Which E-mail Format Works Best: Plain Text or HTML?
To use HTML e-mail, or not to use HTML e-mail? That is the question e-mail marketers are asking themselves these days. And with good reason. No complete studies, to my knowledge, have been published on whether the plain-text or HTML format works best.
The anecdotal evidence is often contradictory. Let me give you an example of what I mean. I contacted two friends who are experts in the field of e-mail marketing. Here is what they had to say:
“Generally, HTML e-mail results are superior to plain text … it definitely makes sense to use HTML,” says Jeff Wilkin, formerly the CEO of MarketModels, a modeling and data integration company.
“For our customers, text performs best … the tech buyer generally doesn’t like to use bandwidth on e-mail messages and often they refuse it at their e-mail client, or when they sign up. Now that bandwidth is not such an issue, we are starting to see better results in HTML B-to-B e-mail marketing,” says Robert Mendez, CEO of NetHawk Interactive, an B-to-B media buying and strategy company.
As you can see, there are different points of view out there. (I must add that these quotes are excerpts only, and both e-mail marketing experts provided more nuanced views and certainly advocated testing both formats!)
Though I can’t say definitively whether a plain-text or HTML format is right for you, I’d like to provide you with some food for thought. Let’s start with the basics.
Sophisticated e-mail marketers send their sales messages in three distinct formats: AOL, HTML and plain-text. Some mailers try to figure out which formats individual prospects can read by checking domains. For example, AOL recipients are easy to spot by looking for the “aol.com” domain in their e-mail addresses. A mailer would also know that all Hotmail.com accounts can handle HTML. Despite this ability to infer format-reading capability by domain name, many e-mail marketers send both a plain-text version AND HTML version as multi-part MIME attachments to all non-AOL recipients. Then it’s up to the recipient’s e-mail “client” (the recipient’s software) to decide which version to display.