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UNSPAM 2020 Takeaways

5 Actionable UNSPAM 2020 Takeaways

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If you’ve ever felt stuck trying to design the perfect email, you’ve probably scrolled through Really Good Emails for inspiration. 

By tirelessly curating an email repository with strict guidelines based on best practices, Really Good Emails has become the gold standard for email design.

However, email design is only part of the story. 

So Really Good Emails (RGE) started a can’t-miss email marketing conference called UNSPAM to help email marketers everywhere improve their skills. 

This year, we attended UNSPAM 2020, where a revolving door of email marketing experts and industry leaders shared tactics and strategies to improve email metrics while positively impacting your contact database. 

Here are the top takeaways that we recommend you implement in your own email marketing right now:



Control Groups




Email design is still the top dog at UNSPAM 2020. Tattly Design Director, Cristina Gomez, delved into some of the top 2020 email trends that frequent the RGE website homepage.

Here are some email template trends that you can quickly implement today:

Abstract Shapes

A compelling reason to use abstract shapes (or “wiggly blogs” as Cristina calls them) in your newsletter is to break your email out of its 600-pixel wide box. These shapes also improve the transition between sections in your newsletter while removing harsh lines. 

UNSPAM 2020: Abstract Shapes

While this strategy is probably limited to creative brands, abstract shapes can instantly liven up your newsletter. Just be careful as more brands use these shapes because the trend might become overused. 

Overlapping Blocks

If abstract shapes are too fun for your brand, try overlapping blocks! They also can help your email feel out of the box and enhance the flow. 

Overlapping blocks also give you room to place copy if you can’t find a great spot for it on your image or easily add live text, which will boost your deliverability score and make your email template more scalable. 

UNSPAM 2020: Overlapping Blocks


To make your next newsletter cleaner and more modern, consider leveraging a beige background. Beige softens the look of your email compared to all-white while still working with various colored copy and images. It can even make white copy pop!

UNSPAM 2020: Beige

However, sending a barrage of beige emails can become dull. So be careful when choosing between eggshell and cream. Like anything else, moderation is key.

Big, Bold Type Fonts

Nothing grabs your contacts’ attention like bold, 40-point font at the top of your email. 

By putting your core message in a big, bold type font at the beginning of your email, contacts can quickly discern the most important information. 

Just remember, the copy needs to convey the value proposition. Using fun, witty copy could leave contacts guessing (and no one wants to read the body copy of the email to know what they need to do next).

UNSPAM 2020: Bold Type

Circle Bullet Points

Icons and lists are an iconic pair. But overusing icons can leave your email looking like a mess. 

By adding a circle background to your icons, your email feels more uniform and organized. You could even take it a step further and turn the circles into more abstract ovals or blobs to convey a more light and fun look. 

Take caution, though. Too many circle bullet points could leave your email looking cluttered.  

UNSPAM 2020: Circle Points

These trends are easy to implement and can change up your email template game today.

Cristina also discussed other top email trends that might be harder to implement but worthwhile if you have the design chops (and budget).

  • Transparent Illustrations: To give your newsletter a more editorial look, add transparent illustrations behind or in front of your images and copy. Warning: This only works if you have a great illustrator on deck.
  •  3D Images and GIFs: If your company has the budget, add 3D images or GIFs to instantly elevate your newsletter, make your products look expensive and add a modern edge.
  • Night Mode: Using black email backgrounds can make your email stand out while still feeling techy. You can only use this trick a few times before it loses its charm. Although not scalable, it’s great for big promotions like Black Friday.
  • Plant Accents: If you can organize a photoshoot for your products, try sneaking in some plants. Plants add an air of inspiration and eco-friendliness to your photos. Plus, they’re proven to make people happy.  



Personalization is on every email marketer’s mind. And no, we aren’t talking about adding a contact’s name into the subject line or their last purchased item into their next email. 

In fact, 91% of marketers say personalization is important, but only 61% are doing it. 

Mike Nelson from RGE discussed the brand’s struggle integrating important user behaviors into their ESP. So, they created an engine to capture the user behavior that’s most important for improving user retention.

At Human, we came across this issue as well. 

We needed to know what products or services our clients’ contacts were interested in right now — not what they wanted the last time they bought from you or opened an email. So, we built Personalize to solve this problem.

Personalize intelligently tracks your users’ top three interests based on their unique digital footprint. 

Because customer interests change, Personalize tells you what each contact wants and, more importantly, what to market to each contact in real time. 

Personalize integrates with HubSpot, Klaviyo, Shopify, Bigcommerce and Zapier so you can use the information in your email marketing. With the Personalize integration, you can add in product names and images that dynamically change to match each contacts’ unique interests. 

Personalization Tokens

If you want to see how Personalize works, schedule a demo today! I’ve also created this nifty video demo if you hate talking to people. I know I do.

