More companies than ever are communicating with customers and prospects via e-mail, but 40 percent of images in those e-mails are blocked, according to a new study from e-mail firm Silverpop.

Updating a study first conducted in 2002, Silverpop’s “Broken Link” report found that the percentage of blocked images dropped only 2 pecent in that time span.

Messages from 360 companies were studied for the report.

Findings included:

  • 71 percent of companies utilize e-mail in marketing now, up from 30 percent in 2002.

  • The percentage of firms using HTML-based e-mail increased to 69 percent from 47 percent.
  • “While HTML-based email provides a richer product experience for consumers, the benefits that accrue from HTML are obviously lost if the images and links are not functional,” said Bill Nussey, chief executive officer of Silverpop. “In fact, mis-rendered HTML messages can not only perform worse than their text-based counterparts, but can have a net negative impact on both brand perception and the health and size of your list.”

    To improve delivery rates, Nussey suggested firms ask to be included in recipients’ address books as well as including links to view images via a web version of the message, and to understand what an e-mail looks like without any images.

    “Ultimately, the problem with broken images is a problem of broken promises,” Nussey said. “Consumers sign up to receive your emails because you initially offered to deliver something interesting and relevant. If you keep that promise, recipients will add you to their address book, smoothing the way for your messages. If you fail to deliver as promised, be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

    For a copy of the report, see: