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Plain Text or Styled Emails?

A few weeks ago we talked on the blog about the importance of AB testing with marketing and understanding the impact that small changes can have on the success or failure of your marketing activities. In keeping with that philosophy, we recently ran an email campaign to a select number of customers and one question that came up during planning was; “should the email be plain text, or should it all be a pretty, branded HTML-responsive email?”

Plain Text Email

Per Snov.io (LINK: https://snov.io/blog/plain-text-email/); “A plain-text email is a simple email message that includes only text. It contains basic fonts, URLs that are typed out, and neither special style nor images.”

They say that such emails typically have higher deliverability, fewer technical issues, feel more personal and receive a higher open and click rate. The sacrifice is that they don’t promote your brand and have no clear call-to-action.


Why are you sending them?

Now this is a point we all too often forget. Why are we sending it and what is the outcome we’re hoping for? Because the answer to the question very heavily depends on that point. If for example, it’s an email designed to imprint the brand on someone’s brain, for example a promotional email, then as Snov say, plain text emails aren’t going to work for you. If however it’s a quick to a contact updating them on something specific to them, they may discard a styled email due to its impersonal nature.

AB Testing

And this is where the importance of AB testing for yourself come in and not just relying on what Google tells you. Generally, the answer you’ll get will be too high level.

Your customer based may be an outlier or they may operate in a slightly different way. For example, if they’re in a country with particularly poor internet speeds, your open rate will be impacted should you opt to send them a sizeable, graphic-dominated email. Alternatively, your company’s own message of simplicity or authenticity might be undermined by complex, stylish emails that look very corporate.

Always trial it out and see what the data tells you.

Data Points

The data points you’re capturing and monitoring are also important though. One of the biggest issues marketers have is “the untracked sale” where the customer has bought from you by going outside of a trackable cadence. For example, they see your ad on their computer and then look up your website in their phone the next day. Or when they forward your blog onto a colleague via Whatsapp, and that person subsequently buys from you. Cookies will only go so far.

But sometimes, you need to piece things together from different data sources and then let your data specialists tell the story, such as linking together that link click, with a tracked website visit and form submission.

One of the other things it can of course help you track is the veracity of your data. Hard and soft bounces can tell you how accurate the email data you have is and can point to areas of your process that need to improve.

Case Study

When we ran our most recent campaign, we put a 50/50 split between styled and plain text. Whilst we found that unique opens were almost identical, the plain text email was opened more than once, by 30%+ more people.

However, and this comes back to the point about what data you capture, because of the interactive nature of the styled version, it drove clicks that the HTML version delivered none of. By that, we mean customers clicking to see our LinkedIn page, visit our website and/or review our terms of service. So the important part is tracking those clicks through and seeing what outcomes they deliver. If those clicks consistently lead to sales…styled is the way to go!

The overall points to consider;

· What do I want to achieve with each marketing action?

· What data points are important to me and give me insight?

· Am I going to AB test different approaches? The answer is Yes.

· How can I vary my content by situation?

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