Boost your email ROI with interactive content and rich personalization
How to use kinetic content and AMP alongside deep personalization to create emails that stand out in your subscribers’ inboxes.
Email marketing has evolved significantly over the years. Static text-only messages sent to all addresses in the customer database have given way to a more web-like experience with dynamic images, video, and a high degree of personalization. Emails now need to render effectively on all sorts of mobile and smart devices, and marketers have to keep pushing their creativity and using the latest technology in order to stand out in subscriber’s crowded inboxes.
In this blog we describe how to take advantage of the latest email features and best practices in design to create emails that are bold, relevant, and drive results. We cover interactive email features like kinetic design and AMP, how you can use the latest advances in personalization to drive engagement, and how to use email automation to ensure that you always respond to customers and prospects timeously and with relevant information.
6 reasons why email is still a great marketing tool
Before we get into how to make your emails more interesting and engaging, let’s review some of the reasons why email is still the most effective communication channel that businesses can use. Recent studies have shown that email continues to outperform all other channel in terms of ROI. For every dollar spent on email marketing it generates $38 in ROI – significantly higher than other messaging and social channels.
So, what makes email so effective?
Nothing compares to email in terms of the number of people that use it regularly. Digital messaging channels like WhatsApp and Viber, and social media platforms like Facebook have seen significant growth in recent years, but the numbers are still way below the total of email users globally.
Email is still an integral part of the overall internet experience as an email address is usually required to activate accounts on other channels. According to the Email Statistics Report – 2021-2025 the number of worldwide email users will grow from over 4.1 billion in 2021 to nearly 4.6 billion by 2025.
2. Delivery rates
With well-maintained and verified email lists, businesses can enjoy delivery rates above 98% for their marketing messages. Compare this with social media posts where algorithms restrict views of unpaid posts to less than 5% of people that follow you. If you want your messages to be seen, then email is the way to go.
3. Rich media
Of all the messaging channels available to businesses, email offers the most scope for crafting attractive, engaging content and effective CTAs. Text, video, personalized images and kinetic content (that we will cover in detail later) can be combined to create a dynamic and memorable web-like experience in recipients’ inboxes.
4. Device agnostic
Email technology has evolved as people have moved from primarily using desktop PCs to access their email, to now using their phones, tablets, and even their smart TVs to read messages. Just like with websites, email designers can now use responsive design to ensure that emails look and behave as intended on any device, irrespective of screen size and operating system.
5. Ease of creation
While incorporating responsive design and interactive elements into email may have been a complex and time-consuming process a few years ago, modern email tools like those available in our Moments customer engagement tool provide a drag-and-drop responsive editor and a rich set of templates so that email marketers can quickly and easily create great looking emails incorporating interactive contentment, and a high degree of personalization.
Email is the easiest messaging channel to measure and report on. Almost all email service providers provide immediate feedback on message delivery stats, open rates, click rates and many more valuable stats that allow marketers to quickly calculate campaign ROI. This data provides a rich set of actionable data that marketers can use to refine their campaigns and generate more leads.
What is interactive email content?
To get the best ROI for your email marketing, you need to ensure that your messages stand out in recipients’ inboxes. How do you do this? The answer is interactive email content.
As the name implies, these emails include dynamic functional elements that enable recipients to interact with the content. This could be anything from scrolling through a carousel of product images, to clicking on a link to redeem a coupon, or even play a game or complete a quiz to win prizes. The options are almost limitless.
The more visual experience that interactive content provides encourages recipients to engage with your emails, click on links, and can increase conversions by reducing the number of steps to purchase, for example by including interactive shopping carts within the email itself.
Types of interactive email content
Here we look at two types of interactive content and their pros and cons to help you decide what is best for the types of emails that you want to create.
Many businesses may already be using basic kinetic content in their emails without realizing it, as animated GIFs and video are considered kinetic.
Taking this a step further, more advanced kinetic content can be created using HTML and CSS-techniques to replicate the types of experiences offered on websites, including image accordions and carousels, multiple tabs, hotspots, and a variety of flip-over and hover-over animations.
There is a caveat that some email clients may filter out this HTML or rewrite is so that it does not render as intended. The good news though is that most email clients fully support kinetic emails, including Apple Mail (both on MacOS and iOS), Yahoo! and several popular Android clients. Even when kinetic content is not supported, you can integrate fallback techniques to display an alternate version of the message that still looks good.
Interactive elements in emails help subscribers to easily find the content they are interested in, which results in improved click rates and click-to-open rates for your email deployments.
However, bear in mind that some interactive elements require quite complex HTML-code, which will make emails larger. It is best to pick and choose the elements that add the most value for each particular use case. For example, for high volume deployments like monthly account statements, or messages like order confirmations that need to be delivered quickly, then it may be better to go easy on the animations and keep your emails as lightweight as possible.
Examples of kinetic email content
Here are just a few kinetic email examples and what they can be used for.
Use images and animations to draw attention to your key offers and provide recipients with a more compelling invitation to click through. Use a flip animation to show more information or a slightly different CTA. Reduce the amount of text and get your message across in a punchy and original way.
Rather than showing a single static image in your emails, show multiple images in a format that makes it easy for recipients to navigate. Great for showing the different features of a product, different color variations, or views from multiple angles.
Image carousels are also really useful to include all the imagery that you want without making the message too long and requiring recipients to scroll down to reach the content that they are interested in.
Accordions and tabs
Another effective way to show more content in a limited space, is by using accordions and tabs that enable you to stack content in sections that recipients can discover by expanding or clicking between. This enables them to quickly locate the detail that they are interested in and skip over the content that is not relevant for them.
Hover images and hotspots
More useful space-saving animations borrowed from website design are hover images and hotspots. These display alternate or additional images when the recipient moves the mouse over the primary image or a hotspot in the message. Again, these are useful for showing additional views of a product or drawing attention to a particular feature in a visually interesting way.
First launched in 2015, AMP was a Google-backed project designed as an open framework that enabled any publisher to build pages that loaded quickly on mobile devices. By 2017 Google reported that 900,000 web domains were publishing AMP pages, with more than two billion pages published annually.
In 2019 the framework was extended to support email. This meant that marketers could now include AMP components inside emails, enabling modern app functionality and common interactive web page behavior. Much like kinetic email content, AMP enables email marketers to create accordions, carousels, forms and hamburger menus in their messages.
However, there are a few major considerations that marketers should be aware of before going down the AMP route. Let’s look at the pros and cons:
The advantages of AMP email:
- The AMP coding standard is well documented and very strict, so for all email clients that support it AMP emails will render as expected with no hacks or tweaks required.
- It enables live content to be displayed within emails. This could be anything from real-time stock prices to the brand’s Twitter feed. This means marketers can display all relevant information within a single email without having to direct to landing pages or third-party websites.
- AMP requires a lot less code than the kinetic equivalents that we described above ad there is no need to include fallbacks options and CSS workarounds to get content to display effectively.
The negatives of AMP emails:
- The major drawback of AMP is that it requires email service providers and marketing software vendors to add support for a new, dedicated MIME-part in addition to text and HTML that they already support. This is a major blocker and to date only Gmail, Mail.ru and Yahoo mail support AMP. Outlook.com offered a preview of it in 2019, but this was permanently discontinued in October 2020.
- To use it, email marketers must learn the AMP 4 email coding language. Even though documentation is available online and there is a sandbox for testing, the numerous strict rules for AMP emails mean that there is a steep learning curve before the first email can be deployed.
- Any interactivity is lost when a recipient forwards an email to another person. This is because the 3rd MIME-section is omitted when forwarding, even to AMP-supporting email clients.
- AMP content expires 30 days after it is received by a recipient. After this, the HTML fallback will be shown.
- Statistics are not available. Even though Google promised to provide insights into the performance of the different widgets in AMP emails, these are not yet available.
It is widely accepted that today’s consumers expect brands to communicate with them as individuals. For email marketers, this is so much more than simply addressing them by name in your messages. It is all about providing relevant content for each individual at the right time to enrich their lives and make it easier to do business with you. Engaged customers who are invested in a brand relationship are more likely to remain loyal and keep spending with you – it is as simple as that.
Here are just a few suggestions for adding personalization to your emails in meaningful and useful ways.
After all these years Amazon, the ultimate success story of online retail, still uses the ‘people that bought this product also bought product X’ tactic – simply because it works and drives more sales. You would be amazed at what a positive impact building some basic product suggestion logic into your email templates can have.
Just a few examples include:
- Alternatives to products that a person has browsed or even left in their baskets
- Products with a higher rating than ones they have shown an interest in
- Regional variations based each person’s location
- Associated products and add-ons for items they have already purchased
- Refills and renewals for items the person has purchased previously
Look-a-like modeling with AI
Taking basic product recommendations a step further, consider using AI to analyze your customer and transactional data to predict what products a person may be interested in based on their previous purchases and any other data that you have about them.
Many brands do this extremely effectively – from music steaming services finding new artists that you may like, to your favorite retailer analyzing your loyalty card transactions to establish trends, buying cycles, and new products you are likely to be interested in.
Capture people’s attention with video content that is tailored just for them. Product videos, reviews, and endorsements from industry figures can all be effective tools to capture attention and drive sales. Make sure that you embed short videos within your emails rather than provide links to YouTube, where recipients could easily be distracted.
Use email automation to always be present and relevant
We have covered email automation in a recent in-depth article on the subject, but here is a high-level summary of the key advantages, and why you should be using automation as part of your email marketing strategy.
- Optimal use of resources: Automation allows you to achieve a lot more with less resources by radically reducing the number of manual steps in your business workflows. Just a few tasks that can be easily achieved with email automation include responding to FAQs, sending reminders, scheduling transactional deployments like monthly account statements. What’s more, your email automation workflows can operate 24/7 and incorporate send time optimization so that messages always land in recipients’ inboxes at the ideal time to get opened.
- Effective throughout the sales cycle: Email automation enables you to send relevant and effective messages at all stages in the customer journey. From marketing messages to attract new customers, to welcome messages, service alerts, and loyalty campaigns to ensure a positive customer experience.
- Personalized messaging at scale: Email is undoubtably the best channel if you need to send a large number of personalized messages quickly and without breaking the bank. Speaking of banks, when financial institutions send out monthly statements to every one of their customers, consider the cost savings involved in sending these by email rather than physical post.
- Fill your sales funnel: Build trust and loyalty in your brand using email nurture flows to educate and inform both customers and prospects over a period of time. People that have subscribed will appreciate being kept updated with messages that benefit them – anything from new product updates to special discounts rewarding loyalty. Regular, high quality emails help to keep your brand front and center in people’s mind and reduce churn.
- Flexible and easy: Creating and implementing an effective email strategy for your business no longer requires major input from the IT department and the time of expensive developers. Modern email tools have evolved to provide all the tools that marketers need to design and deploy automated email campaigns easily and with no need for technical resources. From precise customer segmentation, to including personalized interactive content, to using AB testing to optimize email results – all can be achieved using an intuitive no-code interface.
Does your email strategy deliver results?
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