Marketers are naturally driven to be creative. This intrinsic trait makes them gravitate towards visually appealing HTML emails because they allow more room for creativity. But do plain text emails have a statistical edge? 

In this article, we’ll delve into the details of HTML and Plain text emails. We’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks (if any) of each to help you choose a suitable format to streamline your email marketing campaigns.  

HTML vs. Plain Text Emails: Definition and Benefits

Plain Text Emails

As the name suggests, a plain text email is a simple, format-free, text-based email. In other words, plain-text emails contain text only — there’s no graphics, images, or formatting (you can’t alter fonts, font size, or add italics).

Here’s an example of a plain-text email:

Additionally, you can’t embed links, and there’s no way to make the call to action (CTAs) stand out. You also lack the ability to add HTML snippets, which makes it difficult to track vital email metrics.

Pros of Plain Text Email

  • Requires minimal technical knowledge to create. 
  • Supported by all email clients, so they offer consistency in delivery.
  • Better accessibility, even on devices like the Apple Watch.
  • Faster loading time because they don’t have graphics or images,
  • They are more personal and don’t feel automated.

Cons of Plain Text Email

  • Lack visual appeal.
  • Difficult to make CTAs stand out.
  • Don’t support tracking of key email metrics.

HTML Emails

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is a standard coding language used to create web pages that handle italics, bold, and color text. 

An HTML email supports formatting, graphics, GIFs, and images, in addition to text. Unlike plain text email, HTML emails sport a more professional and modern look. You have more sophisticated design control and can embed interactive, visual, and media elements.

Here’s an example of an HTML email:

You’re able to use diverse colors and add attention-grabbing CTAs, and most importantly, HTML email supports HTML snippets which makes it easy to track essential email metrics. 

Pros of HTML Emails

  • Better design control.
  • You can create visually appealing CTAs.
  • Better tracking ability.

Cons of HTML Emails

  • Too many HTML elements may direct emails to recipients’ spam folders.
  • Some email clients don’t render HTML elements well, which could lead to a mishmash of code. 
  • Some email clients block images and graphics by default, making it difficult for recipients to get the full message.

HTML vs. Plain Text Emails: The Key Differences

When it comes to emails, looks can be deceiving. For this reason, to make an accurate decision on which email format is best for you, you have to consider other factors such as deliverability, engagement, and more. 

Deliverability

Your email strategy will only work if the email makes it into your subscribers’ inbox. 

The most significant disadvantage of HTML emails is that they are way more likely to end up in a spam folder than plain text emails, especially if they contain broken tags. 

More often than not, antivirus software automatically removes the CSS styles of HTML emails. So even if the email gets to the primary inbox, it becomes difficult for subscribers to decode the message.

If you care about deliverability, stick to plain text email. Better yet, utilize a hybrid email — one that blends a plain-text version and properly coded HTML email. 

Open Rates

At first glance, HTML emails may seem visually appealing because of the purpose-built layout and stand-out CTA button — nearly all the attributes you want in an email to entice subscribers to open. 

However, if you look beyond the visual appeal, there’s a catch. 

The colorful headers, pixel banner and footer, and social network buttons may amount to distractions — something you never find with plain text emails. As a result, HTML emails have 11% lower click-to-open rates than text-based emails. 

Click-Through Rates

Even if the open rates declined, you would expect HTML email to convert better, thanks to the attention-drawing CTAs. Right?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

Text-based emails deliver 17% higher click-through rates on offer links than their HTML counterparts. 

Email Analytics

The one area where plain text email stumbles out of the gate is analytics. As mentioned earlier, text-based emails don’t support HTML snippets, and as such, it’s difficult to track key email metrics. 

Pick the Right Format For Your Audience

When it comes to email, statistics have shown less is more. Text-based emails seemingly have the edge over their pretty counterparts. They deliver higher clicks on CTAs and embody the whole purpose of email marketing. 

That said, plain text emails have a few major drawbacks: no visual appeal and the inability to track. 

Fortunately, with BenchmarkONE, you can remedy the shortcomings of plain text emails. Our email functionality lets you add links, images and track the open rates of text-based emails. Now you can enjoy the best of both options. Sign up for free and get a first-hand feel for what BenchmarkONE can do for you.