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Responsive email editors: How to choose the right one and use it effectively

Responsive email editor
What are responsive emails and how do they improve your marketing ROI?
7 features to look for in a responsive email editor
6 tips to help you use a responsive email editor effectively
Final thoughts

Picture someone reading your marketing email and you might see them sitting at a laptop or desktop computer, but studies show they’re more likely to be reading on a mobile device.

According to Litmus, around 42% of all email opens occur on smartphones and tablets, with users consuming content in a range of formats and on various screen sizes.

Responsive email editors make it much easier to account for this variety when building your email marketing campaign.

They simplify the process of designing responsive emails (messages that adapt to their destination environment), so you can ensure every section of your audience gets a positive brand experience.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of responsive email and help you find an editing tool that’ll empower you to build highly engaging email campaigns.

What are responsive emails and how do they improve your marketing ROI?

A responsive email is an email that looks good and functions well on any device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Responsive emails have multiple layers of CSS code (the code that describes how HTML elements, like text, will be displayed on screen): one to handle larger desktop and laptop screens and one or more for mobile screens. They read their environment and adapt based on factors like screen size and resolution.

Responsiveness is important in marketing as badly formatted emails (i.e. those that don’t load quickly, look good or function properly) are less likely to engage your audience.

One survey of U.S. mobile users found that more than two-thirds delete emails that don’t look good on their devices, with less than 20% reading them anyway or switching to larger screens.

Responsive emails allow you to reach audiences in various environments without needing to create multiple pieces of content. Still, designing and coding emails without the relevant skills can be daunting. That’s why responsive email editors are useful to marketers.

What is a responsive email editor?

Responsive email editors are online tools you can use to create responsive HTML emails, either as one-off messages or responsive templates to reuse. Sometimes they’re standalone tools, but they can also be built into email marketing software.

By simplifying the creation process, often using a “drag-and-drop” design method, these tools empower marketers with no coding skills to quickly create highly engaging, responsive email content.

With less time spent on design, email marketers can focus on strategizing and crafting great content.

7 features to look for in a responsive email editor

There are plenty of responsive email editors available, all claiming to be the most effective and easiest to use.

Here are seven qualities to put at the top of your must-have list. These feature tips will help you choose an application that’ll generate results for your business.

1. For varied marketing campaigns: A wide range of content blocks

Most editors allow users to drag and drop design elements, or content blocks, into their emails and then automatically take care of the coding behind the scenes.

Common content blocks include:

  • Title text

  • Body text

  • Images

  • Videos

  • Buttons

  • Dividers

However, some drag-and-drop editors and email template builders go further to help you create engaging content.

For example, the email builder function of Campaigns by Pipedrive allows you to embed gifs and add social media links.

A wide range of design assets means you can vary the content you send rather than using the same formats repeatedly. That will help keep your email campaigns interesting and relevant to your target audience, so you get more clicks and fewer unsubscribes.

2. For automated personalization: Dynamic content capabilities

Dynamic content capabilities allow for email content to be added, removed or adjusted when certain conditions are met.

With this functionality, you could design a blast email to send to new and existing customers but include a coupon link that only shows for people who are yet to buy from you.

Without dynamic content, you’d need to create separate emails for the two audiences or send the same coupon to everyone and potentially miss out on full-price purchases from already-loyal subscribers.

Programmers usually achieve this kind of automation using conditional statements (sometimes known as “if” and “else” statements). For example, in the JavaScript programming language, the creator would:

  • Use if to specify a block of code to be executed if a specified condition is true

  • Use else to specify a block of code to be executed if the same condition is false

  • Use else if to specify a new condition to test if the first condition is false

A well-equipped email editor gives you the same power without needing any specialist knowledge. For some, it’s a form; for others, you’ll use symbols to indicate merge fields (e.g. %FIRSTNAME%). In return, you’ll get professional emails that make recipients more likely to convert.

Pipedrive’s email builder lets you drag and drop content placeholders into email templates:

Pipedrive Email Builder

3. For inspiration and increased productivity: Free email templates

The best responsive email visual editors come with libraries of professionally designed HTML email templates to speed up your creation process.

Look for a solution that not only comes with plenty of out-of-the-box templates but also allows you to customize them. This way, you get the benefit of a pro’s design knowledge (e.g. optimized layouts and color matching) with the freedom to make tweaks that’ll appeal to your audience.

