Email Experience Council finds images still not rendering

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Images and links in e-mails are often stripped out due to e-mail reader restrictions, reputation scores or coding errors, according to a new study by the Email Experience Council.

The EEC's Rendering Report recent study reviewed 1,000 e-mails from both business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers to assess the renderability of the messages. E-mail content reviewed included product sales, multiple product offers, newsletters and event invitations.

"Rendering challenges have come about as a way for e-mail client designers to combat spam," said Jeanniey Mullen, founder of the Email Experience Council, Upper Montclair, NJ.

"Spammers get trickier in the way they serve messages, [so] the e-mail client designers are going to continue to design features that safeguard against it," she said. "So, rendering is an ever-changing challenge that we need to be ready to work with."

The Email Experience Council study found that 21 percent of the e-mails reviewed appeared completely blank when images were turned off, or stripped inside a variety of e-mail clients. An additional 28 percent showed relevant copy, but had no working links.

Even though best practices define ways to create a deliverable e-mail, the study found that more than 70 percent of companies struggle in this area.

Ms. Mullen recommended working with a professional company to test image rendering across multiple e-mail clients to help increase response by as much as 87 percent. Time should be slotted to test.

"Don't assume that your e-mail will render perfectly - that could cause marketers to cut it too close," she said. "Instead, designers should design two versions of an e-mail: one with images showing and one with images off to determine results, and code the e-mail in a way that will ensure that the message and call to action are seen and clickable."

The study found that 95 percent of vendors do not offer rending services.

"While each vendor is likely to update their solutions, the issue right now is the vast majority of mailers are not using a solution at all so they have no insight into the current issues, much less a solution for optimizing their designs," said Deirdre Baird, president/CEO of Pivotal Veracity, Phoenix, AZ, and a member of the Email Experience Council.

However, in some cases vendors are trying to work directly with e-mail client designers and Internet service providers to build certification and reputations services that will enable e-mail to bypass the typical process that causes images to be blocked.

The report also found that there is a significant area of opportunity for the future of image rendering in e-mails built for smart phones. While some marketers have identified ways to successfully deal with the rendering challenges inside the e-mail inbox, most have not yet addressed the issue of rendering on handheld devices.

The use of PDA's, BlackBerries, mobile phones and other mobile e-mail devices is still low, yet adoption rates and usage are on the rise. The EEC believes that focusing on rendering e-mail in these devices will become a critical aspect of communication.

"As the adoption of reading e-mails on smart phone devices continues to be more popular, we are going to start to see vendors designing enhancements that help us move forward in the renderability of these types of messages," Ms. Mullen said.

"The EEC is currently in discussions with the Mobile Marketing Association to determine the best way we can proactively address these opportunities to create a positive user experience," she said.

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