Seeking E-mail Response, Marketers Face Text vs. HTML Choice

There’s an ongoing debate in e-mail marketing over which format option will optimize results: simple text-based e-mails or fancier html versions. For our e-mail list and marketing clients, AccuList USA offers some surprise findings on that point: Marketo reports that a recent analysis of e-mail effectiveness shows text-based e-mails perform significantly better than their more creative HTML counterparts. Although both formats have the same open rate, text-based e-mails have 21% higher unique click-to-open rates on the offer link and 17% higher unique click-through rates on the offer link, according to the Marketo study.

So should marketers dump their rich html creatives? Not so fast.

Text E-mail Is Personal & CTA-Focused, But…

Why did the text-based versions win more response? The Marketo study found that text-based e-mails’ fewer visual distractions focus response on the call-to-action link. In HTML versions, nearly 16% of clicks went to other links (such as logos) instead of the main call-to-action link, per Marketo. Other research shows that text e-mails are also viewed as more personal by recipients, who see the visually rich html e-mails as clearly commercial. Finally, text-based versions have a better chance of delivery since the messages are less likely to be caught in spam filters or to have mobile viewing issues. But there are clear disadvantages, too. The key drawback of plain text formats, with no html, is that there is no tracking of open rates or clicks. Plus, URLs included in the message must be fully typed out, which can create visual clutter. Text-based e-mails without any html design elements will lack engaging visual impact for branding or product promotion, will have less ability to break information into easy-to-read/scan sections or columns, and will have few tools, such as buttons and color, for directing CTA attention.

Marketers Still Like HTML Tracking & Branding

Despite general response findings, html e-mails continue to be used because of advantages that make them the right choice for campaigns relying on branding, richer messaging and detailed metrics. For example, html allows incorporation of branded images and logos that may yield higher conversion rates for some verticals. An html e-mail also can package more information in digestible, easy-to-read bites. It can direct action via color, clickable text and buttons. Most important, html offers tracking of opens and clicks for marketing metrics.

For a more extensive discussion of the marketing merits of text versus html e-mail formats, check out this helpful digitaldoughnut article: https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/december/choosing-between-plain-text-html-email

 

 

Study: How Consumer E-mail Behavior Varies by Market Vertical

AccuList USA works with e-mail list and marketing clients on optimizing consumer response for variables that range from list targeting to subject lines to consumer behavior that differs by market vertical. So Movable Ink’s “US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q1 2017” offers valuable guidance on how opens, conversions, engagement and even order values are affected by market vertical and device preferences.

Smartphones Rule E-mail Opens

For all industries studied—retail, travel and hospitality, financial services, and media/publishing and entertainment—the report found most e-mails are opened on a smartphone as opposed to a tablet or desktop. Smartphone e-mail opens have especially jumped for financial services, up 7% from the fourth quarter of 2016 to reach 70% of opens in the first quarter of this year. Financial e-mail opens on smartphones actually peak at 74% on Saturdays, so financial services marketers should plan to reach consumers on the go. However, retail is not far behind, with 61% smartphone opens for apparel and 57% for non-apparel e-mails. While smartphones still led opens, the more content-heavy media, publishing and entertainment vertical also has a good portion of desktop e-mail opens at 32%, followed by travel and hospitality with 29% desktop opens. Tablet opens are also stronger for media and publishing at 18%, higher than any other industry.

Desktops Lead Retail Conversions, Order Values

Mobile optimization is clearly key for open rates, but retailers should not neglect desktop design because that’s where the orders are racked up. Non-apparel retailer e-mails attribute 73% of conversions to desktop use, for example, with 51% of conversions on desktop for apparel retailing. Smartphones are catching up, however, with 40% of conversions snagged by smartphones for apparel retailers, the highest of any vertical. Desktops also deliver the highest average order value for retailers: $171.04 for apparel and $138.57 for non-apparel sales. However, tablet users also score good orders in apparel retailing, with an average order value of $169.69 in the first quarter, up from $126.13 in the fourth quarter.

Read-Time Engagement Prize Goes to iPhones

When it comes to e-mail reading time, the study generally found that iPhones are able to capture more attention than Android mobile phones, Android tablets, desktop computers, or iPads. The finance industry had the longest read lengths on iPhones, with 68% of subscribers spending 15 or more seconds reading their e-mail thanks to the Apple devices. This was followed by desktop computers, where 58% of subscribers read financial e-mail messages for 15 seconds or more. Media, publishing and entertainment e-mails also garnered high iPhone read time, with 61% reading e-mail for 15 seconds or more.

For more data, see the report summary and handy infographics at https://movableink.com/blog/consumer-device-preference-report-q1-2017/