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Imagery in customer communications. What works?

Imagery in customer communications. What works?

What are the current conventions around using imagery in customer communications? We’ve had a look at recent research and distilled our findings into the following.


Your customers expect images, but they also expect fast communications that display perfectly. And the design must never obscure the message.

Images online were once rarities – or exceptional additions to otherwise text-heavy pages. But as the web has evolved, and technology has grown more powerful, images have become more integral to our digital experiences.

Instead of being a decoration, images are much more dominant in both websites and emails. They are no longer small adornments – they are often large and positioned centre-stage. So while this gives customer communications teams greater flexibility, it also gives us the freedom to get things wrong.

The perils of stock photography

Your customers have highly refined tastes and they can detect stock photography from 100 paces. If you don’t have your own brand photography or graphics, you can choose good quality stock photography – as long as it doesn’t look like stock photography (i.e. anonymous people in suits, random couples on beaches, pictures that have been used a hundred times etc).

Imagery must be purposeful

Your pictures should help to carry the message. Pictures should be specifically relevant to the message you’re sending. They should either directly relate to the offer, or at least have some tangential relation to the message.

Substance over style

Technological advances make it easy to add images to communications. But while you can, that doesn’t mean you should. Imagery should never obscure the message, or overwhelm users. If text is placed over graphics or pictures, it should be carefully placed so that the text is always legible – even on a mobile device.

Degrade gracefully

Your images won’t always appear, especially if someone has images switched off in their email client, or is in a low-bandwidth area. This is why it’s important that your messages work without the images. The images should enhance the message. Problems usually arise when messages depend on images.

Follow web conventions

Email newsletters and communications can be creative, but it’s important to remember that innovative or unusual layouts can easily confuse customers. When conventions exist, it pays to follow them. For example, if you want people to click things, make them look like links – or buttons. Think twice before doing anything that might confuse your audience.

A clear view

Users expect clean, uncluttered communications. Lots of small images are likely to contribute to a sense of clutter. Having a few large images is easier on the eye – and means you’re more likely to get your message across.

Keep out of the spam trap

Sending poor quality messages cluttered with off-brand or stock imagery is a good way to damage your brand reputation, and lead people to think they’re receiving spam. If you want people to open and read your messages (and not mark them as spam) then you need to create good quality communications that enhance your brand’s reputation.

Send world-class communications

If your organisation needs help sending stunning communications to thousands of customers, we can help. Our customer communication management (CCM) platform makes it easy to send brilliantly engaging communications to large numbers of customers.