For even more flexibility, check that HTML code editing is an option. If it is, you’ll be able to import, preview and use custom HTML elements when you design emails, meaning limitless personalization.

4. For hassle-free targeting: RSS-to-email integration

RSS feeds are a great way to access and organize content from multiple sources or automatically deliver content from a single source.

Email marketers can use them to populate emails with streams of their organizations’ content automatically. This practice is called RSS-to-email.

By combining RSS with dynamic content, you can insert one or more feeds of relevant content, from you or other sources, into emails destined for different audiences (based on how you’ve segmented them).

For example, a fashion e-commerce brand might create an RSS feed of its latest product news, embed it into a basic newsletter template and arrange for the email to be sent weekly to existing customers who’d expressed interest in new ranges. This way, the recipient gets fresh, relevant content weekly without the marketer creating new emails.

While you shouldn’t rely too heavily on an automated newsletter like this, RSS-to-email is a time-efficient way to add extra value to your campaign.

5. For guaranteed quality: Comprehensive preview options

Preview options allow you to see your email design in different viewing environments before you hit send.

They provide an opportunity to spot display and functionality issues before your audience does, so you can make adjustments and maintain the level of quality your subscribers expect.

It’s normal for responsive email editors to let you see your design in different screen sizes, but the best tools allow you to test other environment types, too.

Apple, Gmail and Outlook might dominate the email-open landscape but there are hundreds of possible viewing environments to consider.

By seeing how your email displays in a wide range of clients, you can ensure your content is optimized for every section of your audience.

This is especially important if your following is international, as some email service providers (ESPs), and therefore their email clients, are more popular in certain regions (e.g. Zoho in India, GMX in Europe and NetEase in China).

6. For increased engagement: Video content capabilities

We touched on it as a content block earlier, but the power of video in marketing makes it worth emphasizing.

Including video content in your emails is a great way to hook readers’ attention and entice them to learn more about your brand or products.

In a Wyzowl survey of marketing professionals, 87% said video content had helped them increase traffic – up from 55% in 2015. Almost the same number (86%) said it helped them generate leads and 81% used it to directly increase sales.

In the right responsive email editor, you can easily embed externally hosted content (e.g. from your YouTube or Vimeo profile) to make emails more visually appealing, engaging and insightful.

With the responsive coding taken care of behind the scenes, the clip should adjust automatically to display perfectly on your reader’s email client.

Maximize video engagement in emails by:

  • Including “video” in your subject line, so recipients know what to expect

  • Using a video-related emoji in your subject line to draw inbox browsers’ eyes

  • Choosing an eye-catching static video preview image or generating a GIF animation

This welcome email from Niice opens with a static preview of its tips video and a clear, enticing play button. The text below is also personalized with the recipient’s first name.

Niice Welcome Email

If you haven’t created much video content, consider embedding clips from non-competitors in your industry. For example, you could include an explainer of a partner product that drives traffic to a relevant blog or feature page on your website.

7. For a hassle-free user experience: Easily accessible support

It’s a given that a good email template editor should be easy to use, but it’s still important to have support at hand when you don’t understand a feature or process.

Ideally, you’ll have a range of support options, such as frequently asked questions (FAQs), video tutorials, social media, live chat, email and phone, as you and your team members might like to communicate differently.

A community forum is useful, as other users may be able to respond to your query sooner with first-hand experience or you might see that someone else has asked the same question before. Interacting with other users of the same email tool is a great way to get campaign ideas, too.

Lastly, ensure the support is available 24/7 in a language you understand, so you can get clear responses quickly. This’ll minimize disruption when creating your campaigns, helping you engage your audience faster.

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6 tips to help you use a responsive email editor effectively

Knowing exactly how to use your chosen responsive email editor will enable you to get ahead of your competition.

Your provider’s support will help, especially if there are video tutorials to follow, but for even better results, here are five tips.

1. Use custom-designed graphics where possible

Images are powerful content marketing tools. BuzzSumo found that adding imagery to a Facebook post can double engagement, and articles with one image every 75–100 words get twice as many shares as those with fewer images.

You can also use this to your advantage in email marketing, but only with the right imagery.

