A good friend of mine, Theirry, asked if I could engage the marketing masses and help settle (or at least fan the flames) of the email debate regarding which works better: text based emails or HTML.
LOTS to consider here. Everything: including what you’re sending, when you’re sending, what your goals are, to WHOM you’re sending, and many more. So, if after I’ve finished my thoughts you still want more detail simply ask in the comments. I want to be able to help you wade through those questions…but you’ve gotta ask!
Before I start the analysis we need to address a few things:
1. We have to strike a balance between what’s best for the customer….and what’s best for the marketer.
2. No matter which ‘side of the aisle’ you fall on, there are RULES that you need to follow to maximize all metrics…and I won’t tell you all of them 😉
3. There’s NO RIGHT ANSWER! Most times with HTML there’s a text version that’s sent as well…but let’s just focus on one vs the other.
Agree?? OK good….let’s get started!
What I’m going to do is go over some main points of email marketing…then have each style ‘address’ it. If you want me to add a category just ask in the comments!
1. Ease of Use by Marketer
Text: Very simple, you basically type and send. All you have to do is make sure that you don’t have any weird page breaks that would skew how it’s read.
HTML: Quick to put together once you have a template or two that you simple plug in…but you do have to do that template at least ONCE, and you might send that image of your internal trade list instead of public trade list…which are both labeled with ‘list’ in there.
Advantage: TEXT: It’s just too simple to mess up. The worst that can happen is that the lines get truncated…but with HTML you might send out an image of something else, or have the colors mess up, etc etc.
2. User Experience
TEXT: The argument for text is that it’s simple, clean, and the content is RIGHT THERE. They don’t have to click an ‘allow images’ to read what they’ve signed-up for. This is conducive to wordsmiths who prefer to let the text drive the clicks.
Downside is that your links show up as raw links instead of ‘click here to buy my latest great offer’, and users are basically reading an email the same as they would read a word document.
HTML: Obviously being able to frame your message in a visually pleasing manner is going to be better for users. You can hide your link inside words which allows you to put more tracking on specific links other then something like bradslink.com/email1. You can provide images to better diagram what they’ll see on the next page once they click, or show them pictures for your vacation, or whatever. Just like the old adage about eating with your eyes first, people CLICK, first with their eyes more often then not.
However, users most often will have to click ‘view images’ every time, or click ‘always allow images’ in order to read the email. We want people to click INSIDE the email and the more clicks ‘wasted’ getting them to see it might hurt your clicks. There’s the issue of them actually seeing the email…images and html gets picked up by spam filters at an ALARMING rate. For me, I’ve had dozens of emails that I get on a regular basis end up in spam even though I’ve allowed images, whitelisted, etc etc. It’s just the risk.
Advantage: HTML; The rewards are worth the risk if you ask the gen pop….(yeah I just referred to potential buyers in prison slang)
3. Better Open, Click Thru, and Conversion Rates
TEXT: Hard/impossible to track! Can’t track opens, can only track clicks if a specific unique url is used, and conversions will have to be done back-end which is a bit of extra work.. Honestly you can guage all the stats just from the unique url…I know because I do it with clients all the time.
One could argue that too many metrics forces one to over analyze. That’s true in a sense, and text allows you to just focus on one…clicks.
HTML: It’s like the Matrix of metrics (I’m copywriting that phrase!)!! You can track opens, clicks on specific links, clicks on specific images, who was eating ice-cream when they clicked on your link, etc etc etc. Basically you have a LOT of metrics which would help you to target your messages and methods…
But it might be too much and you over analyze and spend the time tweaking your way out of a consistent email that your users are used to getting. I’ve been there done that…and it’s no fun.
Advantage: HTML; But the fact remains you can get more stats and track emails more clearly via HTML.
I could write a masters level thesis paper on this topic, but I still might not hit the questions that matter most to you…everyone’s got an opinion on this so let’s open up the comments section and get it out!
Let the comments fly!!!!