How to Use Directional Cues to Drive More Email Conversions

Directional cues? As in… those directions and signboards that we see on highways or in airports? 

If you’ve never heard of directional cues, you’re not alone. 

These aren’t often referenced in marketing, and even when they are brought up, it’s often in the context of landing pages – not email marketing.

That said, directional cues are powerful visual elements that you can use to increase your conversion rates, and you should definitely implement them into your campaigns. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through what directional cues are, and show you a couple of ways in which you can use these cues.

Ready? Alright… time to get cued in!

So, What Are Directional Cues?

Simply put, directional cues are visual aids that guide visitors towards the most important sections of your content.

If you’re working on a landing page, you might use directional cues to direct visitors to your lead capture form or video.

If you’re fine-tuning your marketing campaigns, you’ll probably use directional cues to highlight your Call To Action (CTA).

Directional cues generally fall into two categories: implicit and explicit cues.

Explicit cues include arrows and lines, and implicit cues are any sort of imagery that you use to subtly direct your reader’s gaze. (Think white space, color contrasts, etc). 

Now that you’ve gotten the gist of what directional cues are about, let’s move on to discussing why these are important! 

The Importance of Using Directional Cues

When it comes to email marketing, is it better to tell your audience what you want them to do, or let them figure it out on their own?

Pretty obvious, right? 

You should communicate exactly what you want your reader to do – that’s what Call To Actions are for.

But here’s the thing: you can’t possibly front-load your email copy with your Call To Action, and be all:



You’ve got to lead into your CTA, and establish some context so that your contact understands why taking this particular action benefits them. 

Now, here’s where things get tricky.

You need to strike a balance here – if you’re too brief, and you don’t take the time to really get into your story, this might make your offer less compelling.

On the other hand, if you ramble on and on, you run the risk of your audience getting distracted and/or bored, and simply exiting your email without reading on.

Thankfully, you can use directional cues to keep your readers on track, and make sure they pay attention to the important elements of your email.

In other words: directional cues help to streamline your emails, and make them more accessible and understandable for your contacts.

Got it? Good! 

Let’s move onto talking about the different directional cues that you can use to supercharge your campaigns. 

How to Use Directional Cues in Your Emails

1. White space

If you’re not 100% sure what white space is, this just refers to the empty spaces within your email (ie: whatever space isn’t taken up by pictures or text).

Now, if you don’t have enough white space in your message, it will make your entire email look cluttered, and confuses your audience, just like this example:

To improve user experience and allow contacts to get the gist of your email quickly, simply incorporate more white space:

Alright, moving on! 

2. Color contrast

The next directional cue that you can use in your email marketing campaigns is color contrast.

Now, this isn’t rocket science:

The more contrast there is between an element and whatever surrounds it, the more eye-catching it is.

If you want to draw attention to a CTA (or any other element) on your email, make sure that this element stands out from its background.

Check out this example from Trello and you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about:

Because the green button contrasts nicely with the rest of the message, it pops out from the blue background, and you’re automatically drawn to looking at it!

Pretty simple, right?

3. Arrows, lines and angles

While white space and color contrasts are both implicit directional cues, arrows, lines and angles fall into the category of explicit cues.

To see these in action, check out this animated GIF that Arnold Clark sends out in one of their emails:

Pretty cool, right? The arrow draws your attention towards the CTA further down in the message!

Now, arrows, lines and angles don’t always have to be completely obvious… Sometimes, they fall under the implicit category as well!

Check out this example from Chobani:

You’ll notice that the most prominent scone (which also happens to be a pretty lovely triangle) is pointing right at their CTA button!

In fact, this email perfectly illustrates all the directional cues we’ve talked about so far:

  • There’s plenty of white space between their CTA and its surrounding elements.
  • The CTA button contrasts nicely with the rest of the page, and 
  • They’ve used an arrow to direct the reader’s gaze to the CTA. 

Nicely done!

4. Eye gaze

Eye gaze is another implicit directional cue that’s extraordinarily powerful.

How does this work? Well, studies have shown that human beings have an innate tendency to follow the gaze of others.

So if you want to draw attention to a CTA, for instance, just insert a picture of someone looking at your CTA, and that’ll give you a nice boost in your conversion rates! 

Check it out: a heatmap analysis was conducted with this landing page which features a baby facing the reader head-on…

And from the analysis, we can see that most readers focus on the baby’s face.

Now, look at what happens when the landing page features a baby that’s looking at the page copy instead: 

While readers still focus on the baby’s face, they’re now following the baby’s line of sight to the headline and copy. 

Genius, huh?

A Final Word on Using Directional Cues

As marketers, we’d like to think that our readers are giving our emails their full attention.

However, there’s a 99.99999% possibility that this isn’t the case.

Chances are, your contacts are multi-tasking while reading your messages. They might be quickly glancing through your emails while they’re in-between meetings, or while they’re running to Starbucks to get their daily caffeine fix.

Keeping this in mind, you’ve got to do everything in your power to make your email straightforward, and simple to understand.

So start using directional cues, so that your readers are crystal-clear on what they should be looking at!

Alright, that’s all we’ve got for you when it comes to directional cues.

If you have any burning questions about these cues, or you’d like to share your experience using them, leave a comment below.

And while you’re at it, check out the exciting changes we have in store for you with our upcoming Sendlane 3.0 re-launch!

PS: See what we did there? 😉

Kristen Dahlberg

Content ManagerSendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!