Marketers Slow to Respond to Problem of Blocked Email Images

June 10, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Creative & Formats | Email | Privacy & Security | Retail & E-Commerce

More than 50% of images in promotional emails are routinely blocked by email and webmail programs, according to a recent survey by the Email Experience Council (eec), the email marketing arm of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Nevertheless, many marketers are still sending image-based emails that do not render well as text-only.

The “Retail Email Rendering Benchmark Study” examined the email design practices of 104 top online retailers tracked via RetailEmail.Blogspot and evaluated their performance in an email environment with images disabled.

Most retail email marketers (57%) send largely image-based emails, even though they have higher spam scores (and so are more likely to be blocked by spam filters) and have lower open and response rates, the survey found:


“Email marketing currently generates an estimated return on investment of $48.29 for every dollar spent on it, according to the Direct Marketing Association,” said Jeanniey Mullen, the founder and executive chairwoman of the Email Experience Council and chief marketing officer of Zinio.

“We conservatively estimate that if all marketers optimized their emails for image blocking, email’s ROI would jump to $52.69. Not paying attention to rendering impacts revenue directly.”

The report also includes results of research among 472 marketers regarding rendering issues:

  • Only 47% of respondents say their companies have taken action to design emails with image suppression in mind.
  • Those actions ranged from adding alt tags or “click to view” links, to minimizing images above the fold:


  • Of the 38% that had tested to see whether the changes they made produced results, 32% have seen more opens, 32% have seen more clickthroughs, and 17% have seen more conversions – with 47% seeing at least a 10% improvement.

Additional findings from the “Retail Email Rendering Benchmark Study”:

  • 23% of retailers send emails that are completely unintelligible when images are disabled.
  • Of the 77% that sent intelligible emails, there are significant variations in clarity based on use of HTML text and alt tags, two techniques that can boost effectiveness in image-disabled environments.
  • Only 42% of retailers designed emails that contained a reasonable mix of HTML text and images, and 63% of retailers used alt tags on their images adequately or extensively.
  • As a result, the report advises marketers to include more HTML in their emails by including the following:
    • Headlines
    • Section heads
    • Product names, prices and other text companying product images
    • Text in banners
    • Lists (upcoming releases, etc.)
    • Menu and navigation bar text
    • Call-to-action buttons
    • Promotion codes and instructions on how to apply them
  • Additional findings:
    • 14% of retailers compose their navigation bars with HTML text rather than images.
    • 3% of retailers used HTML call-to-action buttons rather than images.
    • 88% of retailers include a “click to view” link in their preheader text.
    • 63% of retailers include whitelisting instructions in their preheader text.
    • The emails from only 21% of retailers displayed meaningful snippet text.

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