Checking emails in the morning is routine for many people, and email marketing campaigns are an excellent way for companies to communicate with their customers directly.
Email marketing research shows that:
– 80% of marketers believe effective email campaigns can significantly increase customer retention.
– Personalized emails that contain specific information about customers can increase a company’s revenue by over 700%.
– Customer surveys have reported that almost 60% of respondents believe that email marketing campaigns have encouraged them to purchase a product or service.
The critical question we’re discussing here is whether you should use plain text or HTML emails. In this article, we will be defining plain text and HTML emails and observing their pros and cons to see which of the two would be more suitable for your email marketing campaign.
What are plain text emails?
Plain text is purely unformatted, un-encoded simple text. Everyone has seen it, used it, and it is compatible with every application on every device. It was first created in the 60s, and ever since, it has been the foundation of our internet-based communication and online collaboration tools, especially emails.
Plain text includes all the English letters, numbers, and certain symbols. Pretty much the components that make up the keyboard on your computer. The most important thing to note is that plain text cannot be aesthetically edited. This means you can’t change the color or font and you can’t add images or videos to plain text emails.
Not only that, but you have no control over the output when you send an email. This is because different email platforms, such as Gmail or Outlook, will present plain text in a specific way. For example, if you sent an email in Comic Sans, Yahoo would automatically show this to the recipient in its default font i.e. Courier New.
Let’s look at the main advantages and disadvantages of plain text emails.
Advantages of plain text emails
It’s as simple as it sounds
One of the defining features of plain text emails is how easy they are to produce. All you need is some high-quality, persuasive copywriting, and you’re good to go. You don’t need to hire a web designer or brush up on your Photoshop skills, because formatting isn’t an option. You can’t even make the title a larger font size. But you do still have caps lock at your disposal.
Aside from caps lock and exclamation marks, one of the most vital plain text email marketing tools you can use is white space. This is, literally, the blank space around the text.
Statistics show that email recipients only read around 30% of the text on a page, so you must draw their attention to the important parts using white space. When used efficiently, white space can direct a reader’s attention to the exact location you want.
Another thing you don’t have to worry about with plain text is readability. Recipients will receive the email in the font and size they have predetermined on their chosen email provider. This feature is particularly useful to people with a disability. Text-to-speech software is far more compatible with plain text emails.
They feel familiar
We’ve all sent and received an email both professionally and personally. But the average personal email very rarely contains well-produced graphics with an impeccable color scheme and layout that requires the use of design collaboration tools. This basic plain text email therefore feels more familiar and personal.
Adding a few touches, such as their name, to what already feels like a direct email to your consumer is incredibly effective at improving your personalized customer experience.
Statistics show that an email that the recipient perceives as personal can increase transactional rates by up to 600%, and it improves customer engagement by almost 75%.
They will be delivered to your consumer
Deliverability is one of the biggest concerns for any email marketer. It’s useless to spend hours perfecting an email marketing campaign that only makes it into the inboxes of 20% of your mailing list.
Ending up in the spam folder is a significant issue, but luckily plain text emails, due to their simplicity, can bypass any junk mail filters the email provider puts in place. This won’t make your email campaign any more effective, but it will increase its chance of being opened and viewed.
This increased opening rate will grow the click-through rate – which is the act of the consumer clicking your advert – 17% more than HTML emails. We will discuss this further below.
A couple more advantages
– Due to the small file size and lack of multimedia assets in plain text emails, they are incredibly fast to load regardless of the internet connection quality. This makes them more accessible to a broader range of people
– They are also compatible with wearable devices. Smartwatches are becoming an ever more popular way for people to check their emails. This is why having an email that can be accessed via this platform is vital.
Disadvantages of plain text emails
Design capabilities are limited
As we’ve mentioned above, plain text emails offer very little to no visual attractiveness. This lack of color, imagery, and other multimedia assets can be limiting. Images grab a consumer’s attention and focus them on your product or service.
Statistics show that:
– Image placement can increase someone’s chance of reading your email by up to 80%.
– Over 60% of email readers stated they prefer reading emails that contain a variety of visual assets.
– Almost two out of three Americans learn visually. This is important because email marketing campaigns usually aim to inform and teach the consumer about a new product or line.
The call to action (CTA)
CTA buttons are crucial in email marketing as they are the portal between an email and a potential conversion. By clicking them, a customer indicates that they’ve been intrigued by your email and want to see more or even purchase a product.
