HTML vs Text Emails: Which has higher engagement?


If you’re new to the email marketing world, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is between HTML and text emails.

“HTML is always better, it just looks better. People want nice, professional looking emails.”

This is a common argument for HTML emails. The design is what will drive the engagement. Whereas people will say that a text email doesn’t look professional.

I’m here to argue that text actually is better. Sure, it looks like something your friend wrote, and doesn’t have the flashy template and design of an HTML version, but that’s the point.

The point of a text email is that it looks like it’s from a friend, not a business.

I’m going to go over why text converts better.

Does HTML or Text Drive More Engagement?

There are arguments for and against each of these types of emails.

ClickZ argues that Plain Text should die (Ok maybe they’re not that dramatic).

Meanwhile, a 2014 survey from Hubspot showed that while 2/3 of people said they prefer HTML, in reality they A/B tested emails and found that Plain Text always won.

html v text.png

Hubspot argues that HTML emails actually decrease open rates.

  • An HTML template with images had 25% lower opens than a Plain text version with no images
  • The more images, the lower the CTR
  • HTML template with images had 21% lower CTR than plain text with no images
  • A simple HTML template had 5.3% higher CTR vs an HTML heavy template
hubspot image vs ctr emails.png

HubSpot Images vs. CTR

Why is this happening?

One thing HubSpot noted in their article was the fact that a user’s email filter often automatically moves commercial emails out of your inbox.

Another thing is that in Gmail, if the sender is unknown the images will not display automatically.

Who should use text emails?

Text emails are not a must have for every company. A company like H&M is usually sending out emails full of clothing images. A text version probably would not do so well.

Here are a few cases where a text email might work:

  • Your company is based on your personal brand
  • Onboarding emails
  • Contact form thank you emails
  • Cold emails
  • Feedback/survey emails
  • Want to make the email feel personal
  • Showcase personality

Additional Email Marketing Resources

21 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid | Zapier

15 of the Best Email Marketing Campaign Examples You’ve Ever Seen

A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Email Marketing

About MARKIT Group

MARKIT Group is a full-service traditional and digital marketing and public relations firm with an emphasis on social media, reputation management and monitoring, as well as brand management. Headquartered in Bonita Springs, Fla., with offices in New York, Pittsburgh and Charleston, S.C.
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