Is HTML or Plain Text Better for Email Marketing?

26 September 2016


HTML or Plain Text Better for Email

We are often asked whether plain text or html emails are more effective when sending email campaigns. Why is this discussion important? Well it basically translates into how user friendly and ‘readable’ the emails —newsletter and promotions— you send can be. Given that campaigns are often sent to thousands of people at a time, at considerable investment; businesses and marketing teams alike want to ensure the best results.

Plain text emails

While some may shudder when they think about sending (or receiving for some marketers) a plain text email, there are some reasons why they are still relevant and some may be surprised to find out… in a number of ways plain text wins!

  • Increased deliverability – this is due to the universal deliverability that occurs on the side of your prospect. Every email client can render plain text, a very good thing although if the html email is properly coded this shouldn’t be a problem. Still, results do show a slightly higher deliverability rate for plain text.
  • Recent research by Hubspot and others has shown that some people actually prefer the simplicity of a plain text email in terms of open rates and clicks. While the common perception is that people prefer the graphics in html emails this is not always the case.
  • Increased readability – have you experienced when the graphics in an email campaign won’t load? This won’t happen with plain text and you can ensure the focus is on the message.
  • More accurate rendering – some email servers will block aspects of your HTML email from downloading and loading which causes the email not to show up correctly, risking some of your valuable message.

HTML emails

Well this is where colours, creative graphics and FUN come into play. Keeping the user experience front of mind, HTML provides an opportunity to take plain text copy and turn it into engaging and beautiful emails that catch the eye, bring your brand to life and entice engagement.

  • Versatility – it’s simple… you really can do more with HTML.
  • Brand power – Allows promotional materials to ‘pop’. Marketers can creatively use logos, images and other brand content.
  • Text links are clickable – as well as more prominent and appealing to readers. Which can make your Call To Action proposition stronger.
  • Easier to track opens and click-throughs – in this way you can glean a lot of data from how customers behave when they receive (and hopefully open) your email.


Ultimately, while the benefits of plain text are clear and while people say that they prefer HTML emails, when tested people tended to move for a simpler version. This emphasises for marketers the importance of understanding your customer journey and presenting content relevant to the stage within the journey. The content should have exceptional copy, clear messaging and an appropriate call to action.

Every communication should be considered based on the needs of your customers.

Our view is that you should use a combination of both plain text and HTML emails. Whichever approach you choose make sure you think about what content your customer or prospect will value to give your campaign the best possible shot at a successful outcome and ROI.

See also: Successful email marketing – Beating barriers to your next campaign

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