How to use images for maximum response

Looks can be deceiving…

An email design that looks fantastic on your screen might not look so fantastic when it is delivered to your contacts.

In fact, the ‘great looking’ design of your email may well be killing your response rates.

As many as 19% of email recipients will not open an email that hasn’t rendered properly, as they assume it is spam*.

How to make sure you get it right

There are two key factors that you need to understand and consider when you are working in an email creative. Both of these are features of the email software your recipients are likely to be using.

1. Image blocking


Image blocking is when an email client automatically turns the images off in the emails it delivers. This is standard in a growing number of email clients, and impacts on both B2B and B2C email senders.

When images are switched off, the user has to click to display them. This means that if you rely on images alone to communicate your campaign message or offer, then your message will have no initial impact.

Image heavy emails may also attract high spam scores in spam checkers, resulting in your emails being delivered into Junk folders.

In the example below, a single-image email is illegible in Gmail, Outlook 2003 and Windows mail.

Practical steps to take

  • Include a balance of web text with any imagery used so the template is still legible and meaningful when viewed with the images turned off.
  • Use ALT tags to give any images you use in your emails meaningful and descriptive names that can be read when the image isn’t displayed.
  • Include a link to a web version of the email to help solve rendering issues for the recipient.
  • Use an Inbox Preview tool (provided by many leading Email Service Providers) to test quickly and easily how your email template renders with and without images switched on in all relevant email clients and through different preview panes.
  • Avoid using embedded images to overcome image blocking. Embedded images add to the weight of an email, and can be too slow for the user to download.
  • Crucially, the image attachments themselves are likely to trigger spam filters and be filtered out by virus checkers – damaging your all important deliverability rate.

When more heavy use of images can be applicable

When seen, graphical content can be more impactful and effective than text, so its worth using it and testing it by following these steps:

  • Use an email client analysis tool to identify which email clients are handling what percentage of your email sends.
  • If you don’t have a client analysis tool then focus on the relevant email clients for inbox preview testing, depending on whether your email list is B2B or B2C.
  • Invite your recipients to add you to their safe senders list or email client address book, so your images are switched to ‘on’ by default.
  • Use our advanced behavioural segmentation query tool to identify contacts who regularly open and click on the emails you send.
    These users are more likely to have engaged with your messages, and to have added you to their safe senders lists. Test the impact of sending more image heavy content to these ‘engaged’ users, and much less image based content to those you can see from our query tool are less engaged.
  • Get certified! Apply for certification with our delivery partners Return Path and also Goodmail.
    These services offer accreditation to approved email senders who can then enjoy guaranteed delivery to the inboxes of a number of email clients including Microsoft and Hotmail, with functionality (such as links, images and videos) switched on.

2. Preview panes

A preview pane allows recipients to see a ‘snatch’ of their email and make a snap decision as to whether it is important or not.

Practical steps to take

Preview panes display the left-hand side or (more commonly) the top few lines of an email, so be sure put the key message, offer or headline/text in the top left of your email.

Test send your email using as many email clients as possible and/or use an inbox preview tool to see how the email will render in different preview panes.

* Source: Email Labs 2005 survey

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