You want to send an email and you want it to look good. Sounds easy enough, but that’s not always the case. The issue is that email clients haven’t kept up with the usual web standards. Not only do we have to resort to archaic HTML table layouts, we have to account for the different quirks and kinks that come with each of the major email clients…and there are many. Here we’ll look at one thing that makes a good-looking email – images.




Should We Avoid or Embrace Images?

The conflict comes quickly. Studies show that high quality visuals elicit a better response but some research has shown up to 40% of email recipients never enable images. A/B Testing is  an effective way to find out the email habits of your audience. For example, recently eblasts were coded for an auto dealership. At first, the whole email was set up to be images. This made the emails look great, and they were quick and easy to put together, but after A/B Testing with a more text-heavy layout, the dealership found that the text layout had better results. Their case doesn’t suggest that images should be discarded entirely but it does show that trying to use images to cover for old-fashioned code layouts can cost you some of your audience. Half of the auto dealer’s recipients may have only been seeing the Alt tags for the images.



Alt Tags = Alt Call-To-Action?

It’s easy to forget about them, but Alt tags are a useful tool. Not only do they help provide accessibility and ADA compliance, they also give you a second chance to get your message across. In a text-heavy email, images stand out. When a recipient has images disabled, that Alt tag will still stand out among the rest of the text. Traditionally the Alt tag describes the image, but it can also be a backup call-to-action. In an auto dealer eblast, a picture of a car could have an Alt tag describing the car as well as this month’s special. The difference might be marginal, but margins add up. 

dreaming of donuts

What About GIFs?

Mechanically speaking, GIFs are fine. If a recipient has images enabled, they’ll be able to see GIFs (at least on Apple, Gmail, and Outlook – some less popular email clients may just show the first frame). From a marketing perspective, the question is “do GIFs perform better than static images?” In a quick search, there are several recent studies with different results. There seems to be slightly more in favor of static images over GIFs, but in a toss-up like that, A/B Testing is very effective. Each audience is different. You’ve also got to consider the content. If a local bakery sends a GIF of some crispy, buttery goodness people may respond favorably, but if some flashy corporate car ad pops they may not be as receptive.


When In Doubt, Testing is Key 

Images are great for email engagement, but shouldn’t be depended on too much. For recipients who don’t enable images, the Alt tag is a backup way for a message to get through. Marketing studies show mixed reviews on how GIFs perform with engagement. A/B Testing can be a useful way to find out whether it will work well for your audience or not. At Gray Digital Group we have experienced strategists that can help you with your email marketing and implementing A/B testing. 

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