Study: HTML E-Mail Has Hidden Danger

E-mail marketing company Silverpop Systems announced the preliminary results of a study that found the most popular e-mail programs did a poor job handling HTML e-mails, possibly presenting a roadblock to a fast-growing segment of the e-mail marketing industry.

The Atlanta-based company’s study, which viewed 700 HTML marketing messages in nine of the most popular e-mail programs, found that 42 percent of the messages were rendered improperly, with 13 percent being unreadable or containing “extremely disruptive errors.”

“Many e-mail marketers we work with are not aware of the challenges and opportunities around HTML e-mails,” said Bill Nussey, Silverpop’s chief executive.

The biggest problems arose in the business e-mail program Lotus Notes 5.0 and AOL’s versions 4.0 and 5.0. In these two programs, which represent a combined 77.5 million users, nine out of ten HTML e-mails contained disruptive errors.

Much of the errors, Silverpop found, were the result of improperly formatted HTML messages. Kent Allen, an Aberdeen Group analyst, estimates that properly formatted HTML messages can drive response rates from 10 percent to as high as 40 percent.

With a much higher success rates than text e-mails, HTML marketing messages have been growing swiftly, both overall and as a percentage of the e-mail marketing industry.

According to Jupiter Research, which is owned by IAR parent company Jupitermedia, HTML-formatted messages will make up 42 percent of all e-mail marketing messages this year, an increase from 31 percent last year. By 2007, Jupiter forecasts HTML messages will make up 59 percent of e-mail marketing.

The new version of Microsoft’s popular Outlook e-mail program has e-marketers concerned, because it ends the process of previewing HTML e-mails, in the hopes of cutting down on a popular method used by spammers to verify e-mail addresses. Many industry watchers predict the move will drive down the open rates e-mail marketers report to their clients.

Silverpop plans to release the full report next week, at the online advertising industry’s @d:tech conference.

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