Thursday, August 29, 2013

your email sucks: importance of using images in your email

this week, i surveyed the users of our esp. we have one of the top esp's on the market right now, and it is only getting better. but we also have 225 registered users of our system, and 224 of them treat it as the wild west - "text only" messages that are sent out as html email and in violation of every best practice on the face of the earth (i'm working hard to correct this).

the survey was designed to find out how people are using the system, and what they are doing with it. the survey results really have opened my eyes and given me insight, showing me that we have a wide array of users - all with different skill-sets - i'm actually looking forward to training these users how to properly use the system.

the most interesting thing that has come of the survey so far - and these are only preliminary results - is that 70+% of our users define the success of their campaigns on the open rate of our emails and that 40+% of our users don't include any kind of branding in their communications.

so, what's the big deal? for the survey i defined branding as anything from using a logo all the way to using a proper color scheme and making it look professional and presentable. so with that said, a lot of our email communications from other departments look like horrible when they go out, i have found emails that are built in outlook and that "code" is cut and pasted into templates... but all of those issues aside, the success definition and the lack of branding got me thinking...branding is not only important for presentation and the emotional connection it brings to your communications but it also serves a "sneakier" purpose - it can drive better open numbers. i'll explain this more in a few minutes.

through some research and using returnpath, i have found that anywhere between 40 - 65% of our subscribers open their emails on mobile devices - we'll just say that majority of our readers are using mobile devices to view the communication. knowing that, using at the least a single image - a logo - is more important than ever.

the vast majority mobile email clients present the email with images off by default. while our communications aren't the best format wise, they do render a message that is readable and actionable without images on - think of it is as someone took the time to convert the text to html, but that's it. but with so many users defining the success of their campaign as a high open rate, without an image we're not as successful as we could be at least and at worst, we are continuing to bombard readers with "important messages" in search of that high open rate - which could impact sender reputation, causing deliverability problems.

why would i say this? obviously we see a good result metric, but that metric could be better. when the message hits the inbox, the email client asks the reader if they want to display images. guess what folks, if the message is readable and actionable without an image - or the user doesn't see an image placeholder to indicate that there is a missing picture, they aren't going to tap the download pictures action. opens are measured by a graphic - your open pixel. not clicking the download pictures, will not let the open pixel "fire" and therefore your open rates are potentially lower, and if you measure click thru rate as click to opens instead of clicks to sends, your click thru rate is artificially inflated.

i have worked with one unit, and they are using a template now that has a logo in it. the unit director reported to me that they have used the same message as in previous sends, but in this new template and seen a 30% lift in not only opens, but in conversions from the same time period last year. she attributes the lift directly to using a branded template, with an image. if the reader is opening your email, they want to see everything, they don't want to miss anything and the psychological impact of seeing the image place holder is enough to compel them to download the images and the thus, get the open pixel to fire.

so when it comes time to just send out a basic message, one that really doesn't need to have an image, you should develop a template that looks like letterhead, and use it - especially if you have a high user make of up mobile readers and you base success on open rates. this little thing is going to not only increase opens, but it is also going to make your message look better and be more consistent with your brand and establish that emotional connection to your message and your company.

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