Today’s inboxes are more crowded than ever, with roughly 269 billion emails in 2017 being sent and received each day. However, there is a silver lining for marketers. Regardless of their marketing team size and budget, it’s still possible to create successful email campaigns and ultimately compete with the biggest brands out there.

The following examples are some of the best emails from the past year, along with best practices for marketers to get noticed, maximise engagement, and boost conversion rates.

1. Design for the small screen: Aaptiv

A mobile strategy is especially important for brands to succeed in the inbox, as 75% of consumers are highly likely to delete an email that doesn’t render well on mobile, according to Chadwick Martin Bailey. Plus, as research from Litmus demonstrates, more than half of all emails are now opened on a mobile first.

For Aaptiv, a grid of icons stacks beautifully into a single column on mobile to ensure every recipient has a great user experience, regardless of what device they use to open email.

So, what can marketers learn from this example? Scannable emails that look great on all devices are important as people view email across multiple devices. Furthermore, Aaptiv’s senior manager of digital marketing suggests brands keep emails short, clean, and design with mobile in mind.

2. Send an automated welcome email: Back Yard Burger

Welcome emails can generate an average of four times the open rates and five times the click-through rates of business-as-usual mailings.

For Back Yard Burgers, adding a surprise offer of ‘a free classic burger’ to new email subscribers helped the brand to stand out from the crowd, and gave subscribers a nice impression of the brand from the start. As a result, this automated email boasted a near 70% open rate.

For marketers, email automation is the key to making the most of resources, since it helps produce staggering results at scale. Marketers looking to set up a welcome series can consider automating based on key dates and milestones, like signup anniversary. Then, move onto automation triggered by subscriber behavior, like clicking on a link in a mailing, signing up for a trial, or browsing a product page on a website.

3. Hook subscribers with a compelling GIF: Southern Proper

Including an occasional GIF in email design is a great way to boost click rates and offer a fresh approach to content. According to MarketingSherpa, GIFs can increase conversion rates by as much as 130%.

For Southern-inspired clothing line Southern Proper, GIFs provide a great way to show off multiple products in a single email. With the help of an animated GIF, Southern Proper was able to show off a full product line without cluttering the email design.

For marketers trying this, don’t forget to keep things focused, with plenty of white space and a clear call to action. This is important, since according to WordStream, a single call-to-action can increase clicks by 371% and sales by 167%.

4. Don’t ignore the existing member base: Philadelphia Zoo

Far too many marketers ignore their current base of members, donors or fans while chasing down new prospects. Current customers are one of the biggest untapped resources in marketing today (especially when the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70% compared, to 5 to 20% for new prospects).

Marketers should also remember to make customers feel as though they are truly a part of a community — and a valued member. As a result, they will likely show more loyalty to your brand. Brands will feel the benefits too, with as much as a 760% increase in revenue from segmented campaigns.

5. Show gratitude: GoldieBlox

According to eMarketer, video in emails can increase clicks, shares, and forwards by as much as 50%. What’s more, 70 % of marketers say video produces more conversions than any other type of content.

GoldieBlox makes toys and games designed to help girls develop an early interest in engineering and problem-solving. The company has a wonderful relationship with its very loyal customer base. To show its appreciation for five successful years in business, the company sent a simple, heartfelt thank you email that included a video message from its founder and CEO.

This also serves a good example of how to turn everyday customers into fans who will sing praises online. It’s brilliant marketing, especially as video has proven to be one of the most reliable way to increase click rates and drive people to your website.

Key to success

Today’s marketers are being asked to do more with less. Therefore, an important part of success in the inbox is not overthinking it. Keep the design simple and messaging relevant. Clarity, simplicity, and substance will be key as brands look to make the most of their email marketing in 2018, and stand out in the inbox.