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Email marketing and getting around images not loading by the email client

As an online marketer I sign up for a lot of email newsletters to keep an eye on what other marketers are doing. As you can image my spam folder get filled up, but not deleted as I occasionally will sort through the spam to find to email communications and campaigns that find their way into the spam folder.  Of all the emails that I receive, one approach to email marketing is in my top rules of what not to do.

The approach I’m referring to is the email campaign or communication that does not use any live text, but images to place the selling message into.  I’ve pulled out an example from my spam folder to show. 

Kohls email with Images loaded
Click image to view larger

Kohls email with Images loaded

            
Kohls email with images not loaded
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Kohls email with images not loaded

These images are of an email from Kohls department stores.  Upon loading the email into the preview pane of my email client (apple mail) we are presented with large white space and image symbols.  The bits of Live text on the email are all in the footer with standard boilerplate CAN-SPAM opt-out instructions.  The marketing message is not available to the reader without images.  

     
PopCap Games email without images loadedClick image to view larger

PopCap Games email without images loaded

     
PopCap Games email with ImagesClick image to view larger

PopCap Games email with Images

This next example is from PopCap games. 

Notice this communication makes use of live text much more effectively. In fact, by switching between the images loaded and images not loaded examples, you will notice very little use of text in graphics. Proper alt tags are used for the header and main image as well. 

How can Kohls and marketers like it improve their email campaigns?

To prove that we as email marketers can move away from solid graphic marketing emails to a better solution, I took some time to quickly re-build the Kohls email into a proper mixed live text and graphic email.

  
Kohls live text email without images loaded
Click image to view larger

Kohls live text email without images loaded

  
Kohls live type email with images loaded
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Kohls live type email with images loaded

By using inline css styles and spliced images I was able to quickly get the Kohls email to be close to the 100% graphic version they sent out.  With images not loaded, a email recipient can read the message of the email enough to make a decision if they wish to click a link, or click the load images button on the email client to see the email in full graphic state.

On this email we were even able to bring in the direct to site navigation at the top of the email which before was just text in a jpg using image maps.

I understand that stores like Kohls have campaigns where a lot of emails go out, if not daily. A simple template system and proper html coding will make your open rates increase, and return better ROI then having your images not viewed at all.
 

Rules to follow:

  1. Place as much live text into your emails as possible.
  2. Careful use of CSS and your customers will not notice a difference in the designs.
  3. Code the emails to be cross browser, cross email application compliment. Not al email clients are the same. (office 2008 does not use background images, yahoo email will not render past 8 nested tables)
  4. Test your email with images off.  (use the web developer toolbar in firefox or send to your email client and do not accept images)
  5. If text is in a graphic, try to have it elsewhere in live text (Use alt tags, on buttons that say click here, have a text link on the page as well)
  6. Make your designs simpler. Don’t spend too much time to design a masterpiece of layout design to have it not looked at or a total of 30 seconds.
  7. Set up a html template system to cut down on design and coding time.