HTML vs Plain text emails

I’ve found some evidence to back my up: (you might wish to do a test like this)

The summary of the post above is that:

– A “Lite HTML” email outperformed Plain Text by 55% in click-through rate.

– A “Heavy HTML” (Ad style) email vs. Plain Text email. Plain Text outperformed Heavy HTML by 34%.”


“Best thing to do is run a split A/B test on your list. Going on results obtained from somebody else’s list gives you an easy life, but may lose you money.

The reason is that one list could have a lot of 50+ year olds on it who only use MS Outlook. And yet another could have a higher-than-average proportion of Gmail geeks. (Horrid generalisations, but I hope you get the point.) Each of these systems treats HTML email differently and your newsletter might get horribly mangled in one and display compellingly in another. It depends on the composition of your list. Different audiences can favour completely different hardware and software.”


“HTML is more likely to get blocked than text. that is part of the trade-off between marketing/design/images/brand and deliverability and usability (ie when it arrives in a mess cos images are off etc)”


“We’ve had great success with graphic email where a story had to be told and a photo helped to personalise it. A few practices worth considering:

  • Graphics don’t appear by default but clever alt text can work too. We also design emails so that the header graphic does not push content out of the preview pane
  • Consider using the preheader area for a call to action or preview text – where you usually see “click here to view online” – Gmail displays this before you open it.
  • Single call to action
  • Write like you’re writing to your best friend

We didn’t do a split test with a text email so I can’t compare.

The most successful fundraising email (It raised a lot of money quickly) I’ve ever been involved in sending was a text email (albeit in html to allow emphasis) but it was

  •       Written from a Personal Perspective
  •       Emotive
  •       Newsworthy / Timely
  •       Demonstrated a real need
  •       Expressed Urgency

If you want your email to genuinely look like it comes from an individual, then text will work better.”


“The reason I always try to steer people away from HTML emails is that it’s so easy to get HTML wrong and lose lots of potential donations / campaign actions without knowing it. You have a lot less to lose with plain text.”


“There is virtually no difference in click rates between HTML (3.05%) and text email messages (2.95%). [Source: MailerMailer, June 2009]”



research reveals that consumer behaviour is far from predictable

Relying on ‘gut instinct’ will lead marketers astray * Employees less likely to open marketing emails during lunch than at any other time of the day * Marketers can capitalise on consumers’ desire for a morning boost * Afternoon apathy leaves workers looking for ‘life-changing’ opportunities New research by leading email marketing provider Pure360 reveals that marketing professionals cannot rely on ‘gut instinct’ when it comes to email marketing.

Pure360 analysed over 660,000 emails sent by 34 companies to discover that widely held assumptions often lead marketers astray.

Contrary to popular assumptions, the volume of marketing emails opened drops markedly during the lunch hour. A mere 9% of the emails sent were opened between noon and 2pm, with 62% of those opened being news or magazine alerts rather than promotions on goods or services.

Pure360’s research reveals that recipients are far more likely to open emails in their own time rather than at work, contradicting the media’s stereotype of employees who take advantage of work-based email and internet for personal use. Almost half (48%) of all marketing emails were opened outside of office hours.

Consumer AM and a Life-Changing Afternoon

The research also indicates that recipients are very receptive to consumer promotions, such as discounts on clothes, gadgets and events, at the beginning of the working day.

Counter-intuitively, offers relating to dining and going out are far more likely to be opened in this period – 27% of all restaurant promotions and 19% of promotions on live events, such as concerts and rugby matches were opened in this one hour slot.

It seems the ‘instant gratification’ of planning outings or shopping for bargains gives workers the ‘morning boost’ they need to get through the day, with 16.5 % of all emails being opened between 9am and 10am.

This contrasts with responses in the afternoon. The ‘post-lunch slump’ period between 3pm and 5pm is known to lead to work apathy, and the research indicates that in this period people become more responsive to marketing emails that offer potential ‘life changes’.

Marc Munier, commercial director of Pure360, said: “Over the course of the working day, there is a shift among consumers regarding what type of emails they are likely to open. After lunch, consumers are more open to ‘bigger picture’ promotions, whether that involves sorting out their finances, finding a new job or looking for a new property. 42.6% of all the financial services emails that were sent were opened in the afternoon.”

Using the research, Pure360’s team have identified patterns in consumers responses to different email marketing promotions throughout the day:

The Abyss (10pm to 9am)
This is an ineffective time to send email promotions – it’s like throwing them into a black hole.

Consumer AM (9am to 10am)
The second most prevalent opening time is at the beginning of the working day, with consumers allowing themselves to be distracted by offers on clothes, live events, restaurants and consumer goods.

Do Not Disturb (10am to Noon)
Consumers are not opening marketing emails, choosing instead to focus on work.

The Lunchtime News (Noon to 2pm)
Counter-intuitively, consumers are also unlikely to open marketing emails during their lunch, choosing Instead to spend time on news and magazine alerts.

In The Zone (2pm to 3pm)
In the immediate post-lunch period consumers remain focussed on work, responding only to email offers relating to financial services.

A Life-changing Afternoon (3pm to 5pm)
Job-related apathy sets in and consumers start thinking about their personal situation. As a result, more emails relating to property and financial services are opened between 3pm and 5pm than any other type of promotion.

‘Working Late’ (5pm to 7pm)

There is a dramatic rise in recipients opening holiday promotions during the period (17.9% of all emails promoting holiday promotions were opened in these two hours). Counter-intuitively, this is also the timeframe within which recipients are most likely to open B2B promotions (26.4%).

Last Orders (7pm to 10pm)
Recipients are more likely to respond to consumer promotions in their own time, with 23% being opened in this period. Offers on clothes, special interests such as sports and gym promotions (26% opened during this time) performed extremely well in this period.

Make It Personal

Pure 360 research reveals trends and opening times that marketing professionals should be aware of. However, Pure360 advises that the most effective email marketing campaigns will go a step further, looking at the behavioural patterns of individual recipients.

“Tools such as Intelligent Time Saving (ITS) enable marketing professionals to identify when individual recipients are most likely to respond to email marketing campaigns. By analysing when people have opened and clicked through on previous messages, marketers can ensure that emails are delivered at the time they are most likely to be read,” said Munier.

“Everyone reads their emails at different times and professional marketers should use technology such as ITS to help them spot these trends. Marketers should adapt their campaign to suit the recipient’s individual needs.”