Increase sales and conversions for your next email campaign with expert tips for using images.

Email marketing is one of the most consistent channels for driving sales. In fact, research shows that for every $1 spent on email marketing, marketers can expect $42 in return on average across B2B and B2C industries.

However, not every campaign is equally effective. In addition to segmentation, timing, and offer, the copy, design, and calls-to-action can all impact email performance.

To help you make the most out of email marketing, Constant Contact and Shutterstock joined forces to provide practical strategies for using images effectively in emails. 

Table of Contents


Why use images in emails?

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Why Images Work
Image by Oleksii Didok

People are more open to engaging with content that includes a mixture of text and images. Research shows 65% percent of Americans are visual learners, and generally better able to absorb information accompanied by an image. Moreover, people are 80% more likely to read a piece of content if it’s accompanied by visuals.

The above statistics are also reflected in the performance of email campaigns created and sent with Constant Contact.

Through a Shutterstock integration, Constant Contact users can access over 300 million high-quality images directly in their email creation workflow. In fact, we found that:

  • Email campaigns that used Shutterstock images had, on average, a 36% increase in click-through rate (CTR) versus the average for all Constant Contact emails.
  • Email campaigns that used Shutterstock images had an 8% increase in open rates compared to the average Constant Contact email.

Below we outline strategies to help you maximize the effectiveness of one of the most profitable marketing channels.


Integrate copy and image

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Using Copy with Images
Image by Denys Koltovskyi

Text is a series of legible symbols repeated in close succession. While this is a useful method of communication, it is not the quickest way. 

Images have the advantage of getting large amounts of information across to your audience. In fact, science shows that humans process images 60,000 times faster than text

Importantly, the information transmitted through images is both explanatory and emotional. For example, a company selling bedding can use images of people comfortably asleep in their blankets to quickly convey comfort, rest, and rejuvenation, all within seconds and without any text. 

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Convey Meaning Visually
Image by Nenad Aksic

However, images alone are not enough because, while they evoke emotion, they don’t direct the audience to take action. To pack a punch in your message, copy and images need to work together. 

Here are some tips to integrate copy and images:

Match the emotional tone of images to your brand and copy

Images trigger emotions. These emotions should work together with your email copy to compel the audience to take the desired action. 

You can quickly identify the emotional tone of images by listing three adjectives you would use to describe the image. When choosing images, make sure these adjectives are feelings you’d like to be associated with your brand and copy.

For example, a company selling surfboards might want to evoke feelings of freedom, adventure, and vitality. This company would use dramatically different images than another company selling small-batch, hand-poured candles that wants to convey a sense of comfort, safety, and warmth.

Product images should show features highlighted in the copy

Product images that reflect the key features mentioned in your email create consistency and credibility. If a feature or benefit is important enough to have text devoted to it in an email, the product image should provide reinforcement by presenting it to the audience.

This can apply for product features that are not visible. For example, if your company makes a lotion that contains oat, you can highlight that ingredient by placing oats in close proximity to the lotion in the product image.

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Show Your Highlighted Features
Image by IRA_EVVA

Be mindful of copy space

Copy space is the empty space next to the text. At a minimum, elements in an image such as strong colors, subjects, and other components should not overlap with the text and make it difficult to read. 

You can also take it to the next level by using images to direct the eye towards what you want your audience to focus on in your email. For example, you can use an image with a person looking to the left and place your headline to the left. People will naturally follow the image and land on the headline. Or you can use an image with a design that tapers off to the right that traces the eye to the headline.


Use color to your advantage

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — The Meaning of Colors
Image by dragi52

Color can convey everything from happiness and sadness to more abstract feelings like trustworthiness.

Color choice is very important in tone setting and can have a powerful effect on your audience. A great deal of psychology goes into brands’ color choices, and certain shades unconsciously arouse certain feelings. For example:

  • Black: Black conveys power, formality, and mystery
  • White: White indicates purity, goodness, and safety
  • Red: Associated with vitality, aggressiveness, and strength
  • Blue: Blue evokes trust, stability, and wisdom
  • Green: Green makes viewers think of growth, harmony, and fertility
  • Yellow: Yellow produces feelings of happiness, energy, and intellect

When choosing images for your email campaign, identify the feelings that you’d like to inspire in your audience and pick images with dominant colors that echo those feelings.


Make images clickable

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Hyperlink Your Images
Image by Zivica Kerkez

This is an easy strategy that can maximize your click-through rates. When using images in your email campaigns, make all images clickable.

There are a few reasons clickable images are best practice:

  • It provides your audience with more options to engage with your email.
  • It makes it easier for mobile users to click through. Text links can often be too small.
  • It lets your audience get to the exact product, feature, or piece of information they’re interested to learn more about faster

Learn more about segmenting audiences based on link clicks in Constant Contact in this article.


Use images that reflect your audience

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Use Images that Reflect Your Audience
Image by Jacob Lund

The most effective images are contextual and relatable. This means that audiences should be able to see themselves integrating your product or services into their lives in a meaningful and positive way.

Sometimes, it’s easy to conceptualize an audience as a sum of contacts in your database. But effective email marketing starts with recognizing that each email lands in the inbox of a person with a specific set of demographics, lifestyle, hobbies, and preferences.

If your business is just starting out, choose images based on your ideal audience profile. Who is most likely to have a need for your product? What are their demographics? What kind of life do they lead? What are their interests?

If you’ve been in business for a while, look to email, website, and social analytics to precisely define what your best customers look like. Regardless of how you choose to understand your audience, select images that reflect the data points you’ve identified.

For example, an email for a business that offers financial consulting services for retirement security could have a piggy bank or a stack of cash with a trend line going upwards and to the right. However, this is generic and abstracted from the lives improved by the company’s services.

Instead, this business can show a happy, retired couple walking along a tropical beach with shoes in hand and a dog running a few paces ahead.

People seeing the image of the couple might visualize a version of their own retirement free from financial worry just like the couple in the image. With this desire for a care-free retirement in place, you can elaborate on how your company can help them achieve this future.


Accessing Shutterstock images in Constant Contact

How to Use Images in Emails to Drive Sales — Millions of Reasons to Love Our Constant Contact Partnership

To take the hassle out of finding the perfect image for your email campaigns, Constant Contact integrated the Shutterstock image library.

This integration allows users to directly search and use over 300 million Shutterstock images within the Constant Contact media Library. These images can then be used in emails, Events, Surveys, and Social Campaigns.

Constant Contact users can access Shutterstock images by selecting “Stock Images” in the “Upload to Library” dropdown in the media Library.

In addition to providing fast access to the Shutterstock library, Constant Contact also leverages the Shutterstock API to deliver a powerful search experience for users.

After selecting the right images, users are guided through the download process. Upon completion, the image is directly imported into their Constant Contact media library for use across emails, Events, Surveys, and Social Campaigns.

For additional information, please refer to this article in the Constant Contact Knowledge Base.

Featured image by akiyoko