Are Image-based Emails Cool For Email Marketing?

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 05-14-2019

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

Take a look at these e-newsletters, which of them do you like more?

These are email marketing image from the ReallyGoodEmails website “Apps&Services” category

There are two types of email marketers: those who prefer to follow the MailChimp recommendation about the 20% to 80% text-image ratio as a standard, and those who don’t.

Does it mean that the latter makes a mistake?

But don’t judge too soon.

In this article, we will analyze all the pros and cons of the image-based emails and tell how to avoid problems using this newsletter type.

What is image-based newsletter?

Image-only email is a message with almost purely visual content and little percent of the text.

Approximately it is the opposite of the recommendation above:

You may say it’s a crazy idea to send such messages, however, I’m not alone in my sympathy to these email campaigns type.

After three years of careful analysis of the best email marketing company image practices for the AtomPark Software clients and blog readers, I’ve noticed that email subscribers really love bright emails.

And I have a list of coherent arguments on this:

  • People prefer to click on image based emails, so eye-catching newsletters have a 42% higher click-through rate compared to text-only one.
  • Visual elements help to underline the main idea of the message.
  • Use of illustrations improves brand awareness.

There are no limits for a designer’s imagination here. Moreover, when email subscriber opens this newsletter she/he sees that it was done with love, and the brand really cares.

Anyway, there is a reason why email marketing expert avoid using it.

Why image-only emails are risky?

Litmus says:

And it is right because there is a danger to repeat the next failure:

Actually, here is how it looks when it isn’t blocked:

Let’s talk about the reasons that could lead to this situation:

  • Earlier this newsletter type was associated with spammers because spam filters can’t read images, and spammers use this trick to send unwanted, forbidden offers. Now, image only emails are still under suspicion, so email clients quite often block such messages by default and send it to the junk folder.
  • Subscribers disable images on their end to the traffic economy, thus they won’t see the major part of your offer.
  • Screen readers for the blind aren’t able to read text on the illustrations.
  • It is a real challenge for email subscribers with a 2g – 3g mobile connection to open image-heavy newsletters.
  • Such emails are hard to find in the mailbox when you need them because the search operator uses text – the limited element in the newsletters we are talking about.

Nonetheless, brands like J.Crew, REI, Taco Bell, etc. successfully use it and have their campaigns reach the inbox. Do their marketers have the knowledge, inaccessible to simple muggles?

Maybe, but I’ve analyzed their email tactics and found this secret.

How to avoid problems with the image-based mass mailing campaigns

  • If you don’t want to use text in the main body of the email, add it to the footer part as the MOO, online print and design company did:
  • Use background images with HTML text and buttons over it. This would help your subscribers to understand the main idea of the offer in a case when images won’t display.

Here is a part of the Coffee Trade newsletter:

  • Use the power of Alt Text for email images to describe the main idea of your offer. For example, the Taco Bell newsletter with the disabled images on the phone:

  • Don’t make your CTA as button image because it could be hidden from the subscriber along with the rest of the images from your message. It is better to use bulletproof buttons: they are made with the help of HTML and CSS code, so they don’t disappear from your email when the images are off.

Have a look at your email now. Make sure that people understand your message even when pictures are turned off.

That’s all, but before testing your campaigns be sure you don’t forget about the basic tips of the newsletter content:

  • Add Unsubscribe link
  • Avoid spam words
  • Think twice over the subheading and pre-header of your campaign
  • Use lightweight visuals (no more than 5 Mb)
  • Add a link to the newsletter web version.

So the answer to our main question today is yes, image-based emails are cool. However, you must be very careful with the design of such a campaign to keep it visible for subscribers.

Now you know the secret knowledge and can impress your clients with the bright newsletter design in their inbox folder!

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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