HTML vs. Plain Text emails: How successful Shopify brands use them
Many brands have never published plain text emails. It makes sense.
We spend a lot of time creating templates, matching them with our branding, improving them over time and measuring each change against the other.
To finally send Plain Text emails, like I’ve sent it from Gmail?
Seriously? Well – yes!
Now, let’s have a look at some established DTC brands email marketing strategies using Panoramata.co, the intelligence ecommerce platform – and look at how they’re using Plain text and HTML emails.
You’ve probably already received a few of these emails by established brands. It makes sense, as there are various use cases for Plain Text emails – where they are a very useful addition to the usual HTML emails you’re already sending.
The main advantages for these Plain Text emails are:
- They’re not heavy. Their weight (images and code) is lighter, so they load quickly on mobile and they usually have a better spam score, which can lead to better open rates.
- They’re familiar. They look like they’ve been sent personally. Even if that’s obviously not the case, people tend to read the email’s content more carefully.
- They’re clear. Plain Text emails force brands to have simple messaging – which can lead to better click rates.
So, when should you be using them?
- As a “Last chance” email, within a 3 or 4 emails Promotion flow – as they have a better chance to land into your audience’s Inbox,
- To connect with your audience more directly, for example in your Welcome flow,
- To send quick – but important! – updates to your audience (for instance, “Back in stock” or “Promotion Extended” emails)
Now, let’s have a look at some established DTC brands email marketing strategies – and look at how they’re using Plain text and HTML emails.
The Ridget Wallet aims to be the best wallet you’ve ever owned – and more than that, offering a whole range of essentials (key cases, pens, backpacks, etc.)
The Ridge sends 2 to 3 emails a week, usually on Tuesday and Thursday. They run a promotion every 2 months – and within each promotion, they have a very specific use of Plain Text emails: Last Chance emails.
Look at Christmas 2021 – they send 4 emails related to Christmas:
- Subject line: “The Holiday Lineup”, sent on 12/07
- Subject line: “2021 is almost over”, sent on 12/09
- Subject line: “LAST CHANCE: Christmas Delivery”, sent on 12/13
- Subject line: “Last Minute Save”, sent on 12/20
Here are these 4 emails:
The third email of the Christmas sale is a Plain Text one:
And this pattern is the same for every sale made by The Ridge Wallet. They send a last chance email for every promotion – and this email is using a Plain Text template.
This is made to reach a different audience that engages more with this kind of email (and to follow up with the audience that have already seen the promotion) and optimize their delivery rate as these emails are lighter and typically have better spam score – and land less often in the Promotion tab.
Same on March 15th – for The Ridge Wallet Anniversary Sale. Amongst the 3 emails they’ve sent for this promotion, the last one has this subject line “This is it. 15% OFF is ending”.
Here’s the email:
And this email ranks as 100% on Panoramata – it has only a 8Kb size and a Spam score of -4 (vs. -2.2 on average for The Ridge). Note that any score above 0 is considered as spam.
This usage is one of the most interesting ones you could have with Plain Text emails as it directly adds revenue since you’re following up with your audience about an expiring promotion, which was already featured in previous emails (and using a different kind of email template optimizes your reach)
Prose offers personalized hair routines and supplements, customized for you after an online consultation.
Like many successful brands within their Email Welcome flow, they use Plain Text email to connect with their audience. Also note that Prose sends almost 5 emails a week and relies heavily on Email Marketing as their acquisition channel – so we can trust their judgment.
As we’ve seen before, Spam scores and Email size are better with Plain text emails, which can help to get better open rates – so it makes sense to include them in your Welcome flow.
Connect with your audience
- When you start your consultation on Prose.com – and then stop along the way, they send you a serie of 5 emails:
Email #1: “Ready when you are”
- Email #2: “Good news! We saved your results”
- Email #3: “Your Prose is ready to order”
- Email #4: “From the lab: Your consultation”
- Email #5: “Try your Prose with 15% off, free ship, free returns”
- Email #6: “Take $10 off your first Prose”
The Email #4 is the Plain Text one:
- It matches the best practices for this kind of Plain Text emails:
The email is sent from a real person, with a real name (Marie Mignon)
- The email is sent as is it was written from Gmail,
- The sender introduce personally his/herself,
- The email has short sentences, straight to the point (even if, in that case, they could have done a better job).
