Commentary

Web Site Relaunches And Email Redesigns Should Go Hand In Hand

The importance of having landing pages match email creative enough that subscribers are instantly assured that they've landed in the right place is an undisputed best practice. Similarly, it's important for emails to mimic their associated Web sites in look and feel, not only for branding purposes but for navigation as well.

To see how well retailers accomplished this, the Email Experience Council recently compared the emails and Web sites of 106 major online retailers tracked via RetailEmail.Blogspot. We focused on consistency of navigation and branding, which included general design elements such as logos, colors, line rules and fonts used.

We found that 32% of emails and Web sites were totally in sync, 46% were partially in sync and 22% were not really in sync. While some of those partially in sync could easily be brought more in line with the branding and design of their corresponding Web site, some of those differences are simply an outgrowth of the fact that emails are narrower than most Web sites. Because of that, compromises have to be made sometime, though generally those compromises don't have a particularly negative effect on branding and navigation. However, retailers that find themselves in that last bucket, with Web sites and email not really in sync, should revisit their email and site designs. Consider such factors as:

Color and line rules. In the blink of an eye, this is where branding lapses can be most evident. While the difference in color schemes and design elements between emails and Web sites for Musician's Friend and NFLshop can be jarring and disorienting, the black background and white fonts used in Bloomingdale's emails and on its Web site strongly links the two. In Musician's Friend's case, its email was redesigned back in March without any corresponding changes to its site.

Logos. When you think of branding, the first thing you probably think of is logos, which is why it was shocking to find that a few retailers were using Web site logos that differed from email logos. For example, after becoming the official ecommerce site for the DisneyStore in July, DisneyShopping still hasn't settled on which logo it's going to use. Right now, its emails have the DisneyShopping branding while its Web site says DisneyStore.

Walgreens also had logo issues -- while the site is branded "Walgreens.com," the email is branded "Walgreens." And Sears is using slightly different logos as well.

Saks Fifth Avenue used a nice little trick when it changed its logo in January. Because its old logo and new one were the same size in both places, the company just replaced the source file of the old logo with the new one, and - voila! -- the logo was changed everywhere, even in its old emails.

Navigation. After logos, navigation bars probably do the most to establish a consistent feel between Web site and email. Nav bars in emails also provide an important gateway to the Web site, serving as a reminder of the full breadth of the retailer's offerings. This is where many compromises are made because of the difference in width between emails and Web sites. For example, OfficeMax excludes some of the departments from the nav bar in its emails to save space.

Many of these compromises have limited downsides.

However, we saw many instances where the order of departments, and even their names, was different. For example, in HPshopping's emails, there's a tab for "iPAQs." However, on the Web site, that same tab says "Handhelds." Clearly there was an update to the site that never got reflected in the email template.

In a few cases, we saw emails with nav bars that were shortened unnecessarily. For instance, Hanna Andersson's emails appear to have room to list all its departments, but the company chose not to for some reason.

Overall, 45% of retailers have email and Web site nav bars that differ. Another 13% chose not to include nav bars in its emails. The remaining 42% of retailers had nav bars that were consistent.

Most of the inconsistencies between emails and their corresponding Web sites arise from site relaunches done without the nvolvement of the email team (although there are certainly a few cases of the reverse). With the holidays just around the corner, we're pretty much at the end of the Web site relaunch season, so it's likely too late to make any major adjustments. But it is a good time to check your emails against your Web sites and make sure that they are in sync as much as is reasonably possible. During the holiday season, even the smallest of details can have a measurable impact.

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