October 13, 2005
How To

71% of Big Companies Use Email Marketing But Many Make HTML Mistakes: Five Charts

SUMMARY: This morning at 10a.m., Silverpop exclusively released the results from its 2005 Broken Link Study to MarketingSherpa's research team. Turns out 71% of the top 360 US companies (as ranked by D&B) now offer an email opt-in on their Web site. Unfortunately some of them dampen responses to their lovely HTML messages with a mistake that even email newbies should know to avoid. Here are the details, including five charts:

  • Percent of Company Web Sites By Industry Offering Visitors Email List Opt-In 2002/2005;

  • Email Systems Used by At-Work Email Users in the US;

  • Personal (At-Home) Email Addresses by Domain;

  • Delivery of 360 Top D&B-Rated Companies' Broadcast Emails;
  • Percent of studied HTML email images and/or links blocked/broken by email client.

Also included, three real-life illustrations and a handy table of 'Add Sender to Contact List' instructions for seven popular email clients:
OK, color us dumbfounded that 29% of 360 companies listed in D&B's top rankings don't offer an email opt-in form anywhere on their Web sites.

According to a new study by the research team at Silverpop (released today exclusively to MarketingSherpa), big companies are not always on the cutting email marketing edge. Or even past making newbie mistakes, it would seem. You'll find a handy link to charts and illustrations below. In the meantime, here's the facts and advice you might want to take away from the study.

HTML Email doesn't work properly for millions of recipients

As we've been reporting for years, HTML email breaks in a wide variety of email inboxes. This isn't due to the programming on your creative team's end -- it's because the email client (aka system) your recipient views your email in routinely breaks the message.

Depending on the email system, your HTML images may be blocked so recipients see a blank white box and/or your live hotlinks may not work properly.

AOL 9.0, Outlook 2003 and Gmail are most infamous for blocking and/or breaking HTML. Older versions of Lotus Notes are also at fault.

How many of your recipients are using one of these systems? It's nearly impossible to tell (you can tell what domain name a recipient uses but not which version of an email client they are on). However, we have included two charts (link below) to give you some idea of how popular the biggies are.

Can you "fix" your email so it displays properly?

Unfortunately tweaking your HTML email so it shows up properly in every email client is impossible. To a large extent, you're at the mercy of your recipient who will hopefully know and care enough to follow instructions so they can view HTML email in all its glory. (Link to handy table of instructions below.)

And you can't count on Multipart MIME to help much because the email client *is* displaying the HTML version, not the associated text-version. It's just displaying the HTML version as a broken, ugly thing.

If your HTML message had no text at all that wasn't in image format, then no text will show up on the screen.


#1. Add a hotlinked text-line at the top of every message (can be in tiny type) that says something such as "Did your email system mangle this newsletter? See it Online."

Note: Don't say "Click Here" because that wording as a hotlink in an HTML-heavy message can get you filtered as a spammer in some systems.

#2. Remind your opt-ins incessantly to add your send email address to their address book, which means your email won't be filtered or hurt in most systems. Best places -- on "thank you" landing page they see when they opt-in and in your welcome-to-our-list autoresponder. Some mailers, such as TJMaxx.com, also add a reminder in text at the top of every HTML email they send.

The bad news is, most email recipients are lazy, especially when it comes to commercial email. They leave address settings on default, they don't bother clicking to see images. Fewer than 5% of your recipients will heed you if you do both #1 and #2. But heck, those are very motivated prospects and may be among your most valuable list members.


#3. Get yourself and your email creative team sample email accounts at Gmail, AOL 9.0, etc. Keep all settings on default so you see worst possible scenario of what may happen to your HTML creative.

Often you'll find yourself adding more text wording to messages than you had initially. Images simply can't be relied on for the entire message. Neither can HTML click buttons. If a recipient can't see the button, they're not going to click.

Good luck, and here are those charts we promised.

Useful links related to this article

Five Charts, three illustrations and one handy table from this article: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/htmlesd/study.html

Silverpop - the email service provider that conducted this study http://www.silverpop.com

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