Email Design

HTML vs plain text

None of us appreciate having our old certainties challenged, let alone proved incorrect. At the very least it will mean extra work. But please don't hold that against me.

We all know that HTML marketing emails give much better open rates, click throughs and completions than plain text. What's to like about dull, unsophisticated email? So it came as something of a shock to read that in one test, plain text gave statistically significant better results across the board. 

One particular point was that the more HTML the marketing email contained, the bigger the gap.

WizEmail's Doodles is our own Salvador Dali when it comes to campaign designAs with all such results in testing situations, the detail tells a slightly different story and whilst it would appear that plain text emails can have an advantage, it is clear that it is not time to ditch HTML. Far from it in fact.

HTML gives the opportunity to move subscribers towards click throughs and completions and their only downside was a need to ensure that they were not classed as spam. With the advent of email marketing templates, designed to all but eliminate such possibilities, the last hurdle was removed. 

The research did not subdivide recipients, subjects and devices, which means we have to fall back on testing to see if the results apply to our particular situations. In other words, we should not take the bare results on face value.

My first thought on reading the returns was the coincidence between the rise in rich text returns and the use of mobile devices to read emails. It is up to us to move forward from that research towards specifics. 

Further, some products might well benefit from more visual sales promotions, such as holidays, furniture and fashion. If you were trying to encourage attendees to a presentation on IT, a buzzing presentation could well be an essential.

So should you be worried? Not necessarily. Should you try some A/B testing? Most definitely. Is there any particular result to concentrate on? Initially, just completions. 

Such research is not definitive. It can never be specific to your product. It does, however, provide a bit of a warning, and encouragement to test. In email marketing, nothing is set in stone.



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