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Reaching the final destination


As more wearables such as the Apple Watch appear on the market do we need to reconsider what type of emails we are sending to our customers? With HTML emails unable to display on Apple Watches July’s Email Council debate was all about plain text emails.

We quickly came to an agreement that plain text emails have always been important, but with the word talking about wearables email marketers are now not solely concentrating on HTML emails. Two key themes emerged from our debate. Firstly, whether plain text emails are necessary to help with deliverability, and secondly do plain text emails provide a personal approach for brands?

So lets go back to basics, what are plain text emails? Well they are exactly that - plain text without all the bells and whistles. Normally we find ourselves discussing HTML emails, but with plain text emails you don’t have to worry about eye-catching animated gifs or mobile responsive designs.

It’s impossible to discuss the HTML v. plain text debate without discussing deliverability. Some spam filters simply want to see a plain text alternative and when one isn’t present your email is flagged as spam. In B2B scenarios, sometimes an HTML email can’t ever be received, so the sender needs to ensure that a plain text version exists.

Recipients may decide to configure their email clients to block HTML, whether this is because they have a poor Internet speed and find the email takes too long to load, or because they prefer a plain text email. They can find it easier to scan and find exactly what they are looking at whether that’s a voucher code or what TV show to watch this weekend. Research by Hubspot in 2014 found that nearly two thirds of respondent said they preferred HTML emails but that still means one third prefer plain text.

So then we came onto the second part of our discussion, using plain text as a marketing tool. A number of the council members said that they’d used plain text emails to differentiate themselves and create a personable approach when reaching out to their customers. Some brands were even creating HTML emails that looked like plain text emails in order to create this impression, but allowing themselves the ability to format the emails with hyperlinks and tracking pixels.

However we appreciate that plain text emails don’t work in every industry. Describing the exact colour and design of a dress or a sunset in Thailand doesn’t have the same effect as imagery. With everything in the social world moving to visual in order to increase engagement is it risky to send emails with just text?

The addition of a plain text version is not only best practice, but as it takes just a few minutes to create and very little money, it’s definitely worth the effort if it improves your chances of reaching the final destination, the inbox.

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