communications strategy

Do Plain-Text Emails Still Matter?

Thinkshift | September 12, 2013

So you’re setting up an email marketing campaign. Your well-written content has been proofed twice and the image selections are spot-on. Your html email is looking good (if you do say so yourself). You follow the rules: to avoid the spam filters, you’ve set the plain-text email to auto-generate (most email marketing services such as Vertical Response, MailChimp and Constant Contact provide this convenience).

Now it’s time to test and check your emails. You linger over the html version and mull over the choice of teal versus royal blue for the border. The plain-text email? Meh. You’re sure it’s fine. You move on to select your list and press send.

Don’t do it! Move away from the send button!

Many people believe that plain-text emails are now irrelevant to email marketing. It’s true that email clients and mobile devices are much more sophisticated than they used to be. And with the massive numbers of people walking around with eyes glued to their smart phones, it seems safe to assume that most of the people you want to reach can read html emails on their phones just fine. It’s past time to dump plain-text emails, right?

Not so fast. The fact is, plain-text emails are still a player in email campaigns.

Why bother with plain-text emails?

As you probably know, SPAM filters practically demand a plain-text version. Without the text version, your email will mostly likely be labeled as spam and sent to the folder that never gets viewed.

A few other reasons plain-text emails are still relevant:

  • Some people prefer plain-text emails (we won’t ask you to reveal yourself).
  • Some email clients, browsers and mobile devices still don’t handle html well.
  • Companies with strict email policies may reject html emails. A tiny invisible image is embedded in html emails by your email service provider to track opens; sometimes these nifty codes trigger security warnings.

If you want to reach your entire audience, text emails do still matter. So how do you track them and make them appealing? I’ll address that in part two of this post.

  1. […] Since the early 2000s, heated (yes, heated!) debates about plain-text versus html emails have died down, but despite what many think, plain-text emails themselves are not dead. (You doubt? See my first post on this topic, “Do Plain-Text Emails Still Matter?”) […]


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