Agile email creative is the formatting of images not before send, or at send (with automated or dynamic content) but at the moment the customer opens or re-opens an email.

This allows one to change pictures in an email depending on a host of variables, on their own or combined, in a rules-based system.

A lot of what this agile creative can achieve boils down to improving the user journey when they open an email. So, for example, an image can present latest availability of a product, so that when the customer clicks through from a product image, she isn’t surprised by lack of stock and doesn’t subsequently distrust brand comms.

I’ve previously talked to Movable Ink, a specialist in simplified email build and agile email creative (see this post for an overview and some great comments). Recently I also spoke to Matt Hayes of Kickdynamic, another agile email specialist.

We discussed the possibilities of the technology and how, although not a complex premise, agile email is enlivening the channel whilst increasing conversion rates from email marketing.

In this post I thought I’d detail some more examples of agile email creative and discuss what benefits they hold.


In retail, product sets and promotions can be served that update to be relevant to weather at the time of open in the recipient locality.

asda weather in email

The locality can be based on known address or country/area taken from IP address.

These product sets can increase conversion in locales where weather is changeable and a talking point, the UK being a case in point.

Fashion brands can have a ‘sunny’ product set, to ensure that customers who open on a sunny weekend, for example, will be served products that befit the weather and mood. It’s much like weather based PPC advertising, which has been established best practiced for a while.

In another sector, travel, customer experience can be improved by including five day weather forecasts for a customer destination. Live TripAdvisor content could be included to advise on activities at destination, too.

Here’s an agile Thomas Cook email showing the weather but also the trusty countdown to holiday, the classic use of a gif in email.

thomas cook email with destination weather

Up to the minute information

This is about ensuring the latest info is displayed at email open.

One of the obviously powerful implementations includes currency feeds in travel email. Below you can see a shot from a Thomas Cook email. Up to date exchange rates will reduce customer frustration and abandonment when buying online.

This concept can be applied to aeroplane seating and hotel room availability, latest news, anything temporal.

thomas cook currency conversion in email

Social content

This is, like weather and exchange rates, simply showing the latest info within an image that updates on each open.

Here’s an example from Net-A-Porter. This, especially in the fickle world of fashion, undoubtedly gives an up-to-the-minute flavour which helps to portray the brand image, as well as up to date information in the tweets.

net-a-porter twitter feed in email


I touched on this around travel and hotel or flight availability. It’s just as relevant for any company that can provide accurate or approximate detail on product availability.

This could extend to ‘deal of the day’, or even ‘deal of the hour’ at every open. Stock alerts and sale alerts are also possible.

Creating this level of urgency is a good thing, as is providing accurate information to ensure customers aren’t disappointed.

Gmail grid view

I’ve written about this previously. Grid view is only in field trial at the moment, and entry requests have now ceased.

If the concept is rolled out, a hero image will display with each email. Optimising this is important, and agile creative will allow this image to change with time, device, weather, product availability etc.

gmail grid view

Ben Davis

Published 9 June, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (7)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good article.

Agile Creative (or as we call it, "real-time personalization") is a way of overcoming two main weaknesses of channels such as email, compared to real-time channels such as Web.

(1) Email is static - so add movement
(2) Email is formatted at send time, which may be significantly before it's seen by the reader - so add formatting at open time.

This is not just about gimmicks: there are a lot of everyday use cases. For example:

* You're probably varying your Website marketing in real-time, so shouldn't your emails include literally the same real-time offers?
* When recommending products, you need to take account of the reader's buying behavior and changes in price and availability, between when the email was sent and when it's being read.
* When an email is informing buyers of delivery status, it is very important that this is up-to-date.
* Every email should have a "stop press" image, just in case there's an error in the content, so that corrections can be added within the email itself.
* Hero images for Grid View and Social (these are much more shareable than raw product pictures ).

The bottom line is price. Agile creative used to be much more expensive than the email itself, which limited its use. But not any more.

TL;DR: Real-time personalization is affordable for all your emails.

about 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

BTW, I assume there was a typo in the introductory paragraph and it should read, "Agile email creative is the FORMATTING of images not before send, or at send (with automated or dynamic content) but at the moment the customer opens or re-opens an email.

It's not just about switching between existing pictures, but formatting new images from HTML and graphics, in the cloud, on the fly. These images then provide content for previously-sent emails, even emails sent long before the new content was designed.

about 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff


Thanks again for great comments.

Yes, I was using curation in a loose sense which wasn't really appropriate. Now amended.


about 4 years ago


retail marketing

This is really an interesting topic. congrats

about 4 years ago


Mark Hammersley

We have had success with adding in 'last products viewed' to emails which update just before the person downloads the email. This way when the email is opened the products they see are relevant to their recent browsing behaviour.

I think putting in the weather is limited in application.

We have also done this for sales that have limited time length so that if a person opens an email after the sale is ended they don't see the sale information and see a 'sorry sold out' message which primes the buyer to act more quickly next time.

about 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Mark Totally agree.

Also with the feeds that you mention, it's very important to consider the fallback content. What do people see who haven't viewed any products recently, or when the sale is over?

This issue can affect a large proportion of readers, so it's one that marketers need to think carefully about. For example we recommend that 'last products viewed' falls back to showing 'recent top sellers' or 'trending products'.

The situation with limited-time sales is more controversial and I view 'sorry sold out' as a wasted marketing opportunity. It helps apply time pressure but it doesn't actually sell anything. Two alternative for the replacement copy are: (1) a sign-up link for additional transactional progress reports about future sales, "never miss another sale", or (2) a very limited time "consolation" coupon, only for customers disappointed in missing the sale. But no doubt marketers will be able to think of better ideas.

about 4 years ago

Matthew Hayes

Matthew Hayes, Co-Founder at

@Mark great use case

Using previous behaviour generally is a great way to display live personalised email content. The default image for those that have no behaviour does need to be considered as Pete mentioned. The great thing is the default can be live and contextual also.

We have seen success using weather condition at open to show different products or product banners. For example when the weather is 'good' (sunny) you can display a series of products and/or a promotional message, and for all other weather conditions show a default.

about 4 years ago

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