Sending Image-Only Emails in 2021

Email marketing is one of the most profitable digital marketing mediums, which makes building effective emails vital for success. There are a lot of things to know about email marketing, including best practices to follow, but one thing remains unclear: Should you send image-based emails?

The Benefits of Images in Email Marketing

Don’t underestimate the value of using images in email marketing! In an email, images allow you to communicate your message in a more powerful, and effective way than you could have with text alone. 

Moreover, images grab attention! Images create more interest and can better draw attention. This is important when it comes down to competing in a crowded email inbox! Plus, emails that include pictures tend to have higher open and click-through rates. 

Sending Image-Based Emails

Why wouldn’t you send image-based emails? There was a time, long ago, when images in email were used nefariously to compromise security systems, and many email clients blocked them to protect users. Today, however, with more advanced, intelligent spam filters, images are common. Images also appear by default in many email platforms; Gmail announced in 2013 that images would display by default on desktop, iOS, and Android.

Including images in your emails is normal, and accepted, but what about using only images, instead of a text-based email?

Text-Based vs. Image-Based Emails

First, what is the difference between a text-based and an image-based email? 

Text-based emails are created using different information blocks that can be customized and formatted to your liking (unlike a plain-text email that is just how it sounds … plain.) When using this kind of email, you build it section by section in your email marketing service and can add hyperlink buttons with your CTAs. Most email builders use a drag and drop method to customize the organization and flow of your message. 

Text-Based Emails

Image-based emails are messages in which all of the information, photos, graphics, and text are contained within a single .jpg, .png, or .gif. Rather than being contained within different sections in the email tool, all of the design elements are combined in a design tool, and the image is uploaded as the body of the email into your email delivery system. The entire image is then hyperlinked so that the reader can click anywhere on the image and be redirected to the right page. 

Image-Based Emails

Pros of Using Image-Only Emails

  • Beautiful Design

Using an image allows you more creative control over the look and feel of your email without having to take formatting on different devices into account; your text, pictures, and CTAs will all appear exactly how you wanted them to. 

Design Tip: Make sure that your images are sized properly so that they load quickly in email messages, and that they are formatted correctly to open on mobile and desktop devices. 

  • Consistent Branding

Putting more thought and design into your email campaigns can also boost your revenue. Having a consistent brand presentation has been shown to increase revenue by up to 33%!

  • More CTA (Call-to-Action) Space

The clickable surface area of your CTA goes up when you use an image file for your emails. Rather than the only link occupying a small bit of real-estate in your button, your reader can click the text, ‘button’, photo/graphic, or anywhere else on that section of your email and be directed where you want them!

Cons of Using Image-Only Emails

  • Danger of Bad Deliverability

Images can decrease your email delivery IF you do not resize your images to the proper file size before uploading them! Before you send an email, check with your email client to see what size they recommend you use, and remember to always send yourself a test email first!

  • Digital Reader Accessibility

Perhaps the biggest downside to using image-based emails is accessibility. For those who may have a hard time viewing your message, digital readers can’t read the text placed on a jpg, or png. To combat this, always, ALWAYS use alt text to describe your images. Whatever you enter as the image alt text the digital reader can understand, plus this is what will show up if the image doesn’t load properly. 

A/B Testing

When making any changes to your email marketing strategy it is important to A/B test your new strategy against your previous version. Things to look for when A/B testing your email marketing campaigns:

  • Changes in open rate: Negative changes in open rate might mean that your messages aren’t being delivered as well as the previous version. Check that the right image requirements are being met!
  • Changes in click rate: A decreased click rate could indicate that your CTAs may not be as strong, or get lost in the image. Make sure you are still including clear, button-like CTAs. 
  • Increased numbers of unsubscribes: If unsubscribes increase dramatically then you’ve likely made a change your readers don’t like. 

Give image-based email marketing a try and play around with what works. Maybe this format yields strong results in promotional emails but not re-engagement emails. You won’t know until you try!

Examples of Image-Based Emails

There is a myriad of ways to use image-based emails in your marketing campaigns. Here are a few examples from real companies using the image-based format for different types of emails:

Promote a Sale

Using image-only emails to promote a sale can be highly effective thanks to the clean look you are able to create. Using big, bold imagery attracts the attention of the customer and keeps the focus on your message. The large surface area of clickable, hyperlinked space takes advantage of every square inch of email real estate.

This example by Warby Parker benefits from placing the offer right at the top with a cohesive transition into the visual elements.

Introduce Features/Perks

Email is a great place to show off your product and its features. By using image-only emails, you can create an informative and interesting message without worrying about formatting issues or boring your readers with too much text. 

Strava laid out some of the tools available to subscribers to show the value in paying for the subscription. Providing easy-to-read summaries helps encourage users to try out the paid features. A common feature is placing the CTA “button” on top of the images to keep focus and draw attention!

By using multiple images stacked on top of each other, they could link to different pages while creating the look of a single design.

Strava Introducing Feature Email

New Product Announcements

You have a new product, so show it off! When you are selling a new product, image-based emails offer a great opportunity to showcase it in a variety of ways. From product shoots to user-generated content, an image, as they say, is worth a thousand words.

The Citizenry introduced their newest throw using an image-based email that gives it the editorial feel of a high-end catalog. Again, they stacked images on top of each other creating a beautiful, informative email.

Citizenry Promoting Sale Email

Make an Announcement

When it’s time to make an announcement, image-focused emails are a great way to capture attention. Think of them as a promotional poster in your readers’ email!

Sprouts Farmers Market used this method of promotion to announce a giveaway. The graphic that was used is far more creative and on-brand than the same message would have been in a text-based email.

Sprouts Farmers Market Announcement Email 

With this newly gained knowledge, go and impress your readers with bright, creative newsletters in their inbox folder! Need help creating said newsletter? Get in touch with one of our email marketing experts today!

Written by Elyse Keeney
Published on May 19, 2021
Filed Under: Email Marketing