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HTML Emails: How can they be used effectively?

What is a HTML email?

For the non-digital readers out there, HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. But what does that mean, you ask?

HTML emails are different to plain text emails. Whereas plain text emails will only provide the bare bones of the email, and nothing more: the text. HTML emails provide the option to add stylish themes, colours, layouts, fonts and images. Thus, creating a far greater visually appealing email to receive.

Why our clients/drp do HTML emails?

It’s a superb communication tool.

Yes, HTML emails have been around for many years, and are definitely not a new ‘techy’ communications channel, such as augmented or virtual reality. But, they do have their part to play in delivering successful and engaging integrated campaigns and communications.

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I would have to admit, there are cases when HTML emails are not the best channel to communicate with audiences. The likes of social media, video, apps, and even direct mail may be a better and more successful option, at times. But, in a world where audience behaviour is changing and with the advancement of segmenting and analysing audiences, HTML emails will provide excellent engagement results (if done, correctly!)

A multi-channel approach is, most often, the key to delivering successful communications. Not one person is the same. Social media is a big player as a communications channel, but email is up there with the best. And, when they work together… the results can be phenomenal.

The reason our clients like email is, first and foremost, for financial gain. ‘Marketers consistently ranked email as the single-most-effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention’ (emailisnotdead.com) and 55% of companies generate more than 10 percent of sales from email (emailisnotdead.com). Additionally, email is still a great channel to share news. We at drp, use HTML emails to provide our clients with a fortnightly newsletter with what’s going on within drp. Most of the news stories are shared via our social channels, but in a vast social world where stories can be missed, the emails provide great reinforcement and are a vital part of our marketing strategy.

In 2017, we designed and built more HTML emails than at any other time in the history of the business, and I envisage even more in 2018, and onwards. Below is our HTML winners email from our 2017 Christmas campaign, SnowGroover.

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Responsiveness HTML emails

One of the great features with HTML emails is that they can be opened and read on desktop, as well as other devices. The rise of mobile is something that we cannot ignore and when designing and building our emails, is something we must consider.

With the extensive selection of mobile and smart devices out there in the market, all varying in different shapes and sizes, the HTML emails need to be responsive. In drpdigital, this is something that we are always thinking about and keeping up to date with new changes from Apple and Android.

Things to think about when putting together HTML emails

As with everything, HTML emails cannot be created straight away. There needs to be plenty of thought that needs to go into designing and building them.  This includes the following:

  • Understand who the target audience are
  • What is the primary email client of the user and will the email look perfect in other email clients (e.g. outlook, gmail etc.)
  • Accessibility – avoid using colours that clash. This will make the email incredibly difficult to read for some users, particularly the visual impaired. Where best, it’s also a good idea to use basic fonts, and ideally, have black text on a white background
  • Concentrate on the subject line – this needs to be relevant, snappy and make the user want to open the email and read it. Take a read of this great post from HubSpot for more information: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/improve-your-email-subject-line

The advantages of HTML emails

There are a lot of advantages for communicating via HTML emails:

  • Reaching out to a wider audience, at a cost-effective price, compared to direct-mail…
  • The opportunity to obtain excellent engagement rates
  • The ability to create bespoke, beautifully branded emails that show off your product/service/brand
  • Personalisation, again at a cost-effective price. We all love to be addressed personally, and email offers something that the likes of social media cannot.

"But, in a world where audience behaviour is changing and with the advancement of segmenting and analysing audiences, HTML emails will provide excellent engagement results (if done, correctly!)"

Things to think about…

There are a few elements to think about when deciding to use email:

  • Device settings – not all users have the same settings on their devices. For example, if images are turned off on a device, the user will not benefit from seeing the true design of the email
  • The dreaded unsubscribe – We can’t shy away from it. You will never please absolutely everyone and there will always be people who unsubscribe. The best thing to do is ensure that you have researched your audience and built the email in a way that will not turn them away
  • GDPR – whether we like it or not, it’s coming, and its fast approaching. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It gives all businesses a chance to cleanse their data. Take a read of our recent blog to find out more about how GDPR may affect you: https://drptalk.com/2017/08/15/data-laws-keep-up-or-get-caught/

So, is communicating via HTML emails worth it?

Without any doubt, I would say, absolutely. This is because, as I’ve already mentioned, they are a great way to reach out to a much wider audience.  They can be much more engaging to a user and support our clients wider marketing and communications strategies.

By Paul Baker – Developer