Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Rich Image Emails and Images-Off Compliance: It’s Possible.

I’ve noticed a trend of retailers actually maintaining image-rich emails with little or no compliance with images-off. That means, without images loaded, the email is blank (See two case studies here and here.) These are smart marketers with otherwise advanced internal systems and resources, so why are they ignoring this? I have a suspicion that folks think that it’s a one-way street to comply with images-off. That they’ll have to seriously reduce the richness of the email design to be visible to consumers that haven’t entirely trusted their brand and communiques.

Well, it’s not true. I’m going to take the email designs highlighted in this post by Lisa Harmon on Email Experience Blog, where she notes very beautiful product shots. I’m going to show how you can easily translate these designs to images-off, and thus increase click-throughs and opens. The reason to bring these potential consumers into the fold is just that- they are new customers to you. They either have newly subscribed, or just started receiving emails from a purchase. As anyone with CRM flow in mind will know, it’s critical to get these folks onboard early, and show them a professional, well-designed introduction to your company. Thanks to Mark Brownlow for querying just this issue in his post, “Is an Image Rich Email So Bad”:

I can’t be certain, but I’m sure all the highlighted emails look pretty uninspiring if images are blocked. Yet…I’m equally sure that the folk behind these campaigns are perfectly aware of image blocking issues.

To start, Sephora.


- I would focus on the preview pane area, which is this:


- This layout can be converted to HTML very easily, by simply creating HTML table and CSS inline font styles.
- The main graphic below this should have the coupon code, or a crafty teaser message “Reveal images to show your coupon offer!”

Second email: Williams Sonoma

I’ve written about them before, and their calendar needed some help, mostly because broken images all over the design made it look cluttered. In this example, which is similar to Red Envelope’s multiple product grid, a simple alt text describing each gift, would lend a lot of readability to those with images-off. I don’t actually doubt that Sonoma is doing this, since their compliance is usually quite good.

(Note, I did not receive these emails, I am basing my review on Harmon’s post.)


This could easily be converted to images-off compliance by again
- Focusing on the preview pane area
- Using HTML tables and inline CSS to reflect the design.
- Simple alt text that reiterates the tagline; “Six inspired ways to shop for everyone on your list” along with the brand and coupon or offer.

Third Case: Macy’s

I have been receiving Macy’s emails, which arrive every day. So my first comment is to limit the frequency, or they will fatigue the subscribes. As for images-off compliance, they are doing very little. I would recommend:

- Usually I don’t do this, but I would suggest having the creative folks sit down with some HTML engineers and go over the pros and cons of this kind of design, namely, having the images above the copy on the left hand side. I wonder if people are scrolling down past the preview pane to view it. I wonder if they have metrics to show clickthroughs on various asset pieces. They could probably work through a few compromises that please both sides, and allow for better rendering, images off compliance, and quicker adoption and conversion by new customers (with images suppressed).
- The font of the main copy block is very hard to read. Usual publishing technique is to use a serif font for the copy block, and nothing too distinct or fancy. This design violates that, and I believe it affects the readability. If you do go to a “normal” or user-determined font, that should be in HTML, not in an image. By freeing up this copy block, it becomes visible in images-off situation, which is prime. So why don’t more designers free the copy from the image? Because they lose layout control. So again, sit down with the HTML programmers and figure out a compromise.
- All of that preview pane branding could be HTML (it’s not currently). It would show the new customers brand immediately, and help with adoption of new subscribers
- Re-consolidate all of that preview pane branding. Macy’s, and Coach, are taking up critical real estate with white space and menus rendered with the wrong font size (too big). This could be more effectively redesigned (see Eddie Bauer’s change as documented by Chad White at RetailEmail blog).

Case: J Crew


This is a pretty simple design, which means images-off compliance should be easy.
- Focus on the preview pane
- Include company branding
- Alt text contains the main marketing message, with teaser to download “Very Merry Gift Shop- Holiday gift ideas!” or something similar.
- No need to break up this image, it’s fine as a single download.

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Written on Monday, 26. November 2007 at 14:51 In the category design, images off. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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