Modular Email Architectures: Efficient Workflow and Foundation for Personalization

November 24, 2020 | 5 minute read
Jason Witt
VP, Executive Creative Director, Oracle Digital Experience Agency
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Classic email templates are becoming obsolete. They are difficult to maintain, don’t offer enough flexibility, make personalization cumbersome, and take too much time to turn into a final email campaign that’s ready to send. Because of all of those weaknesses, more companies are migrating to modular email architectures and reaping significant improvements.

What is modular email architecture?

Before we answer that question, let’s start with the most elementary unit of this design system: the module. 

A module is an independent, self-contained content block that can be stacked, rearranged, and used (or not used) on a case-by-case basis depending on the needs of a particular email that you’re building. Each module is created to serve a particular purpose and may contain images, HTML text, video, or other content.

For example, you’d have a module for your email header, navigation bar, primary content block, social media links, footer, and other content blocks. It can be helpful to think of a module like a LEGO brick that you stack on top of others to build an email.

A template is a collection of modules that are all appropriate for creating a particular kind of email campaign. Templates can have variations based on segment, customer, or other factors. It’s a starting point for a new layout.

For example, you could have a template for your promotional email campaigns that contain all modules appropriate for any such campaign. Separately, you might have a template for your newsletter, transactional emails, other triggered emails, or crisis messages.

An architecture is a library of modules that leverages all of the following:

  • Creative and coding best practices

  • A defined messaging hierarchy

  • Branded elements, such as approved color palettes, typography, and image support

  • First- and third-party data integration for personalization

  • Advanced creative features like animation, video, kinetic elements, and real-time content

So all together, those three elements create a modular email architecture that allows you to create any email you need.

What are the benefits of modular email architecture?

Modular email architecture offers five key benefits: 

1. Quicker email builds

Because you’re able to stack up any number of content blocks to create the email messaging that you need, building emails is simply faster. For example, we built a modular email architecture for a large online travel agency, and they saw their campaign build-times decrease by 25%.

2. Easier personalization

While more of our clients have been adopting modular email architectures due to the time-savings lately, easier personalization has traditionally been the biggest selling point. Since many traditional templates are largely image-based, personalizing different portions of it is difficult. Because modular designs are a mix of images and live text, you can easily personalize your message based on first- and third-party data. This also makes last-minutes changes quick and easy.

3. Greater flexibility

The mix-and-match nature of building emails with modules allows for tremendous flexibility in your email designs. Want to add another product module to your email? Done. Need to swap in a video module to replace a text module? Done. 

4. Lower maintenance

Instead of custom coding a set of traditional email templates and maintaining each of them separately, having a modular email architecture allows you to keep a library of tested code modules.

For example, if you needed to update your email navigation bar, instead of updating that across lots of traditional templates, you’d only need to update your navigation bar module. Coded properly, the change to that module would not only apply to future broadcast and segmented emails you create, but also apply to all existing automated and transactional emails. That level of efficiency adds up to huge time-savings.

5. More consistency and control

Governance is key to maintaining consistency across branding, message strategy, and customer experience. A versatile email architecture allows departments, divisions, and branches across distributed organizations to create the messages they want without having to “go rogue” when they encounter limitations. Put another way, module email architectures allow you to ensure a greater level of brand consistency by allowing more message flexibility.

6. Easier evolution of email design

By breaking up your email design into various modules, it puts you in a mindset of looking at your email design as a collection of much smaller pieces. And that mindset is the right one to be in for driving incremental improvements through A/B and multivariate tests

For example, if you wanted to test a new way to promote video content in your newsletter, then you’d just create a new video content module and run an A/B test using the old and new modules. Once you have a clear winner, you simply archive the losing module. We recommend reevaluating your architecture on a regular basis to determine what modules should be challenged through testing, which should be sunset, and what new modules you need to accommodate new needs.

Modular email architecture in action

When we launched the Oracle CX Marketing newsletter last fall, we built it from the ground up on a modular email architecture to allow quicker builds and content flexibility, since we knew that our content lineup would change from issue to issue. We also knew that we’d be doing a fair amount of testing to see which module designs were the most effective.

Here’s a look at how we constructed our library of primary, secondary, and tertiary modules:

Our one primary module contains our header and table of contents. We’ve had several versions of our primary module over the past year, but after some redesigns and testing, we’ve settled on one winning module, which you can see below. 

Secondary modules showcase the content that generates the vast majority of the clicks in our newsletter. We have a number of different headline, teaser, and CTA arrangements for these modules so we can best match them to the content and image we’re featuring. You can see just a few of the secondary modules we use below.

Tertiary modules are our smallest modules and feature supplemental content, such as featured tweets and upcoming conference and webinar appearances by our consultants. For the latter, you can see below that we have multiple modules so we can accommodate times when we have just one or multiple events in which we're participating. 

Using that library of primary, secondary, and tertiary modules—of which we’ve shown you just a portion—we can build any upcoming newsletter issues, regardless of the lineup of content. It’s as simple as selecting modules and stacking them on top of one another. Once the modules are chosen, we then flow in the text and add the images. 

Given all of the advantages of modular email architecture, it’s clear to see why more and more email programs are migrating to these build systems. As brands look for ways to reduce cost, create efficiencies, and increase personalization, marketing teams will look to leverage modular email architectures. In fact, we predict a majority of brands will migrate to these design systems by the year 2024.


Need help transitioning to a module email architecture? Oracle CX Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including Creative Services and Coding Services teams that can help you set up your own modular email architecture.

To learn more, reach out to us at

For more information about email marketing, please check out:


Jason Witt

VP, Executive Creative Director, Oracle Digital Experience Agency

Jason Witt is the VP, Executive Creative Director, at Oracle Digital Experience Agency. He has over 15 years of digital creative experience helping clients deliver engaging brand stories. For the past seven years, Jason has focused on creating highly personalized experiences through email marketing, leading teams that produce award-winning creative work.

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