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Email marketing is a staple of every marketer’s toolkit. Despite the rise of social media, the humble email has remained strong and has evolved into a sacred personal space that marketers must treat with respect. Worldwide, Gmail retains the top spot with over 1.5 million users.

email marketing

Outlook occupies the second spot with 400 million users. The problem is that Outlook has a poor reputation when it comes to marketing. It’s tough to view marketing email in the app, and coordinating campaigns on Outlook is tough.

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As a marketer, you could shrug your shoulders and stick to Gmail. However, you’ll be foregoing the 400 million user base that Outlook has. Instead of ignoring the app, it pays to figure out how you can work with it to run your campaigns.

Here are 7 major issues that Outlook presents and how you can solve them.

Code Removed or Unsupported on Outlook

A common problem regular Gmail-using marketers run into is that the code they use to create their newsletters goes haywire when migrating it to Outlook. Most of these issues stem from the fact that there are almost as many versions of Outlook as there are people in this world.

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That might be an exaggeration, but there are as many as 7 versions of Outlook floating out there. Every single one of them presents unique rendering issues, and none of them support modern HTML attributes such as div and float that help you align text and format your newsletters.

The result is a newsletter that appears discombobulated with text out of sync with your images. Button magically appear and disappear at random spots, and UX is destroyed. 

The solution to this is tables. Instead of using custom HTML attributes, organize your images and graphics into tables, preferably 300px wide. Make sure you left-align the data within these tables, and your newsletter will look like it’s supposed to across all Outlook formats.

By aligning your table data to the left, you’ll ensure that data will stack on top of one another on smaller screens. Thus, you’ll preserve UX across platforms.

Images and GIFs Unsupported

Image and GIF rendering problems in Outlook have achieved mythical status amongst marketers. The problems you’ll encounter are endless. For starters, Outlook automatically blocks most images and encourages users to do so by default.

If your newsletter is image-heavy, there’s no way around this. The best you can do is create alt-text that describes what the image is about and encourage the user to download images. Alternatively, you can provide them a link to view the email in their browser.

Slicing images to reduce memory loads is a common practice. Unfortunately, Outlook adds padding to sliced images, and the result is an incoherent output for your user. You’ll need some coding wizardry to let Outlook know that it doesn’t need to introduce padding. In the <head> tag, write the code “div{display:block !important} ” to make sure padding doesn’t ruin your sliced images.

GIFs are a special breed of a problem for Outlook. The app usually displays the first frame and turns the GIF into a static image. There’s no way around this, unfortunately, so it’s best to get your message or CTA across in the first frame. Happily, users report that this isn’t a problem with Windows 10 Mail. Older versions have this issue though.

DPI Scaling

DPI scaling issues are also common, with Outlook routinely blowing up images greater than 1920 x 1080 resolution. Windows 10 particularly has a problem with this since the default resolution is 125% instead of 100%. 

There are 2 ways to deal with this. You can go technical and add Vector Markup Language to your code to tell Outlook to display your images correctly. The second and easier method is to stick to a maximum width of 600px. It might not look perfect, but you’ll avoid wasting time on tasks that aren’t critical to your campaign’s success.

It’s best to test your emails at a higher DPI before sending them out to avoid issues.

No Support for CSS

Outlook is a blast from the past in many ways since it doesn’t support embedded CSS. Elements such as CSS floats, Flash, and positioning won’t work. The only solution is to use XHTML and use inline CSS to make sure your elements aren’t removed by Outlook.

When combined with HTML tables as described previously, you’ll be able to get rid of any pesky rendering issues. The exception to this is the border-radius property. You cannot display rounded buttons no matter how hard you try. It’s square buttons for your users!

Lack of Custom Font Support

You might love using a custom font for your branding, but Outlook doesn’t support any of these. Therefore, it’s best to memorize this list: Arial, Helvetica, Lucida, Tahoma, Times, Trebuchet, and Veranda. These are your fallback fonts and are supported by pretty much every browser and email client.

Outlook can still throw a curveball your way though. You might find that these fallback fonts are replaced with good old Times New Roman. The only way around this issue is to code the use of the fallback font right into your HTML.

Specify the fallback font as the primary choice within the <style> tag to ensure Outlook doesn’t replace it with Times New Roman.

Links Don’t Work

2 issues can occur with links. They either don’t work, or they might display in a color other than the one you specified. If your link doesn’t work, make sure it isn’t in line with an image or the same text block as one. Outlook makes these links unclickable by default.

As for link colors changing, you’ll need some coding skills to have Outlook display your original colors. The app reverts all links to purple or blue with the customary underline to display linked text. 

To display your original color, you’ll need to wrap the linked text with a style attribute, a <span> tag, and the <font> tag.

Signatures are Tough to Create

Creating a signature that works well with Outlook is a challenge. Often, the Outlook supported signature doesn’t display correctly in other email apps. Worse, a Gmail-created signature with links and images will have all of the issues that you’ve just read about when viewed in Outlook.

You can reduce the time to create a signature in Outlook by using a signature generator that ensures everything is displayed as it ought to across all email clients.

Tough but Worth it

Customizing your marketing email for Outlook users is a painful process. With the right tools and knowledge, you can achieve this. Outlook’s user base is a large one, and ignoring these people won’t serve your purposes. Use these tips to create great marketing campaigns and stand out from your competition.