5 Takeaways from The 2014 Science of Email Report

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The email marketing world is constantly evolving: subscriber preferences change, support for HTML and CSS is added (or removed, as was the case with Outlook.com and margins!), and email clients change the way we manage our inboxes. It’s up to us as marketers and designers to stay up on these trends to ensure that we’re putting our best email foot forward.

We recently worked with HubSpot to look at trends in the email marketing industry. These trends aren’t meant to be a measurement bar to compare your email marketing efforts against; rather they aim at inspiring you to test and optimize your campaigns. After all, there are no one-size-fits-all techniques and best practices that work across the board when it comes to email.

Together with HubSpot’s email team, we looked at attitudes towards marketing, the effective components of emails, and email open data across nearly a half a billion marketing emails, six million one-to-one emails, and over a thousand survey participants. What did we find? Here’s a quick preview:

Two-thirds of those surveyed prefer to receive mostly image-based marketing emails, rather than mostly text emails. Keep in mind that many email clients block images by default. As a result, it’s important to use images-off optimization techniques like ALT text, bulletproof buttons, and a background colors.

How often do people buy product or services from email messages they’ve received? Thirty-five percent of respondents said they never buy from emails—which is a 40% increase since 2011 when the same question was asked. This doesn’t mean that email marketing has become less effective—it just means that you need to be more strategic when it comes to interacting with your subscribers.

What do subscribers do when they receive an unwanted commercial email? Over 68% reported they would delete the email, 58% stated that they would unsubscribe, and 49% declared that they would mark the email as spam. While it’s reassuring for marketers that subscribers would delete or unsubscribe before marking an email as spam, it’s still not ideal. That’s why it’s crucial to send relevant, useful emails to your subscribers.

Where do subscribers most frequently open their emails? 39% of subscribers open email on iOS devices (iPhone and iPad). This is great news for email designers since iOS has great CSS and HTML support. However, Outlook and Gmail hold the number two and four spots, respectively, in the top 10—both of those clients have lots of rendering quirks and inconsistencies. As a result, it’s important to test your emails before you send!


Download the full report and get inspired to start improving your email marketing campaigns.

Download the report →



  • http://www.tedgoas.com/ Ted Goas

    “Two-thirds of those surveyed prefer to receive mostly image-based marketing emails, rather than mostly text emails.”

    Is that 2/3 of marketers prefer to use images in their email? Or 2/3 of email recipients prefer to read email with images?

    • Lauren_Litmus

      Hi Ted! That specific data point was pulled from HubSpot’s survey responses (they surveyed 1,000 English-speakers over 21 with an office-type job). It’s 2/3 of email recipients prefer to receive mostly image-based emails.

      • http://www.tedgoas.com/ Ted Goas

        Veeeerrry interesting. Granted the survey demographic is limited, but this begs the question “How much time should we spend on clever code techniques that circumvent the need to images when most recipients actually *prefer* images?”

  • steph routh

    Excited to read the full report and just wanted to comment before I do why. It was the honesty here: “They’ll tell you what they think is true, what they want to be true and what they think you want to hear.” Cheers.

  • spraven

    I have downloaded the “Science of Email” PDF and look forward to reading it through, but I wondered if you could answer a Very Urgent, yet apparently not well known question for me regarding Gmail Users? I’ve posted this on a well known forum, but surprisingly, no one had any answers. Maybe you can help…

    I run my own self-hosted autoresponder (finally had to cut ties with Aweber) and I’ve been having trouble with my Gmail Users getting their mail from me deferred for up to 12 hours or even not at all. My Host is a host specifically for email marketing and I’m on a Smart Mailer. They throttled back my Gmail users to 100 per hour, but since most of my lists are comprised of Gmail users (as I’m sure most marketers’ lists are), it has really slowed down my email delivery. I’m asking below to see if I can segment out my Gmail users and set them separately to go out at xxx per hour, but it be more than 100.

    I was recently told that Google only allows so many emails per hour to come into their email users before they start deferring the rest to who knows where (certainly not where we want them…in the inboxes)!

    The problem is that I’ve heard alternate answers from a few people and of course, the ‘Big G’ doesn’t tell me in a search, unless I’m searching for the wrong keywords.

    Do you have a true answer to this?

    Also, does Yahoo do the same thing? Who else does it?

    I’ve decided that I need to maximize my email marketing efforts by segmenting ALL Google/Gmail/GoogleMail users into their own segment and limited to a specific number per hour to keep from any deferrment happening, if anyway possible!

    Any help from you guys that “Email Is Your Business” would be more than greatly appreciated!

    Thank You,

    Scott Raven
    Raven Squared

  • http://www.modernmsg.com/ Mike

    You guys have become such a valuable resource for me as an email marketer. So thank you for that!

    Sidenote: from my experience, everyone in the room (from marketers to clients) think image based emails are best.

    Repeatedly however, click-through rates would tell you the exact opposite.

    Just an interesting reality I’ve seen after emailing about 1M people.

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