The issue is alt text and I’m taking a stand. Lack of alt text is a wasted opportunity and I simply do not understand why it happens.
Because if you want to send out great sales emails, you will use alt text. Period.
Do you see a problem with this email screenshot?
There is No Email Alt Text!
This is the screenshot of an email from a big craft store brand, and it lacks alt text, as in it has zero alt text. This email was not an anomaly. I’ve received several emails from this brand and each was as blank as this one.
What a missed opportunity, not to mention blatant disregard for common sense email coding best practices.
On the other hand, this email from my favorite seed company showed up the same day:
This email included alt text as well as actual text, so I could scroll through and know the content even without the images. And…this is a much smaller company compared to the craft store one, but the smaller brand adhered to the email copywriting and marketing best practices…which leads to great sales emails.
No email alt text? No engagement
So now that we’ve seen the two screenshots, let’s talk about the level of engagement driven by these sales emails based on what they did or didn’t do with their words.
First, the craft brand email: Engagement level = zero. There was nothing to entice me to open it, as you can see.
Second, the seed store email: Engagement level = high. Even though this email was promoting flower bulbs and I didn’t see the pictures of the beautiful flowers, I could see enough text to get me interested. I clicked through to the website to start shopping.
Why does this matter? Because the best email copywriting in the world is useless if no one sees it.
Design your emails for everyone, and that includes using alt text
In the crafting email, all the words labored over by the copywriter or marketing team are invisible to me because they are part of an image. The irony is, it would only take a few minutes to type that same text as alt text! Then I’d know dry erase markers were on sale even with images turned off.
Now you might think the crafting brand knows most of their target audience uses an iPhone and therefore sees the images by default. I originally saw the emails I’m describing on my laptop using Outlook. By default, images are blocked and I saw nothing. When I looked later on my iPhone, the images showed up. I had a very different experience with the email from the crafting brand.
But here’s the deal: You’re better off designing your email for everyone, not just the majority. And there’s no reason not to! If most people use an iPhone, but not all people, then design for more than the iPhone audience or lose out on those subscribers using desktops or laptops.
Designing emails to render well with images turned off may not be top of mind, but it shows that you as the brand owner of email know the audience well.
Every little incremental improvement matters!
It’s like your deliverability rate: If it’s at 94%, of course, you want to get it to 95%, right? Or higher? Because any email not delivered is exactly the same as an email not sent. Any smart email marketer will take every possible step to incrementally improve that deliverability rate, even if that means switching to enterprise ESPs.
So why wouldn’t that same email marketer want to make sure their emails rendered well no matter the device, and no matter the settings? Because people like me still use computers to view their emails. COMMENT: This boils down to people looking at email across all different types of devices in many scenarios.
The seed company did it right. They used a mix of email copywriting and alt text to make sure their email communicated even without the images. They are making an effort to create great sales emails. The big crafting brand? They have an optimization opportunity that should not be ignored.
Don’t be that guy. Use alt text.