REPLY TO ALL: Do we know that emails with images get better responses?

Do we KNOW that emails with graphics get better response than text-based e-mails? Could it differ from industry to industry? —M.H. (from Lead Generation Roundtable webinar sponsored by Bulldog Solutions on Aug. 14)

The Voices of Email had this advice:

Jeanniey Mullen: This is a great question, and the answer is totally dependent on the type of email message sent.

From prior research, it appears that truly service-based emails—like welcome emails, confirmation emails and the like (ex. Your online payment has been posted)—do not perform any differently whether they are text or include graphics.

However, service-based emails that have soft sell elements—i.e.,. opt-in to our email program, or people interested in this are also interested in this—perform 2-10 times better with graphics to help focus attention.

As far as general marketing messages, I think this is a great question to re-study in the marketplace. Years ago, many tests were done and in most cases HTML outperformed text. However, in today’s handheld world, text may begin to show additional benefits.

Chip House: R.J. Talyor from our strategy team weighed in with some great info we have related to mobile rendering:

—Across six different combinations of text and HTML emails, the highest click-through rates across three client email tests were achieved by maintaining an HTML version while improving the text design. This approach was achieved by maintaining the HTML version while altering the text version to include a brief (1-2 sentences) teaser followed by a “View as a Webpage” link after.

—With the increase of smartphones in the market (current penetration is 7%), sending an email with the most flexibility is imperative. Sending as HTML or text only can alienate or frustrate subscribers whose email client or device can only display in one or the other.

—Based on testing with three email marketers (one B2C marketer; two B2B marketers), we recommend sending in multi-part MIME with the text version optimize.

Amy Bills: The answer to the images vs. no images question isn’t the same for every communication. You need to consider the specific communication and call the action of the email. What are you trying to accomplish? What is the recipient expecting? I know it’s not the magic answer, but to a large extent it comes down to testing what works for your audience.

Let’s say your objective is to initiate a dialogue, engage prospects in a conversation, maybe introduce them to your company. For this purpose, in a B2B context, I do think that images can serve you well. They can be used to call attention to certain calls-to-action, present a polished face for your company. The example I’d use is Marketing Watchdog Journal, Bulldog’s monthly sales and marketing newsletter. This is a lot of people’s first real communication with Bulldog, so we’re very conscious of how it looks and how robust the content is. We’ve been testing a streamlined version that eliminates all images and some of the design elements. Click-throughs are lower than on our fully designed version.

On the other hand, one of our Web designers loves a simple, text-only email he gets from Motley Fool. As a subscriber, he’s already sold on their advice. He wants it succinctly presented so he can choose what he wants to learn more about.

Stephanie Miller: It does vary and in some industries like tech, text works better. This can be easily tested for your file. It’s always a good practice to offer a choice of format (text, HTML or mobile).

Have some good advice that we missed? Please add a comment and take part in the conversation.

Have a question for the Voices of Email? Email Chad your question at and we’ll REPLY TO ALL by posting the answers so everyone can benefit.

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