A New Image Boosts Orders by 60 Percent


What does your email creative most resemble?

  1. Your landing page or Web site
  2. Your banner ads and other online marketing
  3. Your offline direct mail packages
  4. None of the above


Conventional wisdom, as well as testing I’ve conducted, supports answer A, matching email creative to your landing page or Web site. It’s logical. By making the transition between email and landing page seamless, you smooth the reader’s path and avoid any bumps in the road on the way to the desired action.

Last month, I tested answer B for a client. I developed an email resembling one of its banner ads and tested it against the control email. The only difference between the two was the image (control image vs. test banner image) at the top. In all the metrics that matter, the test email showed a lift:

  • Orders per email delivered: over 60 percent
  • Click-to-purchase ratio: over 59 percent
  • Orders: over 59 percent

A Very Clean Test

Copy, layout, subject line, landing page, order process, and everything else were exactly the same in the test and control email messages. The only difference was the image at the top. In neither case did we use a literal image of the product offering. In both messages, the images were tied to emotions and benefits.

The “learn more” links in the email messages directed readers to the client’s general landing page; the images used there were completely different from those used in either email.

Note: We did include another test panel. It used the email with the test image and sent readers to a landing page that used a similar image (rather than the general landing page). There was a problem with the tracking on this version, so our results are flawed. We’ll be testing this again to see if we can get an even bigger lift by incorporating the banner image into the landing page as well as the email.

We randomly split one segment of the client’s house list. Any difference in results was directly linked to the one unique factor in each message: the image at the top.

No Vast CTR Improvement

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a huge difference between the test and control in CTR (define). The test showed only an 0.8 percent lift, or just about nothing. But the large lift in orders and the order-related metrics suggest that though we didn’t get more people to click on the test email, those who did were more qualified, more engaged, and more likely to buy.

Keys to Success

I wouldn’t have tried this test with just any banner. The banner the image is from is very, very successful for my client. The copy and story are very similar to other banners we’ve used in the past, but this one is much more successful. The differentiator is clearly the image, which is what we incorporated into the email.

Another bonus: the banner has been in rotation for a while now. It’s got a very high number of impressions over a wide variety of online ad networks, spanning a few months. There’s a good chance the people who received the email had seen the banner, increasing their level of engagement.

This Energizer Bunny of a banner just keeps going. We’ve been working on a replacement banner to use when response dips below an acceptable level, but that hasn’t happened yet. Unlike other banners, which wear out, this one just hangs in there. Its longevity suggested it might have a parallel or secondary life in email.


Animated banners are very different from email. They let you tell a story in visuals. Although small, they can be very powerful. E-mail is more static. You have more space, but you also tend to have more copy and less imagery.

The banner we used to build the email told a story. When we shifted the creative to email, outside the context of the story, we were afraid we’d lose the meaning and relevance. If you evaluated the email without having seen the banner campaign, you might wonder what the image was doing there.

We made a conscious decision to stick with the control email’s copy, which didn’t include the banner story, so we’d have a pure test on the image. It was risk. Though the copy didn’t conflict with the image, it also didn’t explain it. The risk paid off. With a less successful and less familiar banner image, it may not have.

Will This Work for You?

I don’t know. As with all marketing, you must test, test, test, and see what works for your audience. The more successful the banner, the more likely it will work for email. You won’t know until you try. Let me know how it turns out.



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