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Email Marketing

The ugly truth about visual email editors

A visual email editor and a good template can help a lot to strike a creative output and consistent design. When doing a lot of email marketing or newsletter publishing the inconvenience of mixing layout and content becomes more obvious, yet a solution exists.

The ugly truth about visual email editors

Visual email editors are popular for an obvious reason: They provide an intuitive and user-friendly platform that simplifies the process of creating visually appealing email campaigns.

With drag-and-drop functionality, real-time previews, and a wide array of customizable templates, visual editors empower both novice and experienced marketers to create professional-looking emails without the need for extensive coding or design skills.

But like most technologies, this one comes with a trade-off.

When you’re sending dozens or hundreds of variable email or SMS campaigns, the inconvenience of visual editors becomes clear.

The lesson: Many marketers underestimate how the limited user data management capabilities of visual email editors will stifle your growth potential in the long term.

The eye-catching templates lured you in. But to scale up with automated and personalized engagement, you’re going to need something stronger.

There’s a solution.

  • ReachOut developed a platform that lets you store and sort unlimited information about your customers and their activities.

  • From these datasets, you can craft powerful and intimate trigger campaigns. These could be virtual (like abandoning a cart) or physical (like checking into an event).

  • Campaigns are easy to build, and you’ll generate valuable business intelligence from the results.

And you won’t even have to give up your pretty templates to get started.

Why visual email editors exist

Let’s start from the beginning.

When paper-first publishing lost its prominence, web developers rushed to create templates and design systems that nowadays include React components or Framer blocks. The result has been modern, feature-rich web development tools that make for beautiful, creative websites.

Marketing is publishing. Email marketing is also publishing. But while brands had great tools for web design, email didn’t make much progress.

Over time that changed as email marketing showed consistent and robust conversion rates after decades. The developer community began to take interest.

Visual email editors are now modular, flexible and powerful. Over time, we expect that more platforms will offer pre-defined tools for fetching data from backends, fixed layouts able to easily accommodate pre-made components and templates built by experts that serve function over form.

Where you can get into trouble

Let’s not forget that email is still hard.

Most email clients don’t comply with the most basic standards for rendering HTML, and inconsistencies in how CSS directives are interpreted across devices, operating systems and clients still give headaches to experienced email designers.

Visual email editing platforms now offer in many cases hundreds of templates as well as a freeform editor that allows you to format your own templates. The offer is an open canvas — but with some constraints based on what they think a user might end up doing to stretch the boundaries of what was intended by the template designer.

Visual email editors try to thread the needle, offering flexibility — but not too much. Limiting freedom too much would displease the user, and allowing any customization would be a disaster for deliverability and email rendering on multiple clients.

Most visual email editors allow the creation of custom email templates or HTML imports. Unfortunately most of them fall short when limiting the editing capabilities to a set of predefined options, allowing changes that break the code when content is edited as part of the template generation.

A new approach for email marketers

Before we started ReachOut, we worked for more than 10 years on building digital products for large publishers. Our clients receive in excess of 10 million hits per month. After years of testing different methods, we’ve come to the conclusion that the best experience for both users and publishers is a blend of template design and content management.

You want to publish fast or, in most cases, automatically based on certain triggers. Templates must be engaging, but you can’t create custom designs at scale for hundreds or thousands of pieces of variable content.

Keeping content and layout separate seems the right approach. You can change the design layer on the one hand or edit your content layer on the other without introducing mistakes or complexity into your presentation.

Applications like Tailwind are tackling this framework. It’s a modern, excellent example of a balanced layout and content editing experience by providing a high-level abstraction for design mixed in with content.

How ReachOut works

Visual Editor CMS

ReachOut CMS: Editing a blog post with custom fields and text formatting

ReachOut is an automated marketing platform that lets you send highly personalized emails and text messages using dynamic tags. The design layer is separate from the content layer — once your design templates are in place, all you need to do is update your content. This allows you to create any number of highly targeted campaigns based on online and real-world event triggers.

Visual Editor Trigger

ReachOut: Events triggered by a website action are listened to by triggered emails

There’s no need to learn the ins and outs of a new visual email editor. You can create professionally designed templates and then update the content within ReachOut, pulling from the first-party data you collect about your users on your platforms.

ReachOut Newsletter email touch point

ReachOut: A newsletter email touch point sending to the recipients table email field and fetching content from the blog table

To take a simple example, you can simply add {{name}} to any piece of content to customize a greeting message. But beyond that, you can use the same dynamic tagging structure to pull any kind of data: So for example, {{content.title}} would fetch the title from the table holding the content for the relevant email header or blog post.

Visual Editor Template

MJML: Our simple and clean newsletter email template using {{content.title}} and other tags to fetch content dynamically

This structure lets you build beautiful campaigns more efficiently and with more flexibility than any other marketing platform. ReachOut lets you create an unlimited number of data tables and populate them from any data source, including landing pages, Stripe transactions, and QR code scans.

Visual Editor Content Sending

ReachOut: Schedule and send content sends individually

Need help building email templates? Our creative studio, ReachOut Marketing, can build you email templates to support your campaigns and that work across clients and devices.

ReachOut gives you a neutral platform to plug any piece of data into any design — and then reach your customers with human, engaging content at scale. Visual email editors are a great start. ReachOut is here when you’re ready to go to the next level.