Customers will now see images directly in the emails they receive through small business marketing campaigns moving forward.

Small businesses rely on email messages to stay in contact with their customers in between shopping trips. In fact, email outreach was listed as second-most common method for achieving customer loyalty in Constant Contact’s 2013 Small Business Saturday Insights survey, falling just behind offering a great product or service. Soon, SMBs might see stronger metrics from their email marketing campaigns because Gmail announced it’s automatically displaying images in the messages they send.

Previously, recipients would have to click a button to give permission before Gmail would display images. This was a precautionary method to protect users’ security, because the way Google used to handle images – pulling them from sender’s’ proxy servers – provided data about recipients that might leave them vulnerable to spammers and hackers.

This same data is extremely valuable to businesses running email marketing campaigns. If recipients opened the emails but didn’t click the link to load the images – and that data wasn’t sent – SMBs couldn’t necessarily track those instances in their open rates.

It’s important to distinguish that this doesn’t mean more people are reading emails per se, but it does mean SMBs will be empowered with more accurate information about their successes and failures.

Now Gmail is serving images on its own servers, so it’s safe for consumers to see the images in marketing messages, and Google reps told Marketing Land this could mean better open rate tracking. It’s important to distinguish that this doesn’t mean more people are reading emails per se, but it does mean SMBs will be empowered with more accurate information about their successes and failures.

The updated image display policy and resulting access to open rate data will give small businesses a better idea about when their strategies are most effective – Daytime vs. nighttime sends, the kinds of subject lines that resonate with readers, etc. With these insights at their fingertips, SMBs can make more informed decisions about their email marketing to keep customers happy and coming back for future purchases.