Email by Design

Using images: Opportunity or threat

Most email clients will block email images from unknown senders by default. As result, best practice advice for the use of images in email is usually to avoid them where possible. And if you do have to use them there are lots of design tricks to compensate for the image being blocked, such as putting text behind them and using collapsible boxes.

So why do so many well known brands (including some of our own clients) do the exact opposite?

The short answer is that for some brands and markets, Fashion for example, images are integral to the sell. Which begs the question; what impact does this approach have on their results? Quite a lot it would seem; analysis into the impact of images on client campaigns conducted by Alchemy Worx reveals a very interesting phenomenon.

Emails such as Email-Worx that are optimised for image blocking generate clicks from people who did not “open” the email. We typically find that around 3% of the clicks do not have a corresponding open (false negatives). By comparison emails that use lots of or consist entirely of images generate fewer clicks without opens. In fact the harder it is to decipher the content of an email with images blocked the lower the incidence of false negatives!

It would appear that by withholding any information about what is in the email if the images are blocked brands can entice more of their subscribers to download images. Clearly this is only likely to work if the email is about a product they desire or from a brand they are engaged with.

So does this mean that you can ignore best practice and start to use images with impunity?

There's no right or wrong answer to that question, in our experience an approach that is highly effective in one market may not work for another. However you can use these pointers to help you decide which approach is right for you.

Fully optimised for image blocking

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

These examples show how you can design your email in such a way that the content of the email is easily decipherable without downloading any images.

More suited to:

  • Products and services that are not reliant on visuals
  • Emails where content is the value proposition
  • Newsletters
  • B2B

Optimised to encourage image downloading

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

More suited to:

  • Products and services that are highly visual
  • Brand building
  • B2C
  • Building Desire
  • Price indifference

Optimising for both

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

(Roll over to see with image-blocking turned off)

Email newsletter optimised for image blocking

More suited to:

  • Products and services that are quite visual
  • Retailers with many product lines to promote
  • Groceries
  • Price sensitive products and discounting

So there you have it! If you are more likely to sell to a person who has seen your product or creative than a person who hasn't you may be able to maximise the number of people who download your creative by completely ignoring best practice.

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