Plain text emails can only offer a CTA link, not a button, which research has shown produces fewer clicks. CTA buttons result in almost 30% more clicks than a plain text CTA link.
Collecting data is crucial for email marketing. You need to know what’s working and what’s not. For example, click-through and conversion rates are key performance indicators for businesses that constantly need to be monitored.
Unfortunately, however, plain text emails cannot be tracked. The only performance indicator you have is whether or not the recipient directly responds.
What are HTML emails?
HTML or hypertext markup language is specific code that uses a scripting language to construct assets and create a structured outcome. Or, in other words, it’s a web page. The domain you’re reading this article on has used HTML in one form or another.
Some people build on HTML templates that already exist, and some start from scratch. Either way, HTML provides you with a lot of creative freedom. Everything from images to animations that move across your screen are possible with HTML.
Let’s look at the main advantages and disadvantages of HTML emails.
Advantages of HTML emails
The creative element
As we mentioned above, HTML is code that allows you to insert visual and multimedia assets. This means you can make your email look as fancy and well-designed as you like with no limitations.
For example, if you’re a company that provides free screen sharing software, you can show customers images within the email of precisely what that would look like.
The critical feature here is the ability to cement your brand. You can include logos and color schemes that are consistent with your website. This will make your brand more distinguishable from competitors and recognizable to customers.
Increase your engagement
Earlier in the article, we discussed the importance of imagery to customer engagement. HTML formatting features allow you to keep a customer’s attention for an extended period due to their aesthetic appeal.
Research shows that businesses that successfully manage to engage their consumers experience over 60% less attrition than companies that do not.
This increased engagement, coupled with a clear CTA button option, increases the probability that customers will click through. In fact, research that analyzed the click-through rate of over a billion marketing emails found that HTML emails increase consumer clicks by almost 60%.
Monitor your progress
One of the key elements to any successful business is data manipulation. Having a plethora of accurate and representative data that can be analyzed to produce actionable insight is crucial for any company.
This is necessary for all companies, from small businesses that provide robotic process automation (RPA) all the way up to Google. This is especially needed during email marketing campaigns.
HTML emails allow you to insert code that tracks everything from the number of recipients that open the email to the number of customers that click through. Many companies carry out competitive analysis to observe and monitor their competitor’s progress, but your priority should be your own growth.
HTML tracking capabilities can let you know if your email marketing campaign is working and whether it needs to be altered.
Disadvantages of HTML emails
They can be complicated
In a similar fashion to a website, HTML emails need to be coded by an expert. This makes the design process time-consuming, and there is an increased chance of technical errors. Any issues with the code could result in formatting issues, which negates the exact reason you’re using HTML.
Not only is HTML time-consuming for you, but it can also be time-consuming for the customer. Because of the multimedia and visual assets that HTML emails tend to contain, the email size can be large.
This increases the load time for consumers with weaker internet connections and will consume a more considerable amount of mobile data for those checking their emails remotely.
They might not always make it
One of the main positives of coded emails is the aesthetic benefits, but the main downside is spam filters treating them as junk mail and customers never receiving them.
HTML emails are often used by spammers and scammers who wedge viruses into the code that infect the recipient’s device. Of course, this isn’t the aim of your marketing HTML email, but the robotic spam filters can sometimes find it difficult to differentiate.
So, which one do you choose?
We can see the positives and negatives for both HTML and plain text emails for marketing from the points made above. The answer depends on your scenario and specific situation.
– Do you want to impress your customers with your bold branding and show them a sneak preview of your new line of business apps? Then HTML might be for you.
– Do you want to treat your customer like an individual who is valued by your company and create a more personal, intimate feeling? Then plain text is the way forward.
– Are you more data-focused and want to ensure that the marketing campaign that you’ve spent a significant portion of your budget on is working? Then try HTML tracking.
– Are you more concerned with making sure your customers receive the email in their inbox and not their spam folder? Then plain text email may be the right choice.
Regardless of whether or not you choose HTML emails, it is advisable that you also make a plain text version available for your consumers. This improves accessibility and gives you the best of both worlds.
Elea Andrea Almazora- RingCentral US
Elea is the SEO Content Optimization manager for RingCentral, the leader in global enterprise communication and collaboration solutions on the cloud. She has more than a decade’s worth of experience in on-page optimization, editorial production, and digital publishing. She spends her free time learning new things.