If you still hesitate to use Plain Text within your Email Marketing Mix, this example is for you.
Schoolyard Snacks is a Keto/Low Carb/High Protein Snacks brand “Old School Snacks, made the new way”. And if you’re subscribed to their newsletter, you’ll notice that almost half of the emails they’re sending are following a plain text template.
They send 5 to 6 emails a week – and here are the emails they’ve sent the last 2 weeks:
They mainly send these Plain Text emails to only let their subscribers know about current promotions – and sometimes to add social proof (featuring reviews and/or press quotes).
You can notice that their emails have very simple templates, really as if it was sent from a regular mailbox.
- All their Plain Text emails follow the same codes:
Links are underlined and blue,
- Discount codes are in bold + red,
- There are emojis in the subject line and emoticons in the body,
- The emails are signed as “Sincerely, Helen – Co-founder”.
Simple, yet effective.
Thanks to this light format, the vast majority of their Plain Text emails have a 100% score again on Panoramata:
Here are 2 of our favorites examples, featuring a Promotion Email and a Review Email.
The subject line was ”Ok ok…you win :)”, sent on May 16th.
Note – in half of their promotions, they’re using this kind of emails each time to let their audience know that “not that many promo codes were available … so we’ve decided to extend the deal for a little longer”.
Social Proof – Reviews Email
The subject line was “Don’t take it from us…👀”, sent on May 19th.
Here’s our final example – one of the best, that can actually give you perfect guidelines to add Plain Text emails within your Email Marketing Calendar – especially if you still have some hesitations even after seeing all the examples above.
Outdoor Voices is a technical Apparel brand with a massive following (+500k on Instagram) – usually they need no introduction as they’re a reference amongst the DTC brands.
They’re the kind of brands you would trust marketing-wise – especially for Email Marketing, as they’re sending more than 5 emails a week.
Compared to Schoolyard Snacks and The Ridge Wallet, they do send way fewer Plain Text emails. We’ve counted 4 Plain Text emails since last year. But it happens, every now and then – and it provides a few guidelines for us, as it wraps up the previous uses we’ve seen.
Use plain text emails to introduce yourself
Outdoor Voices send a “Welcome to Team OV” email in their Welcome Journey – introducing their mission:
As seen before with Prose, this kind of emails feel more personal – and allow you to connect with your audience more directly. Here, Outdoor Voices could use a much personal tone (vs. what Prose’s doing) – but they do a great job at introducing their “Doing Things” community and their “Recreationalists” mission.
Our main take:
Within your Welcome flow, you should have 4+ emails. Make sure that one of these emails is a Plain Text Email that only aims to connect with your audience. A good practice here is to send it from the Founder’s email address and name.
Use plain text emails to let people know about expiring sales
Here’s the latest use of Plain Text email by Outdoor Voices on May 2nd, letting their audience know about their Free Shipping days for Mothers day.
- This is the same use we’ve seen at The Ridge Wallet and Schoolyard Snacks. The only difference comes from the volume of emails sent and the use made of them:
The Ridge Wallet sends Plain Text emails only for expiring promotions,
- Schoolyard Snacks sends Plain Text emails every two emails, most often to launch – and then extend – an ongoing promotion,
- What Outdoor Voices does is simpler. They use Plain Text emails only during key marketing moments of the year, to differentiate their approach.
Use plain text emails to update your audience about specific news
Plain Text vs HTML Emails for Shopify
Here’s your Plain Text Email cheat sheet – now you’re ready!
You can use them:
- To let your audience know about expiring promotions,
- To connect with your audience – send them from a real person and introduce yourself,
- To communicate something super specific with your audience,
- Because they can lead to higher open rates (they’re lighter and tend to have better spam scores),
- Because they feel more personal and less salesy,
- Because you’re sure that your email is gonna be responsive and dark-mode compatible.
They also have some downsides:
- You obviously can’t show your branding,
- You can’t show your products in your email – which can be difficult for some industries (for Fashion for instance – but again, look at Outdoor Voices!)
- They can look cheap for certain audiences – especially if you’re using them too much.