When Ecommerce Stores Should Use Plain Text Emails
Those of us in the B2B marketing sphere often hear that plain text emails are superior to HTML emails because they are more personal — they look like a message you might receive from a friend rather than a company, leading to emails that are more likely to convert. Drift wrote a great post outlining the emails they send to their customers and explaining their decision to go with plain text.
But how does this translate for ecommerce? Ecommerce marketers often use highly-designed, visually appealing emails to display their products in the best light. Even though you can include images in plain text emails, they just don’t quite get the job done when your goal is to show customers products they might want to buy.
Here’s the dilemma: visual design is at the core of many ecommerce brands, but plain text emails foster close, 1:1 relationships between brands and customers. How do you successfully leverage plain text emails if you’re an ecommerce marketer?
There are a few instances when you can use plain text in lieu of HTML emails. As a quick rule of thumb, plain text emails are best saved for flows rather than newsletter campaigns, since you’re responding to a customer taking a specific action. Customers know your newsletters are going out to many recipients, so it’s not necessary to mimic a personal email. Let’s take a look:
1. Thank You Notes
When a customer makes a purchase, you should always thank them. These thank you emails are a perfect opportunity to use plain text to draft a more sincere message that doesn’t sound like it was mass-distributed. This is a great way to make customers feel that they’re valued and encourage repeat purchasing behavior.
A heartfelt email from your CEO or founder can go a long way when it comes to customer loyalty and retention. This is as close as you can feasibly get to sending a handwritten note without actually writing one, at least in terms of scalability. You can use dynamic tags to include personal information about each customer (i.e. their name, what they bought, etc.) to complete the experience.
2. Welcome Emails
The example above from Holstee is great because it’s friendly, conversational, and includes calls to action without being overly in-your-face.
Depending on how many emails you have in your welcome series, you may want to include at least one in plain text. For instance, if you have a 3-email series with the first email going out immediately after a customer signs up.
Instead of trying to sell your new subscriber right away, you could take this opportunity to personally welcome them into your community. This works best if you have other, more marketing-focused emails in the series too — that way you’re not missing out on your initial chance to get subscribers to make a purchase.
Like welcome emails, you should only use a plain text win-back if you have several other emails in the series. Plain text emails allow you to level with your customers about why they haven’t returned to make another purchase in a while.
Use a plain text win-back email as the last touchpoint in the series. In this “last attempt” email, you can ask customers directly why they haven’t made a purchase and allow them to reply directly to the email. Like customer reviews, these responses give you an insight into your customers’ mindsets and present a chance to improve if nothing else.
A Reminder to A/B Test
Every business and audience is different, so it never hurts to A/B test plain text emails against HTML ones. Above is an example of how you might test a post-purchase thank you email.
Simply add a variation to the flow email you would like to test, let it run for a month, and remember to make sure the copy of the plain text and HTML emails are identical.
If you find that your plain text emails perform better, you can then test copy variations until you arrive at the best email.
Plain text emails offer a lot of value from a customer service and retention standpoint. But for ecommerce marketers, it’s best to be selective about which emails you write in plain text. Focus on emails that are aimed at nurturing customer loyalty and A/B test against HTML variations to see how plain text emails work for your unique business.
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