Email marketing is the top avenue for digital marketers, whether driving sales efforts or client engagement is concerned. One question that stays common across roundtable discussions for a decade and over Zoom calls these days is: Whether to choose plain text or HTML emails. As the marketers continue to discuss the pros and cons of both of them, HTML email templates come out as apparent winners due to good aesthetics, but decision making is more complicated. Today, I am going to share an apple to apple comparison to make things clear for you once and for all.
What Is A Plain Text Email
As the name indicates, plain text emails are simple messages without any color or design enhancements. They use default fonts provided by the email client and usually follow ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange.) Plain text emails are an excellent option if you are looking for top-notch deliverability by compromising functionalities. They are quick to load, but formatting becomes tricky, and you have very limited control over sharing multimedia as well as embedding links. If you are a fan of Mailchimp email templates, here’s an example of using Mailchimp’s iconic brand ambassador for text-only messages. It is developed in ASCII art to create the old school graphic look against normal image:
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/ .. \/ .-. .-. \/ .. \
| | ‘| / Y \ |’ | |
| \ \ \ 0 | 0 / / / |
\ ‘- ,\.-““ “”-./, -‘ /
`’-‘ /_ ^ ^ _\ ‘-‘`
| \._ _./ |
\ \ `~` / /
jgs ‘._ ‘-=-‘ _.’
What Is A HTML Email
HTML allows web browsers to define information with more details such as multimedia, typefaces, formatting, and CSS styling. HTML email templates are usually far more appealing and look similar to web pages. You can also create responsive designs for ensuring that your message fits across all screen sizes. All ESPs do not support HTML emails due to bandwidth issues. They are more engaging, but not everyone can code beautiful emails, and thus, many businesses find it convenient to hire email developers instead of laying hands on the complex development – testing cycles. Here I have examples of both email types:
The Pros And Cons Of Plain Text Emails
In this section, I will discuss the pros and cons of black and white text emails.
- Since there is no multimedia or advanced information embedded, plain text messages are easy to deliver across all customer demographics.
- Plain text emails can be displayed across all device types, operating systems, and browsers.
- Since emails remain an official communication channel, they appear more personal as we ourselves write similar looking messages.
- You don’t get much access to the performance metrics.
- You have to input the entire hyperlink, and thus, creating CTAs becomes a headache.
- Messages fail to excite recipients as there is no visual appeal.
Yays And Nays Of HTML Emails
Have a look at the good and the bad of HTML emails:
- HTML emails are visually enticing and are more likely to engage.
- You can easily track them and access tons of email metrics.
- Your readers will find it easy to read the message and break down the information without stressing their eyes.
- Usually, the message is broken down into content blocks, and you can achieve standardization of design down to the per-pixel level.
- HTML emails are more likely to hit spam traps due to images.
- They have lower deliverability in certain regions due to Internet connectivity issues.
- Many ESPs turn off graphics by default, and without fallback text, you might end up confusing your readers.
Let us have a comparison of the two for major concerns faced by email marketers:
Comparing Plain Text Versus HTML Emails
Here’s what you need to keep in mind while selecting the idea of them:
- Analytics – HTML emails have an upper edge when it comes to gathering analytics. Thus you can get insights for driving your email campaigns with well-calculated decisions.
- Aesthetics – Again, HTML emails win the game with near web page aesthetics.
- Deliverability – Plain text emails are undoubtedly better when it comes to deliverability, and they also have a considerably quick load time. A Marketo study finds that for an offer link, plain text emails have:
- 21% higher unique click to open rate
- 17% higher unique CTR
- Spamming – HTML emails are a bit more vulnerable to hitting spam traps, but both of them are nearly equal in this aspect.
The Conclusion: Which One Should You Select
Looking at the pros and cons of both, plain text messages are favorable, while HTML emails are gaining traction with inbox providers ramping up support for them. Depending on your needs and your subscribers’ mailbox providers, you can choose the text-only messages in case you don’t need much innovation, or you can go for HTML emails for captivating user experience. I recommend running A/B Split Tests to see what works best for your audience. I find that HTML emails are a must for any marketing campaign, and you can always send a plain text version as a backup to HTML messages. I hope you will be able to make the decision among plain text and HTML emails after reading this article.
Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers – full service email marketing agency that specializes in crafting professional email templates, PSD to HTML email conversion and free HTML email templates. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.