The days of HTML graphic-led emails will soon be behind us. At least that’s what current email marketing reports show. Email providers across the UK are reporting that despite the demand for graphic-led email newsletters, plain-text Outlook-style emails are performing better.

Why is this?

It’s simple if we think about it for a moment. Graphic-led HTML designs have been used for the past 10 years by both the B2C and B2B marketers. Unfortunately, this overuse has meant that we’ve become conditioned to expect these emails. Many times, this graphic-led approach has been associated with mass-marketing. We see the layout and we think “oh there’s another marketing email. I’ll ignore that.”

In the worst case scenarios, HTML graphic-led emails has been seen as spam. If the code is broken, links can often not work, and deliverability and open rates suffer. In fact, research from 2015 showed that HTML graphic-led emails had a 25% lower open rate than those that had a plain-text email attached.

Yet, audiences still ask for HTML “pretty” emails, so to speak.

Perhaps it is being given the choice to download images. Despite the fact that 66% of us never download those images, being given a choice within an email gives the end user a sense of control. An important factor to consider if you don’t want to be considered spam.

So why are plain-text emails performing better?

There is the important fact that the more personalised your emails, the more effective they are. 2017 is the year of hyper-personalisation according to leading email marketers. It’s why granular segmentation and dynamic content are the most sought-after tools in an email marketing platform. The benefit of a plain-text email is that it has a direct approach. Written well, these Outlook-style emails come across as if someone is emailing you personally. Rather than the mass-marketing look of an HTML image-led email.

There are many other benefits plain-text offer over HTML image-led emails. These include:

  • The ability to always render well across a range of devices and email servers.
  • A subject line and preview header that gets straight to the point.
  • Fewer chances of links and CTA’s breaking.

In the past, we saw click-through rates with HTML image-led emails sit at around 1%. By switching to a plain-text approach, we have seen click-through rates improve to 6.5%. But, once we stagger the email campaigns based on tiered levels of engagement, we have seen CTR’s rise as high as 15%.

So what is best practice for B2B email marketers?

Given the results, it would be foolish not to take advantage of a plain-text Outlook approach. Just because it is different to the HTML newsletter style many marketers are used to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. Of course, it depends on the audience. But there is never any harm in split-testing and seeing if you see similar CTR rates once you switch to a plain-text style. Combining an HTML graphic-led style with a plain-text email is also a good way of slowly introducing a new style of email to your prospect and customer audience.

With email marketing showing no signs of slowing down in 2017, in fact, with personalisation only growing, it’s more important than ever that your emails reflect the current demands of consumers and businesses.