Today, we often hear that plain text emails (i.e. simple messages containing plain text without animation or other design features) are a new fashion trend, so every email marketer feels like applying it to their email strategy immediately. Should we follow this mainstream euphoria? eSputnik email marketing automation SaaS has analyzed the facts, so now we can share real data received from investigations by western experts, as well as some of our own conclusions.

Does HTML Reduce Open Rate?

We usually spend a lot of time building good-looking, highly informative emails to attract subscribers’ attention and motivate him or her to effectively take action. However, we face a problem – investigations published by Hubspot portal confirmed that HTML emailing has a 25% lower open rate than text messages. Moreover, open rate is reduced to 37% when GIF animations are added. Increasing the number of HTML blocks reduces another 23% of the open rate.

Does this mean all efforts are futile?

Plain Text in Numbers. Impressive Efficiency Index

By providing a higher attention span to data analysis and taking a look at CTR, we can see that plain text messages have a 21% higher rate than HTML-rich emails. Considering higher open rates, it becomes quite evident that we can increase the click-through website rate up to 51% using plain text messages, an impressive index number. The data above is based on the results of Mike Lieberman’s investigations. We could not abstain from looking more into this topic, so we conducted our own test.

Plain Text Email in Action

We decided to start with plain text emails.

The results of the first text email newsletters were impressive. It could even be considered as a confirmation of the hypothesis that plain text emails are highly efficient.

Traditional emails based on the HTML templates were sent to two different groups of recipients; the next newsletter was made as plain text emails. Plain text newsletters were more efficient in both cases.


Nevertheless, more research needed to be done before we could confirm that plain text emails are more efficient, and here’s why:

  • As we can see in the screenshot above, plain text email newsletters showed a higher open rate percentage. But, in fact, when a client makes a decision to open the message, they don’t know anything about its format. The decision to open it may be affected by other factors (sender’s name, subject line, etc.). In our test, these lines were different for the text and HTML emails that we sent out to compare;
  • as for the click-through rate: value propositions in plain text messages and traditional promo newsletters differed too, so we got varied feedback;
  • day of the week, sending time, and value proposition in the body of the email were also different.

With all the remarks mentioned above, it would be incorrect to consider two completely different newsletters as an experiment, despite highly-efficient indicators for plain text type of messages. We decided to apply the scientific approach and verify the efficiency of plain text emails by conducting an experiment.

We held a split test. Newsletter emails built in a usual HTML format were sent to group “A” subscribers, while group “B” received the plain text message. Subjects and sender names were identical.

Here you can see the results of our test:

Text messages rate is still higher, but the difference is not as essential as we saw in Hubspot’s research. For more information, please go to our email marketing blog.

The Most Common Errors in Plain Text Email

The main advantage of messages with plain text is client’s trust; it is easier to preserve it than to rebuild it.

Concerning messages with plain text, here are the most common errors made by email marketers:

  • a familiar tone of message. Success is caused by personal communication. However, on the other hand, there is a danger hidden here — it is important not to cross the line and not to ruin your reputation;
  • newsletter frequency is too high. When a subscriber receives similar messages every day, he or she will finally stop reacting to them;
  • focusing on sales instead of customers’ actual needs. Think twice before notifying a sender about a product’s advantages once again. Try to offer him or her something really useful (like content, a piece of advice, or a discount);
  • sending emails with the same value propositions without segmentation and personalization. You have to analyze a client’s interests, check what pages of your website he or she visits, or how long ago they bought something from you.

Should We Change Our Email Marketing Strategy?

Since marketers are ready to do anything to increase open rate and CTR, many of them can accept higher rates of plain text emails as a direct call to action and radically change their strategy. In fact, no need to hurry. There are two sides to every coin, so any technique (even the most effective) should be used moderately and wisely.

By the way, despite the high click-through rates text messages provide smaller number of sales than HTML email format. It’s simple: in order to make somebody buy something a special emotion is needed, so HTML email gives more options to make the design of your proposition bright and this will build a motivating emotional response. To make really good newsletters, you can use our drag and drop email editor.

Apart from that, special investigations were made back in 2014 and 2011. Respondents were asked about what type of newsletters they prefer to receive from companies. Both times the results were identical. The majority (64%) voted for HTML emails.

Therefore, it is recommended to use both types of emails to achieve efficient communication, and in any case, don’t forget about your subscribers’ trust.