Control Groups

Do you know how much revenue your emails actually earn? Most ESPs have email attribution built in — but this number doesn’t tell the full story. 

Because email attribution only measures when someone opens your email and clicks through, you miss revenue attribution for contacts that only saw the email subject line and went on to purchase later. It also doesn’t account for contacts who saw an email but may have purchased anyway.

Adam Bianco from The Beard Club recommended excluding a control group from your email list to gauge the true revenue lift from email.

First, create a control group (5-10% of contacts) and exclude them from your email send list for a promotion. 

Then, measure all-up promotion revenue across each group, and divide by the number of contacts in each. You can compare revenue per contact to get a more accurate view of email-influenced revenue.

You’ll also see how much weight other channels are pulling for promotions when email isn’t in the picture. Knowing these numbers is extremely important if you’re paying for social ads on Facebook and Instagram and need to know if they’re worth the money.

Data is king, so while it may seem counterintuitive to leave out a segment of contacts who would convert from email, knowing the true revenue lift from email will help you make smarter investment decisions. 

And don’t worry, you don’t need to exclude the control group from email sends once you know the impact on revenue.


Earning email addresses is hard — and keeping them is even harder. Allie Donovan from Brooklinen discussed the many ways you can delight your contacts to become loyal, evangelist customers.

Ask Your Customers How They’re Doing

A happy customer is a lifelong customer. Ask your customers for feedback and change your email messaging to match how they respond.

If they’re happy, continue delighting them with a discount. If they weren’t satisfied with your product or service, connect them with customer service so you can try to remedy the situation. 

The sooner you can make this touchpoint, the more likely customers will return.   

Be Emotional

It’s important to remind customers how your product or service makes them feel. Find and test the emotions that resonate best at each lifecycle stage. 

And most importantly, focus on the positive emotions! They help make your brand a happier place for customers.

Keep It Simple

Listen, no one likes to put in extra work, especially people trying to give you money. Reduce friction points from email to the next desired action to make your customers’ lives easier by automatically populating promotion codes in the cart or making returns hassle-free.

Change Up Offers

Repeatedly blasting your list the same offer saves time, but your customers will get tired of it. 

Try changing up your promotions from a percent discount to a tiered discount. Or, offer a free product or free shipping. 

It’s important to test which offers resonate best, so when big promotions come up, you can hit your audience with the perfect message.

Give Away Valuable Information

People love free stuff, especially your customers. 

If you have an impressive report, a useful worksheet or any other valuable information you can offer, give it away! Don’t put it behind a landing page if you already have their email.

Start a Conversation

While promotional emails make revenue, you should also mix in engaging messages so your customers look forward to hearing from  you. 

You’d be surprised how many of your contacts are willing to respond to a simple question or email poll. Just remember to send a follow-up email to communicate how others responded and close that feedback loop!


AMP has been a huge buzzword in the email marketing world but has scared many away because it seems complicated. Thankfully, the amazing ladies Jen Capstraw and April Mullen from Women of Email helped demystify AMP for email and break down how you can leverage it today.

So, what is AMP for email? 

AMP is a new type of email that allows contacts to engage with you right from the email. One of the best examples of AMP for email is the “reply to comment” section in Google Doc emails. 


AMP for email fetches up-to-date data and allows users to take actions in an email like:

  • Book an appointment
  • RSVP to an event
  • Sign up for promotions in transactional emails
  • Complete surveys
  • One-click replenishment campaigns

The most impressive aspect of AMP for email is that it compresses the email funnel. Contacts no longer have to click off an email to complete an action; they can take the next step right then and there.

If you’re concerned about whether AMP will affect your reporting KPIs such as click rate, it will. But that just means as marketers, we need to look at higher impact metrics.

Google, Outlook (plus the other ESPs Microsoft owns) and Yahoo are the only email clients that support AMP for email. But you can also set a default HTML version of your email so you never send a broken email.

To get started with AMP, try using Stripo, Express Pigeon and Bee Editor to create and design your AMP emails. Using this new, underutilized technology will surely lift your email metrics.

Final Thoughts on UNSPAM 2020

UNSPAM 2020 taught us that to send a “really good email” you need to:

  • Experiment with new designs
  • Incorporate personalization
  • Understand email’s impact on revenue
  • Keep users subscribed by sending them worthwhile content 
  • Leverage AMP to grow email revenue 

While UNSPAM 2020 covered many more topics, these were the most actionable, high-impact tactics.

If you need some help incorporating the UNSPAM 2020 takeaways into your current email strategy, we can help! Human is an Orange County digital marketing agency that takes a full-funnel approach to accomplishing your business goals.

I also want to give a big shout out to the people at RGE for hosting an amazing email marketing event where we learned, laughed and loved email. Cheers!

Topics: Email Marketing