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Easier to Read

Why People like HTML Email Marketing Messages

The results of a recent survey showed that when people preferred HTML email marketing messages and newsletters, they preferred them because...

  • 28%- HTML email newsletters can accomplish a more effective layout
  • 24%- Color can be used in the email newsletter
  • 21% - Images can be included in the email newsletter
  • 20%- Ads can be more effective in HTML email than text email

Source: SubscriberMail Survey


New Lab Data How Humans' Eyes Really See E-mail Marketing Campaigns:

By Anne Holland

  • Study data show that e-mail recipients spend 10-20 seconds – at most – reading a typical email message or newsletter your marketing department has sent them.
  • MarketingSherpa's research team wondered, What do people really look at in those few seconds? How many words do they read? Do they skim words in order or dart around the screen? Will they read more if there's text-only and no distracting images? Or vice versa?
  • So this fall we conducted a series of eyetracking laboratory tests. The goal: to discover rules about the way human eyes "see" email, so that email designers and copywriters can get the highest message readership scientifically, which in turn should lead to higher response rates.




HTML E-mails with Graphics Get Higher Per-Word Readership:

  • In one of our lab tests we asked consumers to view a single-article e-mail newsletter. The tests took place in San Francisco, so we invented a newsletter to look at that we hoped would be of interest to locals: “Housing Deals in San Francisco: Hidden Real Estate Bargains._?
  • At the top of one version we put clip art of some typical San Francisco homes. The top of the other had no graphics, just a bold headline leading to body copy. The textual copy for each version was identical. We were startled by the results.
  • You'd think that textual emails would win the number-of-words-read sweepstakes, if only because there are no distractions from the text. MarketingSherpa's new eyetracking laboratory tests proved the reverse is true.
  • The presence of an image – even a fairly dull one such as the clip art we used for our test – can have a huge impact in how much time people's eyes spend reading the copy of an ad. What's interesting is most people looking at this email didn't actually spend a lot of that time on the picture itself. The picture was such a frequently seen image they could register in almost peripheral-attention mode. Its presence raised their engagement level with the e-mail, however, as well as their willingness to read much more of the copy.
  • That said, our other eyetracking email tests (we conducted seven in all) showed that the design and layout of the email – including the size of the image, the number of images, where the image lay in relation to the fold, what copy was closest to that image – was as important to results as the mere fact of an image being present.
  • It seems that marketers might be better served worrying about how the e-mail design works as a whole in relation to the monitor screen, rather than being “creative_? or pretty. These aren’t broadcast or print magazine ads, where people like their eyes to be “entertained_?; email recipients assume there will be copy to read and a decision presented that they need to consider acting on.
  • They've made the decision to open based on your “from" and "subject" lines. Now you're on step two of the process. Recipients want to know quickly that they've made the right decision to view your email – that it's relevant to them. And next they want to know what the reply request is. Sometimes high design can interfere with that.

© MarketingSherpa Inc., 2005

Anne Holland is president of MarketingSherpa, a research firm publishing case studies and benchmark data for its 173,000 marketing and advertising executive subscribers. For more results data on the seven email eyetracking tests MarketingSherpa conducted this fall, go to: