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We’ve had a question or two lately about adding dynamic images to email campaigns. By this, folks have meant:

  • Images that are personalized according to the reader’s interests, gender, age etc; or
  • Images that change over time, like a holiday countdown

And the skinny of the story is that yes, it’s possible, but you will have to have to host the images on your own server. By default, our application imports and hosts all images found when an HTML email is uploaded to a campaign (usually a really good thing), but unfortunately, this doesn’t let you overwrite existing images on the fly… Or use the img src= path in interesting ways throughout your campaign.

Once you have the images hosted somewhere, adding the cm_dontimportimage attribute to your image tag(s) will ensure that Campaign Monitor does not import the externally-hosted image from a path. Here’s an example:

.codeblock {
background: #ededed;

<img src="" width="20" height="20" alt="alt text here" cm_dontimportimage />

Simple, eh? Now we have that sorted, lets look at 2 ways you can use dynamic images to your advantage.

Personalizing an email by interest, or gender

Using custom fields

You guessed it – we’re going to get messy with custom fields here. Say you have a subscriber list with a custom field for interests – say, ‘Arduinos’, ‘Faraday Cages’ and ‘Gewgaws’. You want to display a header image in your email, personalized according to your subscribers’ tastes. Too easy. Simply create 3 or 4 images – one for each preference, plus an additional fallback image if required. Once these are happily hosted on your server, here’s the kind of code you would add to the HTML email, in order to display the correct image to each subscriber:

<img src="[Interests,fallback=gadgets].jpg" width="20" height="20" alt="Exactly the gadget you're after!" cm_dontimportimage />

The path,[Interests,fallback=gadgets].jpg will be changed to include, or the fallback, at send time. Here’s more clever ways to use custom fields in images and links.

Changing an image over time (the holiday countdown)

We’ve all seen it on television and the web – ‘Sale starts in 3 days!’, ‘Limited offer starts tomorrow!’, ‘Sale on now!’ – but funnily enough, adding exact, time-based messages to email hasn’t quite caught on. Maybe it’s because most of us assume that our emails are going to get read on the spot, then never opened again. However, cool customer Anna Yeaman at Style Campaign punted on a different kind of behavior – that her email would be opened, then re-opened repeatedly – when creating a dynamic Christmas countdown. Click on the image below to view the design (and code):


From: ‘Xmas email results‘, courtesy Style Campaign

Using a bit of in-house wizardry combined with the technique above, the image in the email is generated by the server in real-time, each and every time the image is requested (ie. when a subscriber opens the email). So if a subscriber opens the email above a daily basis (or even every second), they’ll see an updated image each time. As a result, the countdown is true to the timezone it’s viewed in – a subscriber in New York will see a different image from a subscriber in Sydney, even if the email is opened simultaneously.

I know what you’re thinking – this is a bloody lot of work for a single email. But then again, Anna’s results have been convincing. From her blog:

“The big shift was the no. of times each recipient opened the email… each recipient viewed the email 5.36 times.”

And if this wasn’t appeasing enough, then there’s always the engagement stats:

“We also saw an increase in replies, a favorite was a short and sweet,”Niiiiiiice”. Our CTR was 40.5% up from 35.8%.”

Full results, plus more detail can be found on Style Campaign’s blog.

Although it’s yet to be seen as to whether dynamically loading images based on subscribers’ interests, or time/date are particularly effective techniques, we sure think it’s nifty for providing a more personalized, and/or timely email experience. If you have any examples of your own, we’d love for you to share them with us – as always, it’s our customers that are pushing the envelope when it comes to building innovative emails!

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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