Business Objective

Columbia News, the official newsroom for Columbia University, needed a scalable email newsletter that would driver higher engagement. The content strategy involved solidifying Columbia as a research institution and highlighting University life for prospective professors, staff, and students.

Challenges

  • Existing newsletter hand-coded with HTML and CSS
  • Took up to two weeks to put together
  • Design breaks in different inboxes and on mobile devices
  • No subscription page
  • Visually outdated
  • Sent out once a month

Process

For the UX design… I reviewed existing newsletter templates within Mailchimp to understand its functional limitations. Then I created a wireframe and two designs on top of the wireframe that would be compatible with Mailchimp. My team and I looked over the two designs and selected the features we liked from each.

For the content strategy… I looked over user data of a year’s worth of newsletters and conducted several A/B tests after launch to improve open and click rates. For example, I tested over six weeks what kind of subject line led to higher open rates: triptych, which uses keywords to highlight the top 3 subjects featured in the newsletter; or a conversational subject line, which uses marketing-speak to intrigue readers. In the end, the triptych subject line had higher and more consistent results.

I also created a subscription landing page – an implicit requirement for this project – on our company’s existing website and ensured the sign-up form was GDPR-compliant.

The landing page on the Columbia News website encourages subscriptions to the biweekly email newsletter.

Key Results

  • Achieved average open rate of 26%; ~8 points above industry average
  • Doubled newsletter average click rate from 2% to 4% in one year
  • Increased email subscribers by 15% in one year
  • Design works on mobile screens and in most inbox platforms
  • Newsletter could be put together within a day, instead of two weeks
  • Supervisor ordered the email to be replicated and sent twice a week
  • Email newsletter became the top 3rd referral medium for the Columbia News website
  • Added a “Featured Events” section, which users

Before & After – Desktop