Text Vs HTML Emails – What to Use When?

Text Vs HTML Emails – What to Use When?

There are certainly benefits to sending both TEXT-Only and HTML emails when launching an email campaign. HTML emails are of course attractive when well-designed, allow you to insert images which help you determine an open rate, can be more compelling to click through, and convey multiple messages in an organized format. On the other hand, text emails can have a better deliverability rate, look more personalized, and are generally less likely to be confused with spam (although many spammers these days have caught on to that notion). So which one is right for your campaign? Well, it all depends on what message you are sending to what audience.
Here are my recommendations for email usage broken out by type and audience:

A regularly sent newsletter to existing customers/opt-ins: HTML. Create an attractive looking template and stick with it. This gives a sense of uniformity and creates a familiar environment for your audience. If you use a “from” name that members of this list will recognize, your open rates will soar and you are not as likely to be marked as spam – if people don’t want to receive your emails anymore in this scenario, they are more likely to complete the unsubscribe process (which doesn’t hurt you like complaints do). Be sure to insert numerous links to important content (as many as ten links or more), and make sure you have a strong call to action – even if the goal is simply to get people to your site. Customer retention is a great benefit of regular communication, so while you may not be able to directly tie new revenue to these efforts, it will be worth it as long as you are providing real content value to your recipients and not a blatant advertisement.
An Autoresponder/Shopping Cart Abandonment Email:TEXT.If you utilize a marketing automation system such as Net-Results, an auto-response email from a web form completion (or bail) will likely be the first time this prospect will receive email from you. Deliverability is the key here, so keep it simple. We have customers who successfully send incentivized shopping cart abandonment emails that are basic text and appear to come from a single customer service rep. The email content simply says something like, “I noticed you did not complete your order – is there anything I can do to help?” and “I realize in this economy the cost of shipping is a strong concern. Please use this discount code for $1 shipping. Thanks, Stephanie.” (There is indeed a Stephanie that works for this particular client, so the email is genuine.)
Press Release:TEXT. Again, deliverability and opens is key here. Most likely your press contacts receive dozens if not hundreds of emails a day. If you appear to be spam, you’ll be blocked not only from that particular contact, but possibly everyone on the same email server for life… which won’t do much for your press efforts. Press Releases are all text anyway, so don’t spend a lot of time making a fancy temple. The media just wants the news.
Product Announcements/Updates: HTML or TEXT. This is a tricky one because it really depends on your product and your audience. If you have a product or service that is a visual like a clothing line, menu items, beauty products, etc. then HTML is the way to go because people will want to see it. But, if you are simply describing the product update or service, such as “we’ve upgraded our database infrastructure” then text is the right choice.
New Prospecting Campaign: HTML or TEXT. This is also a tricky one because you have to weigh the pros and cons of each choice. If you purchase a list, re-market to an old list, or share contacts with partners, there’s a good chance recipients won’t know who you are – so deliverability and looking like spam is a concern – which may indicate a text email would be better. But in this instance, tracking open rate is important because your click through rate might be lower than with an opt-ed in list – so you need to have some idea of who is interested. So, as you can’t track the open rate of a text email, HTML might be a better option. Additionally, you must consider if pictures will truly enhance your email in promoting your product or service as mentioned above. That may be outweighed by the option of a personalized text email that appears to come from a single sales rep as if it was written solely for a one contact (which many of our customers have been successful with).
It really boils down to considering the context of your email, the audience who will receive it, and the message you are trying to convey. Of course you should always consider your own reaction to the type of email you are trying to send and use your experiences to drive your plans. In general, I would recommend that if your list of recipients doesn’t know you, send a text email. If you have an opt-ed in list of known contacts, an HTML email will work well.

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