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Plain Text Email vs. Visual Email. Which One Should You Be Using?

March 28, 2018


What people say they want and how they actually behave are two very different things. That’s why understanding more about how people react to plain text email vs. visual email is important.


You’d assume that people want visual everything and respond better to visuals. We’re wired for visuals, aren’t we? In the case of emails, you would be wrong in many cases. But not all.


Of course, there are a lot of variables and I always have to mention this. The world is never black and white. There are all shades of gray in the world and of course, it’s worth calling out.


Some emails are expected to be visual and should not be any other way. For email marketing in many industries, visuals should be shunned unless they have a direct importance to the email topic.


If you don’t want to read this whole post then just read this:


When it comes to email, less is more. The more visuals and HTML used in an email the lower the open rate. But do proper testing because every industry is different.


Now it’s time to look at some of the details and where I’m drawing this all from.


Research On Text Email vs. Visual Email


Some of what I talk about is from research conducted for the most part by HubSpot. You can learn more about their research and their write-up on plain text vs. HTML blog post.


Not all of the information comes from HubSpot though. Some is from experience working with different types of email newsletters (not a lot of hard data there though) and some is from what I’ve observed from other marketers experiences.


Just like you can’t take people’s word for it on what they want, you also can’t only take only data and call it good. There’s more to it than that. There’s more you have to take into account.


What people say vs what they want


Listen to what people say but don’t let it run your email marketing OR your whole business. While one person might not like one thing, another might love it. If you keep chasing making everyone happy then you’ll make no one happy.


So, do people want to receive email that is mostly plain-text or would they rather have heavy HTML and visual emails?


According to the HubSpot research, everyone wants the more HTML heavy visual emails. Yes, if we take people’s word then text email vs. visual email would always end up with visual email winning.


Makes sense right? Who wants to read a bunch of text when visuals can represent things in an easier way?


I would probably also respond the same way. I like more visuals and I prefer to skim and get my information quicker from email.Well, it doesn’t really work that way in the real world. What people say they want and actually behave is very different. That could be because of technical functions of email clients or it could have to do with the users themselves. More likely it’s a mix of the two.


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