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Interactive Emails

Does it compute?

January 20, 2020

Until recently, interactive email was only available through some CSS wizardry. Although CSS was never intended for this purpose, it can build complex interactive content. In an email-free world, this is a revelation. Technology doesn’t last long. Google’s AMP for Email introduces the standard system of interactive email. Is this the death of CSS-based interactivity? Not yet. This is the first time that AMP has embraced with previous efforts to bring back the inbox. However, email clients on iPhone, iPad, Samsung and Apple Mail - devices and clients with a large user-base - do not support AMP. In this article I’ll concentrate on the challenges that this poses and how to overcome them.

Most email clients do not support interactive content

That’s right - interactive content is not supported by every client. Just because interactivity doesn’t work everywhere doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it anywhere. But creating a wonderful interactive experience for one customer does not mean broken email for another. This is where fallback content comes into play.

Fallback has an encouraging attitude towards content. To explain how it works, I first need to summarize the procedures of interactive email. All this revolves around activating and deactivating check boxes. CSS allows you to change rules that apply to any element of the page based on the checkbox status. Each checkbox is attached to its own trigger. We can make buttons, menus, quizzes and all other sorts of interactive content. We can even set up a compatibility check by keeping the checkbox checked first. If the device succeeds in testing, it displays interactive content. If it fails, it returns a static fallback instead. From a coding and logical perspective, this is a beautiful solution. Also, people who use mismatched email clients don’t want to miss out. Invite them to a hosted version of your email so they can enjoy the full experience of their browser.

Is your email even interactive?

Clicking on an email means visiting a website. Your customer may not expect you to engage with your mailing. You need to let them know that they can. An email I received failed to do this. Based on the history of sender’s adventurous marketing campaigns, I suspect that email is interactive. But this was not immediately clear. Interactive triggers can be old links. I wonder how many people close it without knowing about the interactive content in the email?

You can also reverse this situation where hyperlinks masquerade as interactive elements. In another recent mailing I found something odd. This is a travel newsletter with a web form, an innovation that looks interesting. But it is not a form; rather it is a large image linked to a landing page. Besides being misleading, such click tactics train people to view email as an interactive environment.

So, how do you signal that your email is interactive? There are some techniques to do that. The first option is to offer interactivity through known options. Take, for example, the menu icon. The hamburger number button is universally accepted and its use is second nature to most users. If a user wants to see what’s on the menu, they won’t stop to think: Hey, hold on... it’s an email! They press the button. The same principle applies to other graphic design concepts that are used, such as curved arrows and zoom icons.

Another choice is to get out of the box, so to speak. If you intend to publish an interactive wonderland, yell it out loud. Don’t be afraid to plaster a large and bold message in your email to do so. How about a CSS-animated pop-up message?

Interactions don’t add up

Interactive items are not hyperlinks so it does not record them in your mailing reports. But that doesn’t mean you can’t see what’s going on. If you email contains certain links that are available only after it enables certain interactive elements, you can create an image of engagement. If you have links like this in your non-interactive fallback, that’s OK. Apply a different tracking tag to the two avatars of each link and they will differ in your reports. Common but effective.

Want something a little more involved? Drag on some extra tracking pixels. Instead of loading them the moment your email opens, you can set them as invisible background images and only call them when specific interactive elements are active. Now you can track customer behavior using as many complexity layers as you want. This technology is so powerful that, in fact, you can build customer surveys in just one email.

Is it worth the effort?

Developing interactive email can be challenging and time consuming. Without adequate reward, it means striving for something while starving. Statistics, however, are on your side. Studies found that 82% of users are more likely to engage with interactive email than static email. The same study found an 18% increase open rate.

Still not persuaded?

Consider that in the fast-paced world of the Internet, clicking a website is a time commitment. That short delay is enough to load a web page to block clicks. There is no such delay with email interactivity. User activity provides instant feedback and enhances engagement. Interactive content gives your customer options before they arrive on your website. When the time comes for that last click, you will lead your customer to the most relevant page and product on your website. Even though quality content is always your priority, consistent newsletters can get boring. Expect your emails to provide a rich, dynamic and diverse experience. Interactive items such as quizzes and games keep your email program up-to-date and encourage viewers to re-open your messages.

If a problem does not qualify to be solved, it is not a problem. With the plethora of design and functional options that interactive emails provides, I think this challenge needs to be addressed.

 

The Mailman

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