3 Best Practices for Adding Background Images to Your Emails


Image source: Getty Images

Find out why using email background images can help improve your campaign performance and learn how best to use them in your messages.

Email marketing is not dead, and it’s not dying. It is still a thriving marketing channel that can not only generate high ROI but also increase loyalty and increase brand awareness.

But since most of us receive a deluge of emails every day, you need to use all the tricks in the book to get your recipients to open your emails and also take the time to read, engage and click. .

Below, you’ll find all the reasons why you should use background images in your emails.

Overview: What are email background images?

Email background images are added to the background of your newsletters under blocks of text, videos, buttons, and other content. These differ from foreground or hero images, which stand on their own as email content.

You can rely on your email marketing software to resize and optimize your images, or you can code them using the HTML editor.

Benefits of adding background images to your emails

It’s easy to add background images to your emails, but they can have a significant impact on your open and click-through rates.

1. Makes your email stand out

If you look through the email newsletters in your inbox, you’ll see that most companies still use standalone images. They often created beautiful, stylish images with tons of useful information. But since this is the standard approach, they often don’t stand out or make the email appear.

Adding email backgrounds will make your readers sit up and take notice since you’re not using the same approach as everyone else.

2. Provides better user experience

Even if you test your emails extensively, it is impossible to guarantee that every image will display correctly in every email client or on every device. If your email ends up in a subscriber’s junk folder or contains blocked images, the images will not show. This negatively affects the user experience.

Often, businesses put crucial information about discounts, sales, and new product lines into beautifully designed images. If these don’t show up, you’ve wasted your time designing images and your customers can’t take advantage of the offers.

Grab the newsletter below from British chain Costa Coffee. Even though I didn’t turn off the images, and it landed in my inbox because I’m a regular subscriber, the images didn’t show up. Not only does it provide a poor user experience, but it meant that the email made no sense as the Christmas coffee gift details were in that image.

An email from Costa Coffee in which the images at the top were not showing.

In this email from Costa Coffee, the foreground images did not appear. Image source: author

But if you have added an email background image, even if it is not showing, other content is superimposed on this image. Your recipients always get a great user experience, whether the images in the emails show up or not.

Best practices for adding background images to your emails

Your email marketing software may automatically add your background images. All you have to do is upload the file in the usual image formats, or you can choose to code the HTML background images yourself. Whichever approach you choose, here are three best practices you should be aware of.

1. Check which email clients support background

Before spending time creating emails with background images, check which email clients support backgrounds (spoiler alert: not all do). Then cross-reference this information with data on the email clients that most of your subscribers use.

If most of your subscribers use email clients that don’t support background images, think carefully before using them.

Also consider whether you should use a certain style to increase the likelihood of images being displayed. For example, do you need background images to be centered or do they need to be a specific width?

2. Have a Backup

If your background image is not displaying, you don’t just want white space or an error message to display instead. Choose a background color as a backup so your email will still look attractive and well put together, even if the image isn’t showing. You want everything in your email to look like it was done on purpose.

3. Automate the newsletter testing process

Just because your emails still provide a decent user experience even if the images don’t show up, doesn’t mean there’s no excuse for not thoroughly testing them before sending them. Be sure to send it to at least one other person (ideally more) to check before sending.

Email marketing software can also help automate the process by verifying links and providing previews of how your newsletter will display in each browser. VerticalResponse’s test kit feature shows you a screenshot of how your email looks in different email clients, including Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo.

VerticalResponse's email testing capabilities allow you to see what your email design looks like based on different email clients.

VerticalResponse lets you test your emails on different email platforms to see how they will look. Image source: author

2 Creative Email Background Examples

If you’re not sure where to start or what type of content to place on your images, you can take inspiration from the examples below of companies that have had success using background images in their e-mails. -mails.

1. Chapel Down

This email from vineyard and wine merchant Chapel Down overlays text on its background images. Although background images make the email more attractive, if they are not displayed, the email still makes sense and does not negatively impact the user experience.

An email from the Chapel Down winery with background images of wine bottles and text overlaid on top.

The Chapel Down winery overlays text over the background images of its emails. Image source: author

2. Pixel

Beauty brand Pixi has cleverly added its 10% off product offer and a CTA button to take you to the site as a text box overlaid on a background image. Even if the background image isn’t showing, you can still see the offer and quickly click a link to get to the website.

If Pixi had added the offer to a standalone image, the discount would have been lost and there would have been a lot of blank space if the image hadn’t appeared.

An email from Pixi shows a background image with a text box detailing a 10% discount overlaid.

Pixi includes its discount details and a CTA button as a layer over its background image. Image source: author

Test what works

Data is email marketing’s best friend. To get this data, you need to test as many things as possible. If you introduce background images in your emails, you should test their impact on the performance of your campaigns.

A/B testing is a great way to do this. Send emails with background images to a percentage of your mailing list and send the rest of the emails with hero images or without images. Compare performance side-by-side and use this data to inform future campaign designs.

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