Resist the Urge to Send Image-Only Emails
There's been much written in the past month regarding Google's new Gmail policies. To review, Gmail has begun caching images within their emails and announced that it's safe to display images within email by default.
From a marketing perspective, there are pros and cons around user experience, reporting and data. Email experts have been quick to spin as to why this is good for the industry. However, it's important to consider why image-based emails are bad for your program. Specifically, the long-held practice of sending single image emails.
So now that Gmail is allowing images by default, we can all go back to sending single image emails, right? Wrong, and here's why:
Other email clients
Gmail isn't your whole list. There are still a number of email clients that block images by default, including older versions of Outlook, Thunderbird and many mobile clients. In those cases, your email recipients could be looking at what appears to be an empty email.
Spam filter considerations
Some spam filters still "ding" you for low text/image ratio. Single-image emails have been around since the dawn of spam. In the early days, list managers who had collected email addresses through often-questionable means could quickly send emails on behalf of advertisers by requesting single-image creative. Spam filters quickly responded by filtering messages with a high image to text ratio.
Today, those filters have less weight when it comes to landing in the inbox, but they still affect your overall spam score and will likely land you in the spam folder in some cases.
In most companies, you're sharing your graphic design resources with other marketing channels, if not other departments. You may even be outsourcing those tasks altogether. With single-image emails, you may need to depend on a graphic designer to update your email creative or design new creative for a new campaign. By using a well-crafted template with graphic and text elements, the marketing department can update and create new email campaigns with little to no help from a graphic designer.
Images don't resize on all devices. A HTML email campaign with a combination of text and images is more flexible to optimize for rendering across devices.
CAN-SPAM compliance information as text
No matter how you decide to handle the balance of text and images in your email, unsubscribe copy and address information should always be in text to ensure subscribers are able to see the information when images are blocked.
It's important to remember to take into consideration your list and program. Use analytics to determine the most prominent devices being used by your recipients and to what degree changes to your creative will affect engagement. Test different templates and analyze where recipients are clicking to see how and when subscribers interact with images. In the end, you'll likely determine that while there's a time and place for images, they're not a silver bullet.