We’ve seen an interesting trend among email marketers over the past year or two. It is interesting, because this topic is at the top of the list in the email marketing best practices list… and has been since 1999. But, as a few more email clients are automatically showing images in email by default, marketers are experimenting with emails that are made mostly or totally with images and startups selling “agile email” and “real-time email” that rely entirely on a viewer having images in their email enabled. While these innovations are interesting, there are some major disadvantages to this approach we thought worth exploring.

No doubt, images in email have a powerful impact on user engagement.  The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text and when the average person spends just a few seconds glancing over an email- an exciting, informative image can make all the difference between engaging subscribers with your content versus a quick push to the trashcan.  However, there is one major setback with images in email… image blocking.

Image Blocking

Image Blocking

Email marketers need to take into account the not so fun reality of image blocking.  Many email clients automatically block images by default to protect users from spam and the stat that 43% of gmail users read email without turning the image on is not encouraging. Litmus has a great writeup on this topic and their Image Blocking tests show the specifics of which email clients do and do not block images by default on webmail, desktop, and mobile, along with who allows for ALT text and styled ALT text (the text that will replace an image when images are blocked).

Webmail

Webmail Email Client Image Blocks

*Images are enabled by default, but were manually disabled for testing purposes.

Desktop

Desktop Image Blocking Email Clients

*Images are enabled by default, but were manually disabled for testing purposes.

Mobile

Mobile Email Client Image Blocks

*Images are enabled by default, but were manually disabled for testing purposes.

The Disadvantages of an All Image Email

An all image email will look something similar to this email I received in my inbox:

All Image Email

The email is composed entirely of one large image.  Although it is visually appealing there are several disadvantages of having only images with no text in you email.

  • It is one dimensional.  If image blocking is turned on and you have no alternative text, all email efforts have gone out the window. That same email shown above will look like this:

Broken All Image Email

An empty space with only an alt tag (if you added one) and zero text to explain the email.

So what can you do to combat issues with all image emails?

The Saving Grace: Well balanced HTML Email With A Combination of Text and Images

An HTML email allows you to add text, multiple images, multiple links, and cta buttons to a single email, rendering a multifaceted and engaging piece of content. If image blocking is turned on you can still have a great looking email with the visuals being replaced by highly stylized and informative text.

The Benefits of HTML Email:

  • Both images and text can be linked to multiple urls.
  • You can create unique dynamic content for your subscriber such as adding their name and interests to your emails.
  • You can hook into your social and web content using an application such as Content (Ctrl) to inject content directly into your email from YouTube, Facebook, blogs or other feeds.
  • It’s easy for marketers to update copy so there is no need to loop in the creative department for small changes.
  • If a subscriber has their images turned off they are still able to see text.
  • CTA buttons will still appear as they are separate from the images.
  • Much smaller email sizes and load times. This will have a drastic increase in your mobile engagement.
  • You can use multiple alt tags.
  • Multiple images can be used to help track emails and click -through rates.
  • The top markers in the industry consistently use HTML emails for the majority of their content.
  • Since the web is HTML this allows the subscriber a more consistent interaction with your email.
  • Screen readers will be able to read your email.
  • It looks good!

An html email can look similar to our html email we automatically curate for the Guggenheim Museum:

GUGGENHEIM Blog Digest

Conclusion

While images in email boost user engagement and click through rates, it’s important to be prepared with a solid email campaign that won’t crumble to pieces if image viewing is turned off.  Using HTML emails allows you to not only be prepared with a back up plan when images are blocked, but also allows you to create beautiful, multidimensional emails with images, stylized text, cta buttons, links, personalized sends that truly engage subscribers and will lessen then likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.