Use Email Marketing? Ignore the Big Picture
Last week I received a special offer from JC Penney via email. The subject - which indicated a big savings opportunity - grabbed my attention. The message, however, was unreadable.
For security reasons, my email client is configured not to display embedded messages. I know, it makes reading fancy sales pitches less enjoyable, but it keeps my system cleaner. And I'm not the only one - several webmail systems don't display images by default (in some, the user needs to opt to turn them on per message).
The company's email message was one big image. That's it. No ALT tags, no textual content explaining the offer, and the hyperlink was to an internal file on their server which couldn't be loaded publicly.
So, I did what most customers wouldn't do: I called JC Penney and advised them that I couldn't decipher the message and wanted to know what the discount code was for the offer.
The first rep told me I needed to change my email client's configuration (turn images on) then attempt to re-read the message. I had the call escalated and finally spoke with a representative who pulled up a copy of the marketing material and read the information. Afterward, I spent 10 minutes on the phone explaining why the format they were using was costing them customers.
Are your email subscribers having trouble reading your offers? How many are being junked as a result?
Here's some tips on formatting emails so they're readable by the largest possible audience.
Include a link to a browser-loaded copy of the message. If the email is geared toward exclusive members, use text near the top of the message to grab attention.
Use ALT tags on all images, no matter how large or small. ALT tags describe what the image is, or the message contained within.
Use graphics to enhance and entice, not to send the entire message. Always use textual content to describe all the necessary details.
Design for preview, not full screen. The standard for the width of an email is 600 pixels. Most people don't view emails full screen, and many actually load emails initially in a preview pane.
Don't use a single, large image. Not only is it a problem for text-only readers, but if you've ever read a message like this on a mobile device, the panning is a nightmare.
Test the email message using several clients and services (Outlook, Thunderbird, Gmail, your own Webmail, etc).
There are many more formatting guidelines, such as using true HTML and not linking to external CSS stylesheets (in case the message is being read while offline), so make sure you keep abreast of the standards and format all emails so they can be read by the largest number of people. A good start is at MailChimp, in an article aptly named, Stupid HTML Email Design Mistakes.
Pamela Hazelton says:
I've been receiving many responses directly about this - even from my Facebook friends who are simply shoppers. Seems the practice of graphic-intensive emails IS an issue and dozens of my FB friends say they just trash those emails. Useful feedback for us all.
Louis Camassa says:
Excellent point! We just tried sending an all text email campaign, and it performed better than any one single campaign we sent in the past. We kept it very short, with minimal graphics.
Usually we send a full image loaded email, with buttons, banners, product images, etc...
The all text email took us less time, and returned more in sales!
Pamela Hazelton says:
That's great news! May I ask what the product type was? Retail or services?
Louis Camassa says:
Retail services. We just sent another all text email campaign through 2 separate clients, and they also proved to be strong revenue producers. It took us a quarter of the time to create, and makes the same if not more in revenue-it's a great addition to our arsenal of marketing initiatives.
From last many days I am learning about email marketing but I can’t be satisfied. I have acquired few tips from your post like use ALT in images that you want to load in email. I really appreciate your stuff and is really praiseworthy. This gave me good info for email marketing. Thanks Pamela.