The very first thing that you will need to determine when you're designing your email template is whether you want to send a multi-part message (an html and text email) or only a text email. To be clear, there won't be any instance in which you send only an html email. Almost all email marketing platforms and most email service providers require your email to come in both html and text email formats for deliverability reasons. However, you may debate whether you want to invest time and resources into the html format of your email template or instead simply send text emails. Let's discuss the pros and cons by first discussing the benefits of a text email.
What are the Pros and Cons of a Text-Only Email?
A text only email may seem boring and ineffective. Many of us are used to seeing images, different font sizes, different font colors, and a structured layout on our web pages, print mailers, and even many of the emails we receive. As we'll discuss shortly, there are many reasons to use an html email template. However, text-only email does have several benefits that you may want to consider.
No Display or Resolution Issues: No matter how many times you test your html email template and in how many email service provider scenarios you test it, it will not always display properly. Particularly as more and more people read email on mobile devices(many of which only support text-based emails), display and resolution issues may increase. Outlook email clients are particularly known for mangling the display of html emails. When you send out an html email, you can't be absolutely, one-hundred percent sure that it's displaying properly to all of your recipients. A text-based email will always display the same and you can be assured that your users will both see and be able to clearly read your message.
Maximum Inbox Deliverability: A text-only email faces far fewer challenges in getting into a recipient's inbox as opposed to their junk or spam folder. In fact, if your email program is experiencing inbox deliverability problems, one of the most common fixes is to reduce the number of html components in your email template. If you're worried about inbox deliverability or feel as though you may have a problem with getting into the inbox, text-only email is an ideal solution. It's also quite common to use text-only emails for transactional emails such as receipts or purchase confirmations in order to ensure that they arrive in the inbox with no confusion.
Faster and Easier to Create: If you're short on in-house resources, a text only email is certainly faster and easier to create. Even with an email marketing solution that offers free, fast, effective email templates such as Comm100 Email Marketing, you'll still need to spend more time entering links and creating images. If speed is of the essence, text-based emails can be your friends.
Text-only emails are faster, simpler, and present less challenges for display and inbox deliverability. However, conversely, there are some draw backs as well.
Inability to Track: With a text-only email, you won't be able to track any of your email's performance. Because open-rates are tracked using a pixilated image, you won't know how many people opened your email. Because click-through is tracked based on links clicked, you won't ultimately know how many people clicked-through your email. You'll be limited to looking at trends that happened around the time of your email send in order to estimate effectiveness.
Reduced Response and Conversion: You also may not get the same response rate and conversion rate from a text-only email. Images, colors, visuals, and information organization sell products and concepts much better than plain text does. It's inevitable that you will see a reduced response rate from a text-only email unless it is replacing an html email that was unable to get into an inbox properly.
In short, text-only emails will not sell your product as well nor will they convert to sales or revenue-generating activities as well. However, they will have easier deliverability and resolution and require fewer in-house resources.
What are the Pros and Cons of an HTML Email?
HTML emails, on the other hand, offer many benefits that can't be emulated by a text-only email, including:
Information Organization: When you send a text-only email, you're essentially asking users to read long blocks of text. That's unlikely to happen on a regular basis. However, because an html email will allow you to use table structures to organize text into areas and blocks, it will allow you to use different fonts, font sizes, colors, and bulleted list to make information easier for your recipients to scan and see. It will also visually engage them. In short, it will be easier for the user to read and digest your content quickly. Since the average user scans a web page or email for less than eight seconds before deciding whether to read it or not, visual engagement and good information organization can be a huge competitive advantage.
Use of Images: Similarly, the use of images in an html email can dramatically improve user response and conversion. It should be noted that not all email service providers display images within emails, but for those that do the ability to show images of products, lifestyles or even branded logos and icons can inspire and entice subscribers to take action and purchase or view.
Easy-to-Click Links: With a text-only email, your subscribers will need to copy and paste any links that you use into a web browser (or, worse yet, type them in, meaning potential typo errors). However, with an html email you can code text or images to link directly to your website. This means that users won't have to "work" to get to your landing page or website. All they'll need to do is "click", which is an action they are already used to.
Full Tracking Capability: An html email means that you will have full visibility into how your subscribers use and respond to your email. You'll be able to see open-rate trends and reports and have definitive answers to how many people visited your website as a result of your email. These will be important tracking statistics and metrics as you work to optimize your email program.
HTML email gives you more visual and marketing options. However, it does have a few drawbacks that you'll want to keep in mind.
Display Issues: Display issues with html emails can be a multi-tiered issue. Firstly, you'll need to check your email template in multiple email service providers to determine if it displays correctly in Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, and all of the other major providers (including Outlook, which can be difficult to display properly in). Secondly, even if you think you have a perfect html template that will never break, you can never be sure. It's always possible that a small niche of your recipients is not clearly seeing the email properly. Finally, many email clients do not load images in emails, so if your email has been designed with too many images included, it may not be effective.
Deliverability Issues: HTML email also has increased deliverability issues. Bad code, too much bolded text, certain font colors, and images can result in your email going to the spam or junk box. While, obviously, html emails make it to the inbox regularly, you require more work and diligence to ensure that an html email doesn't end up in the spam folder.
In-House Resource Issues: HTML email requires at least a basic design understanding. While many email newsletter and marketing providers such as Comm100 will provide you with easy, pre-made html templates, you'll still need to do more work than just writing a paragraph of text. Image preparation, adding links, and formatting your email are not as quick as creating a text only email.
HTML email will allow you to better market your product, service, brand, or company. However, you'll have to do a little bit more work even if you have pre-made templates and a standardized way to send your html email.
What's the Best Solution?
Unless there's a very compelling reason why you need to send a text-only email, html and text emails are certainly the better option. However, you can do a few things to improve the performance of the html and text email when compared with text-only emails in terms of deliverability, display, and in-house resource allocation.
Limit the Use of Images: Marketers love images, but using too many of them in an email can backfire. Not only can it trigger spam filters, but it can also cause display issues and broken templates. Additionally, if you have too many images, your email may end up simply looking like a blank white screen if your subscriber's email service provider does not enable images.
Keep Things Simple: Keep your templates simple. The fewer chances you give email service providers to mangle your display, the fewer template breaks you'll experience! Also users will respond better to simple templates where it's easy to find things and scan the content quickly.
Reuse Your Templates: Create email templates that you can reuse each time you send an email with only minor variations. That way, while it may take slightly longer than it would to create a text-only email, you'll be creating efficiencies and reducing the amount of time that you spend per email creation.
HTML and Text email certainly gives you access to the important tracking and metrics that you'll need in order to create a fully optimized email marketing or newsletter program. If you use some restraint and best practices with developing the html portion of your email marketing program, you'll be able to overcome some of the minor obstacles associated with html email. As a result, you'll get the benefits of a more visually stimulating and exciting email newsletter or marketing template while minimizing deliverability and display issues.