HTML or TEXT based email?

This is one of the most oft-discussed topics among online marketers — which is “better” for email marketing?  Sending emails in normal text format or “sprucing” it up with HTML and images?

There are pros and cons to each choice.  Text emails are “boring” and run the risk of being ignored just because they look like too much work to read.   But they have a higher deliverability success rate and you can always be sure that your recipient is seeing your email exactly as you have designed it — since no design is necessary.  The only true hurdle with text-based email is keeping various monitor resolutions in mind when composing emails with “hard returns” to be sure that sentences either wrap automatically, or do not “split” mid-line.

HTML emails often rely on images to make a drastic, impressive first impression.  And when it works, it works well. HTML emails are just more “fun” to receive and read, for lack of a better word.  Here’s the downside, and it’s a biggie — many email users–I would wager the majority–don’t receive emails with images, even if they have HTML compliant email clients.   This is because for some reason, all major email clients, including Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and others, load with email images turned “off.”  They say this is a security precaution.    The path of least resistance, therefore, is to leave images turned “off” which is what most people do, even if they are aware it is a “switch” they can toggle themselves in their settings.    Have you ever seen an HTML email that is 100% images with your images-setting turned “off?”  I’ll bet many of you have.  The email looks broken.   How much consideration did you take before deleting it? Probably none at all.

This is the dilemma for an email marketer.  How do you harness the benefit of HTML emails without accepting their disadvantages?  There are a number of options and I’ll discuss those in the near future…