The questions we often get asked by ecommerce marketers we work with are:
As a rule, the use of image-only emails in ecommerce marketing is not recommended.
( What constitutes an image-only email? Templates that are pretty much entirely image based, with almost no HTML text included.)
That said, using images in email marketing is not the risky-business it once was.
Back in the day, email images were something of a blind spot for spam filters – and would therefore often wreak havoc when it came to deliverability.
Nowadays, we have image-reading algorithms that can recognise – and approve – what’s inside an email, thus bringing an end to the militant auto-spamming we once saw. But that doesn’t mean image-only emails are now best practice.
To help our readers be able to understand the thought process behind deciding the right text-to-image ratio in email, we sat down with our HTML team to hear their thoughts on the topic.
Below are four of the main takeaways from our conversation.
On the surface, image-only emails bestow marketers a certain degree of creative freedom, as they don’t demand the use of grid frameworks. This makes them an alluring option, especially for fashion retailers whose main priority is for the email to “look” fantastic.
However, the reality of image-only templates is far less rosy.
Aside from the fact that some email filters will mark your email as spam if they can’t recognise the images inside it, other reasons to avoid image-only emails include:
Even when you’re creating emails using HTML text, the likelihood is you’ll need to include some image blocks for products, CTAs and logos.
There’s nothing wrong with doing this, but make sure the images you use are of a high enough quality to display perfectly on any device the email is opened on.
Which brings us to the next point: make sure your email is 100 per cent responsive.
Whilst an exploration of responsive email creation is a blog post in itself, Litmus sums up the process quite nicely in this blog post, saying:
“Responsive emails use fluid tables and images to make content flow across different screen sizes. How? By using CSS media queries to change fixed-width tables and images on desktops into fluid ones for smaller screens.”
In others words, the most important things to consider here is CSS media queries.
Alternative text (alt text) is text used within HTML code to describe an image being displayed.
Its main purpose is to:
All images included in your emails should have alt text, apart from those that do not depict anything of value and do not need to be explained to those who cannot see it.
Some retailers opt to stylise their alt tags, making it, for example, bold or a different colour. This ensures recipients see something more visually appealing should an image be blocked.
That said, if you do opt to stylise your alt tag, make sure the image being described is wide enough for the text you want to display, or it won’t work as it should.
Going back to the introduction of this post, there is no real answer to the question of how many images to include inside an email.
Within the industry, opinions vary between a 80 to 20 of text-to-image ratio to a more even 60 to 40, but ultimately it is down to keeping a good balance between the two, and doing this consistently.
That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that, in order to get away with using more images, you need a good sender reputation.
Ultimately, if your emails have been designed well, coded correctly and include the right amount of live text and images, more people are likely to interact with, and trust, your emails.
If, on the other hand, your email includes simply one image, no live text and incorrect tagging, likelihood is subscribers are going to eventually zone out as soon as an image doesn’t display properly for one reason or another.
There are so many good reasons to use text emails instead of image only emails, but, ultimately, it’s up to each retailer to decide what’s best for their customers.