrolling through a library of free email templates is another great way to generate some ideas. Maybe it’s a color scheme you haven’t thought of before. Maybe it’s how the images and text flow together. Maybe it’s the strategic idea for an email, like sending a re-engagement email to subscribers who may need a little nudge. Either way, a pre-designed email template library like ours at Litmus is chock full of battle tested designs that you can drop right into your next email campaign.
9. Effie Awards finalists
The Effie Awards recognize best-in-class marketing both worldwide and regionally across different industries. While they don’t focus specifically on emails, you’ll find the best marketing campaigns of the year in one handy list from brands like McDonald’s, Procter and Gamble, Kia Motors, Aldi, and Wrigley’s Gum.
10. Awwwards for Interactive Email Experience
If the Effies give you a sense of the best global marketing campaigns, Awwwards stays Very Online with awards for every major component of marketing, from influencer photoshoots to email marketing services and more. Poking around their website gives you a sense of what’s hot with web design, email design, social media, and more.
11. Online email communities
This blog post would be incomplete if I didn’t also mention the email community and industry thought leaders who openly share what they’ve learned.
Carin follows fellow #EmailGeeks on X (formerly Twitter):
“My feed is like 75% email geeks. I wasn’t even active on Twitter until a Litmus Live event, and I realized I was missing half the conversation that was happening online under #LitmusLive. Kim Derkx started a list called ‘VeryImportantEmailPeople’ that’s great to follow if you don’t know who to follow yet.”
Then there are communities like the Email Geeks Slack channel and Women of Email (which has an active Facebook group) where you can chat with other folks in email marketing and get or give help to others in the industry. Or you can always pop over to the Litmus community and have a chat as well.
12. Email marketing conferences
Speakers have to audition to get into conferences for a reason! These are some of the biggest names in your industry (or depending on the conference, just in general) and you’ll come away from a good email marketing conference with pages full of notes and your head spinning. I mean, did you see Alice Li at Litmus Live? Goosebumps.
13. Cross-departmental collaboration
Whether you work at a big company or a small one, talking with colleagues outside of marketing is a great way to find inspiration. I find if you ask the right questions, you’ll come away with a ton of ideas for your next content creation cycle:
- Sales: What are the biggest objections from prospects?
- Customer Support: What are the most common questions from customers?
- Management: What keeps you up at night about our business?
- Product/Engineering: What upcoming releases are you most excited about?
- Design: What inspires you?
There are many more questions you could ask, of course. Getting out of your email bubble is a great way to find new ideas or connect two seemingly disparate ones together to build something new.
14. Customer engagement metrics
While it can be fun to see what other designers, email geeks, and even robots come up with for their email designs, there’s no substitute to analyzing your own customer engagement metrics to determine what needs more optimization and what is performing well.
If you struggle with low open rates, for example, even the snazziest email design won’t matter—you need to focus more on your inbox (subject line, from name, BIMI logo) before you can play around with the email body. On the flip side, if you’re not seeing a ton of clicks on your emails, you might want to look at your CTAs and experiment with different button shapes, colors, and copy.
15. Your A/B testing results
Once you identify what elements of your email you want to optimize, it’s time to test! A/B testing is one of the most powerful ways to get feedback on your email designs from your subscribers. Just remember: It takes time to get meaningful results to create good emails.
Proper A/B testing means only changing one or two items at a time—if you change six different pieces of your email, then you’ll never know what tipped the balance—so be patient. At Litmus, we have A/B tests running on nearly every single campaign we send.
16. Direct feedback from customers
An often overlooked tactic from email marketers: Ask your customers what they want to see! The average customer won’t necessarily want to weigh in on font or color, but if you have ideas for types of campaigns or want to take a pulse from your subscribers, ask them. You can do this by inviting email replies, polling social media followers, riding along with your sales team on calls, running surveys, or by creating focus groups of your favorite customer advocates that won’t hold back an opinion.
Now that you’re inspired, what’s next?
Go forth and create, email geeks! A few final notes as you work in new ideas into your email designs:
1. Do some A/B testing
Whenever you’re introducing anything new to your email program, I highly recommend you A/B test your new idea vs. your current email campaign, whether that’s a change to cadence, content, or design. What works for someone else may not work for you. So, you need to understand if the “new” you’ve introduced actually helps your email program or not. And the only way to learn that is to test.
2. Don’t steal (but do borrow wisely)
Drawing inspiration and stealing are very different things. When something inspires you, it gives you new ideas. When you’ve found something that inspires you, try to nail down what exactly has inspired you and how you can implement that in your own email program. Versus literally copying another brand’s email but with your color scheme.
3. Plan your content calendar
I know, it’s so exciting to add all! the! things! to your immediate to-do list, but instead I urge you to plan out your content calendar in advance so you’re not trying to do too much, too soon. Don’t introduce a completely new design element that will take fancy coding in back-to-back sprints, for example. Spread out the good stuff and take the time to make those small changes that make a difference.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Great emails don’t have to be ridiculously innovative to be effective. Focus on what works for your brand and your team’s development process and you’ll go far.
Jaina Mistry is the Director, Brand & Content Marketing at Litmus