Using custom-designed graphics and imagery you’ve captured or sourced yourself should always be your first choice for the sake of originality.

It may cost to work with a photographer or designer, but you’ll have complete creative control over what you generate, meaning you can appeal directly to your audience.

In an interview about email marketing best practices, content marketing strategist Rachel Andrea Go said:

Custom-designed graphics in your newsletters help keep your images relevant and help to convey your message.

However, she also advises marketers not to overdo it with imagery:

Plain text emails have been making a comeback as busy readers are getting tired of highly designed, loud marketing newsletters, and sometimes a plain text with just the facts can be refreshing.

2. If not, source imagery from high-quality libraries (and be mindful of copyright laws)

If you can’t create images, head to a reputable stock photo website.

As well as having huge libraries of visual content, the best of these sites will help you understand the copyright issues around using other people’s imagery. Essentially, if you don’t have the right permissions to use someone else’s image in a commercial setting, you’ll break intellectual property laws and risk costly legal action.

Some stock image sites will charge you for permission to use their (or their users’) content, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are plenty of free sources too. Unsplash is a great example.


3. Spend the time you save on crafting great copy

A brilliantly designed email is nothing without great content. Spend the time you’ve saved using a responsive email editor to plan and write value-packed copy that resonates with your audience.

Personalize your content where possible, too, as Nicholas Scalice recommends:

Nothing is worse than an impersonal email packed with images and buttons and links. That's not something that most people want to engage with. Rely less on formatting and focus more on the copy. Write with a personal tone, and if you can, put a name on it so that people know who's behind the message.

You can also increase engagement by:

  • Establishing relevance quickly. We know from plenty of studies that relevance is vital to email audiences, so be quick to explain why you’re getting in touch and why your content should matter to the reader.

For example, for a new customer, you could write the following: “We saw you recently purchased [x], so we thought you’d like these tips on getting started with it.”

  • Addressing the reader directly. Using second-person language like “you” and “your” makes your reader feel more valued, as though you’ve taken the time to contact them personally.

  • Getting straight to the point. Your goal is to provide a summarized message that readers can skim through quickly before deciding whether or not to take your desired action. Use links and buttons to direct people back to a website landing page for more detail.

  • Using actionable language. Don’t assume your audience knows what you want. Be clear and use actionable language to encourage readers to sign up to your mailing list, read an article, buy a product or convert in any other way.

4. Look to your competitors and inbox for inspiration

Don’t feel bad about getting inspiration from other businesses, as most of them are doing it too.

By signing up for a few competitors’ newsletters, you’ll see what your audience already receives. You can then identify your favorite parts and spot opportunities to provide more value.

Look outside of your sector, too. Go through your inbox of existing marketing emails and see what catches your attention regarding design, imagery and copy. If it entices you to open a message, click through to a website or get your credit card out to make a purchase, it could appeal to your audience.

5. Learn a bit of HTML for limitless customization

While it’s true that you don’t need any coding knowledge to use a responsive email editor, a few basic HTML skills can unlock a lot of customization potential in a compatible tool.

For example, if you love a pre-designed responsive email template but need to change the layout slightly to accommodate your content, you can do that by adjusting the code. You can also embed design elements that aren’t included in your provider’s content block options to create custom templates.

If your chosen tool doesn’t offer any advice, search online for an HTML course for beginners.

6. Keep your email designs consistent with your brand

By using the same styling and messaging across your website, emails and other marketing materials, as Anchor has in the example below, you help familiarize your audience with your brand. That contributes to trust, which helps people make buying decisions sooner.


It’s good practice to use standard fonts in marketing and transactional emails as custom fonts won’t always show properly in some clients, but you can easily include your logo and use your brand’s colors for consistency.

Ask your designer for the RGB and HEX codes of your most prominent website colors and enter these into your email editor to get the same appearance. There are also browser plugins that’ll give you access to the same information. MUO recently published a handy list of options.

Final thoughts

The right drag-and-drop email builder will empower your business to reach and engage your audience quickly and without the need for coding and design skills.

With our list of must-have features, you can compare the many options and choose a tool that enables you to create beautiful emails with minimal effort.

With the time you save from a streamlined email creation process, you can give more attention to your wider marketing strategy to achieve even better results.

Driving business growth