Image only emails

Image only emails: are they the reason you’re missing out on sales?

Image only emails: are they the reason you're missing out on sales?

You’ve done it. With a handful of incredible images, you’ve created the most beautiful email ever. You’ve spent hours choosing the right photos, changing background colours & adding text & now you’re almost ready to send. The only problem is that every single bit of text has been added to your image files. That means, no image = no text.

Could your image only emails be the reason you're missing out on sales?


Not every subscriber will add you to their whitelist. Some email clients will disable your images by default. There are probably a few recipients who will quickly view your email on the train… without any internet access. All of these scenarios could result in a number of subscribers opening your email only to discover that images aren’t displaying.

What will your email look like if your images don’t display?

Will subscribers be able to understand what your offer is? Can they see your call to action? Are they going to be incentivised to take the next step? Or are they just going to be confused?


I receive loads of emails from brands that rely almost solely on image-based templates. Many of these brands’ campaigns make it into my main inbox. However, due to a default setting in my email client, images are usually always disabled. That means that, when I open a campaign, I’m greeted by alt text, a footer, text-based elements or a lot of white space.

Here’s an example.

Email images disabled by default
From a subscriber’s point of view, the lure of free shoes (see subject line) may encourage them to open this email. Unfortunately, when they open, they don’t see much at all. Their eyes are drawn to a call to action button with ‘Yes, I’m in’, but they’ve no idea what they’re ‘in’ for. Will they need to refer 10 friends? Or buy 6 pairs of shoes? While they could be curious enough to enable images & find out more, they could just as easily lose interest. After all, their inboxes are full of emails, their WhatsApp is beeping, an Instagram notification has just popped up & they only have a few minutes to spare.

It’s much easier to lose a recipient’s attention than it is to maintain it. Before you send an email, you need to consider all potential obstacles & minimise any chance for disruption.

Here’s what happens when I enable images. What a difference images make - even the navigation menu is an image.

Email images enabled

As we continue to scroll down the email, we discover what the 'free shoe' deal is all about. Most importantly, we realise just how much information is hidden away in images.

Email with images enabled


Yes & no.

Let’s take a look at another email sent from the same brand. This one features alt text.

Email images disabled with alt text
As you can see, alt text helps us understand a little bit more about how we’ll benefit if we enable images. Is it enough to make us want to engage with the email – enough to make the effort to enable images? Maybe… maybe not.

Let’s see how much information we’re missing out on if we don’t enable images.

Image based navigation menu
What more can we discover if we keep scrolling?

Call to action in email image
As you can see, without images displaying, we don’t see or understand much at all – even with alt text. In fact, we miss everything from the navigation menu to the call to action. Why? Simply because all of the text & buttons within this email are images.

The alt text that we saw before images were enabled did help us understand a little bit more about what the email would tell us. However, there's so much information that we couldn't possible get from a few image descriptions.

Overall, if your subject line is incredible & your alt text is able to pique interest & curiosity, a subscriber may make the effort to enable images. Sadly, that’s not always going to be the case.


Despite the ‘yes & no’ response I gave in the previous section, whether you’re building a website or designing an email, alt text is always a necessity. The majority of your subscribers should see it, but there are times when alt text issues will arise.

I’ve encountered issues with alt text not displaying across all email clients. Oftentimes, its because the alt text takes up more space than the image. The fix here is easy: be more concise! For example, your image is 150px in width & the space used by your alt text goes beyond the width of your image – it’s time to test different alt text character limits. Annoyingly, this fix doesn’t always work.

While troubleshooting alt text issues is beyond the scope of this email, there is one point to remember: if you’re not extensively testing each email campaign before you send it, you might not realise that your alt text isn’t working.


The good news is that the majority of people who subscribe to, & open, your emails will probably see your images, even if you haven’t included text. The bad news is that some simply won’t. As with any marketing activity, you want to maximise your chance of boosting sales. That means making sure that every email you send has a real chance of driving at least one sale.

It’s for this reason that I don’t ever recommend relying solely on image-based emails. I’m a big fan of ensuring that calls to action, headers & paragraph text aren’t included as image files. Now, I’m not saying that you need to abandon images altogether - they're an incredibly important part of email marketing. Just try to make sure that, if they don’t display & alt text doesn’t work, your subscribers can still easily understand:

a.) Exactly what you want them to do next;
b.) How they can do it;
c.) Why (& how much) they'll benefit from doing it.

Author Amanda Beylkin

Amanda Beylkin is the founder of Words on Marketing. She began her marketing career in Australia in 2005, working for an early stage startup. Since this time, she's worked with brands big & small, from Microsoft & Montcalm Luxury Hotels to Quiz Clothing & cranberry panda. Now based in London, she spends her days helping individuals & brands achieve more with marketing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.