Transactional emails can be a potent addition to your marketing mix when done effectively. The first thing you’ll need to do to make your transactional emails more ‘marketing-y’ is make them memorable. Branding, personalisation, and, above all, visualisation. Adding visuals – still or moving – increases engagement, makes your emails stand out from the crowd, and makes your recipients love your brand even more. In this article, we’re diving into the facts & figures behind visuals and show you how to apply them to your emails.

The facts & figures on visualisation

Our brain processes an average of 74 gigabytes of information daily (CNN). In that sea of information, we’re opening and reading around 100 emails daily. That is a lot to process. Try to remember the last email you opened. And the one you opened before that. The deeper you go, you’ll see that you’ve forgotten 90% of these emails. So does your recipient. Until you make your emails so good, they cannot stop thinking about them.

Though that might be a bit romanticised, visualisation is a great way to make your emails stand out from the crowd, especially in transactional emails. Where others lack an excellent design for, e.g., their order confirmation, this is your chance to make a difference. After all, 90% of all the information we process is visual (Shift), and we process visuals way faster than text (EmailAudience):

(source: EmailAudience)

Though you might get longer read times per email if people want to engage with your brand, it’s a good idea to consider visuals. People tend to skim branded emails, spending an average of 10 seconds per email. That’s either two, possibly three sentences (avg. 150ms/word) or a few good images saying more than 1,000 words.

Different kinds of visualization for transactional emails

There are three types of visualisation to use in your (transactional) emails: still images (.jpeg, .png), animated images (.gif), and videos. Every type of visualisation has its purpose and quirks, but all have proven successful in email (marketing) strategies.


An image is a powerful email (marketing) strategy tool. Specifically in transactional email, selecting high-quality photos will get you better upsell results (“Items you may also like”). This effect is called the Aesthetic Usability Quality Effect: people experience pretty-looking things as friendlier or of a higher quality. 

Transactional email is a vital part of order placement and often one of the first impressions of similar products, so convincing the recipients of the quality is crucial.

Be mindful of their quirks when using images: use 96 PPI .jpeg images for the best resolution on images with backgrounds. PNG images tend to get massive in size – but are very useful when your email is displayed in dark mode.

The difference between PNG and JPEG in a Dark Mode email


Visuals are more than just images. Videos are one the most effective ways to bring information to your customers. People prefer learning from video over text all the time. It is more fun and more effective. On average, a person watches 100 minutes of digital video a day. People are so into videos that using the word video alone can increase your open rate by 19% and your CTR by 65%. Those are huge numbers.

An excellent example is this welcome email from Niice. They want to educate their customers about the use of their services. Niice could’ve done that by adding a checklist, but with video, you interact with your customers on a different level.

Putting the video on the top makes it interesting to interact with the email. Recipients are curious about what the video is about before watching it. Videos in transactional email, like a welcome video, unboxing video, etc., incredibly positively influence their customer experience.

Video Visualization (Really Good Emails)


A newer visualisation form, right between images and videos, is GIF (Graphics Interchange Format). The animated collection of images results in an average increase of 26% in conversions. Animated content elevates the inbox experience and motivates readers to take the suggested action. GIFs may not be as commonly used as images and videos, making them unique. Moving images draw your customers’ attention to where you want them to be. Be aware that too much-moving content in your email can confuse the readers, so don’t go over the top. Use it as an eye-catcher, and it will give you results.

Distribution between text and visuals

Is text in email bad, then? No, not at all. It will always be the go-to way of delivering information. The goal of a transactional email is to be informative. Though imagery elevates the inbox experience during the customer journey, it should not distract from the actual message. That is why you can’t leave the text out. We always recommend pursuing an 80% text to 20% visual ratio. That way, you minimise the size of your email while keeping it interesting enough to retain attention. Sticking to this rule gives your audience the best email experience.

Adding visuals to your next email design

Now that we are clear on the kind of content and the distribution with text, there is also design. Design is another integral part of the customer experience. That’s why the visuals you use in your email must be consistent with your brand identity. Every single email must be recognisable to your recipient as being you. 

Design for easy navigation

Besides the look, you can use visuals to guide readers through your mail. There are intelligent ways to navigate your customers through your email, like the inverted pyramid or a zigzag design. It’s a neuromarketing trick to make the reader scroll through the email. It can even help generate conversions by using the proper format.

Test what works – and what doesn’t

I don’t want to state the obvious, but testing remains essential. Not every type of visualisation works well in all inboxes, and every image type has its quirks. And next to technical limitations, not every business has the same kind of customers. Our final bit of advice: test, test, and test again to see what works for your emails and customers. Keep your emails as small as possible on the one hand and experiment with your personalisation techniques on the other. Ultimately, it’s all about how your customers experience your emails. 

The power of visualization in transactional emails

In a world where every business is fighting over the customer’s attention, we tend to overlook the potential of our transactional emails. With the right strategy, visualisation can make your emails stand out from the crowd – different from the boring emails your competitor sends. Add images, GIFs, or videos to your transactional email to elevate your customer’s experience in the inbox.