Everyone is familiar with the phrase, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. For marketers vying for the attention of time-poor, spoilt-for-choice consumers, this is sage advice.

With a third of shoppers receiving over 120 emails per week, competition in the inbox is particularly fierce. Whilst generic, wordy emails may be ignored, using dynamic images can be exceptionally powerful in bringing brands and products to life, capturing the attention of consumers, and encouraging them to engage further.

Images are valuable in driving a deeper emotional connection between the consumer and brand, but it has to be the right image. Just as irrelevant messages or offers won’t entice the shopper to take action, the same applies to email visuals. Generic images are the easiest solution, but in a world where customers want to be treated as an individual, they are unlikely to drive click throughs or revenue growth.

Incorporating dynamic images in email can play a significant role in driving an uplift in conversions, but marketers must be aware of the dos and don’ts to truly see the ROI.

Let customer data inform the imagery

With so much customer information available, marketers should be aggregating real-time behavioural, transactional and contextual data to make every aspect of their email marketing as relevant as possible.

Advances in technology, such as personalisation platforms and CDPs, have completely transformed the way brands can use data to dynamically determine the right image at the moment of engagement. Consider personalising the product images to a customer’s interests, geo-location, previous browse (or purchase) behaviour and more.

From showing header banners with the customer’s preferred product colourway or brands to reflecting the weather at the location the customer is viewing the email, these tactics will make the shopper feel that the message is as unique as they are, and increase the likelihood that they will click through.

Remember that relevance is everything

Aside from capturing interest through relevant content, dynamic imagery can also incentivise customers to take more immediate action. Leveraging FOMO tactics, marketers can embed eye catching timers counting down to a shipping cut-off date or the end of a flash sale. Alternatively, display data on product popularity and remaining stock levels to create a heightened sense of urgency.

There are lots of opportunities for marketers to be creative, theming the imagery in line with a particular seasonal offer or special event to keep customers interested. Using real-time data ensures that the email content is always up to date and only products and deals available at the time the shopper interacts with the email are promoted.

This is particularly useful when promoting events such as a 24-hour flash sale. During the event, customers opening the email will see imagery specific to the promotion, but marketers can also set a default backup image for shoppers who open the email after the sale is over. This helps avoid disappointment.

Alongside increased relevancy, another advantage of using real-time data is that the email content can be updated, even after a message has been sent. For instance, when a promoted product has sold out or even if a mistake has been made during the creation of the email, amends can be made to ensure the customer experience isn’t impacted.

Don’t dismiss the overall experience

Whilst having access to cross-channel customer data is vital to the effectiveness of dynamic images, there are also practical considerations to take into account when it comes to the execution. Deliverability is an important factor to ensure that the carefully crafted email will make it into the shopper’s inbox. For instance, emails made up of one large image are more likely to be blocked by spam filters, so ensure there is text alongside images or break them into smaller blocks of content to reduce the risk of emails failing to get delivered. Equally, some email providers will stop images in emails from downloading automatically, so ensure the text within the email is engaging enough to encourage a customer to download the whole message.

Dynamic images should enhance the overall experience and drive click-through, but if large images result in long download times or impact the overall usability, customers are likely to become impatient and abandon the email altogether. Keep in mind that many consumers are also likely to be reading emails on a mobile device whilst out and about, so ensuring images are optimised and consistent across all channels is also important.

Customers returning to an email at a later point without an internet connection will see a cached version of this email. As with any email, as long as the shopper was online when they opened the email originally, the dynamic images will have loaded and won’t affect the experience when shoppers are revisiting the email while offline. For customers viewing emails for the first time without an internet connection, content won’t be accessible, but consumers would face this issue with or without dynamic images.

Don’t forget to test and optimise

Tastes, behaviours and preferences will continue to evolve, and staying on top of these is critical to delivering an effective marketing strategy. Taking time to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of different uses of dynamic images is important to understanding what works and what doesn’t for your brand. Running test campaigns to optimise tactics in the run up to larger shopping peaks is a good way to establish what is going to drive maximum engagement when it is most crucial.

Dynamic images offer marketers an extensive range of opportunities to keep their email marketing campaigns fresh, exciting and most importantly, relevant with minimal manual effort. With inboxes overflowing with promotional messages, leveraging dynamic imagery brings a layer of personalisation that will make a customer take note – and action.