How to make email interactive

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Kristina: Kiwi has predicted an increase in interactive email experiences this year – why?

Eric Wanta, CMO, Kiwi for Gmail: The use of interactivity in email has been slowly gaining momentum over the past few years. But hype has outpaced reality. Google’s rollout of AMP for Gmail means we’re finally reaching the tipping point where support for interactive email has achieved critical mass. With the addition of Gmail’s 1 billion plus users, more than half of all email users worldwide will be able to experience interactive emails. This makes it worthwhile for marketers to spend the time and effort to adopt and apply the technology in their campaigns.

Over time, Interactivity will bring more of what is already commonplace within the context of websites upstream into the inbox. And as more and more email marketing platforms integrate tools that help create and test interactive content, Marketers large and small will begin making it a normal part of their campaigns.

Kristina: How does an interactive email strategy differ from traditional email?

Eric: Everyone is familiar with traditional email. It’s established itself as a reliable form of communication that works across platforms and devices with an estimated 4 billion users worldwide. While websites have changed significantly over the past few decades, email has remained largely unchanged. Email is now poised to be transformed in ways similar to how yesterday’s static web sites turned into today’s dynamic destinations.

Interactive email holds the promise of turning messages into the equivalent of individual microsites that can be engaged with directly from the inbox without clicking through to a landing page. They will include content elements that encourage subscribers to actively engage with content to access more information or complete an activity.

These will include simple things like image carousels and hover functionality that reveal additional information or product descriptions when moused over. But it also means Marketers will be able to bring functional elements like menus, interactive forms and quizzes, or even e-commerce add to cart functionality directly to the inbox. What would normally require users to go to a landing page can now be done in an email.

This is a huge shift for Marketers. Since the birth of email marketing, emails have been used to drive customers to websites or dedicated landing pages to get more information, complete an action or make a purchase.

Kristina: What are some benefits of making email more interactive?

Eric: Interactive elements can make email messages more interesting and engaging for subscribers. In fact, they actually prefer having more functionality and information brought to their inboxes. A recent survey by Zembula found that participants were more likely to engage with interactive content. Just 18 percent of survey respondents preferred traditional static email campaigns, while 82 percent were more likely to respond to an interactive message.

From a marketer’s point of view, interactive emails promise to significantly increase subscriber engagement. By streamlining the experience and making it easier to take action, marketers will be able to drive more interactions. Studies have shown that more engaged customers form deeper relationships with brands and are more likely to become long-term loyal customers.

Interactive email also enables the ability for even greater personalization by allowing content to be refreshed in real-time by calls to external services. This means emails will be more relevant to each recipient and less likely to be out of date.

As of early 2018, 21% of brands had created interactive emails, up from 15% the year before, according to Litmus’ State of Email Survey. As email client support for interactive elements reaches critical mass, I believe this percentage will grow dramatically in 2019.

Kristina: What are the challenges?

Eric: The design of interactive emails must be well thought out and appropriately executed. Interactivity that doesn’t have a clear purpose will distract or frustrate subscribers. And if poorly executed, these elements could be seen as nothing more than marketing tricks.

Creating good interactive emails requires skillsets that traditional email marketers may not possess. Marketers will need to acquire the appropriate coding and design skills to transform static emails into interactive experiences. As a result, the lines between email campaign creation and web development will blur.

Interactive email is still evolving. Not every email marketing platform, inbox provider and device currently support the full range of interactive design elements. As a result, Marketers must do more work by developing and supporting for multiple scenarios. A significant number of subscribers will still only see the fallback static versions of these emails making it critical for Marketers to plan for what will happen when customers can’t see the interactive elements. This will also require more testing than ever to make sure user experiences are good on the most popular devices and email providers.

A final challenge is how the impact of these new emails will be tracked and measured. Traditional metrics such as open rates and clickthroughs will no longer be as relevant. Instead, more subtle and complicated metrics based on how subscribers engage within the email message itself will become the primary means for tracking campaign success.

Kristina: How can marketers ensure they are creating an interactive environment through emails?

Eric: Simply focusing on copy, imagery and offers isn’t enough. Creating effective interactive emails is much more like web development and requires designing a compelling user experience for each email. Marketers must think creatively when deciding what to include with the goal being to encourage interaction instead of having subscribers passively consume content.

Like a good landing page, interactive emails work best when focused on a single purpose. By keeping it purpose-driven, each email becomes a self-contained micro site allowing customers to do something they find interesting or valuable.

Marketers must also rethink the relationship between the functionality included in emails and what’s available on their websites. Do you simply bring elements of the site to the inbox? Or do you create new functionality that complements what’s on your site?  

Kristina: How does Kiwi for Gmail implement email interactivity?

Eric: Kiwi for Gmail and our enterprise version, Kiwi for G Suite, are applications that provide a better way people to use Gmail and G Suite by freeing them from the browser and turning them into true desktop apps. Because of our focus on Gmail, any interactive elements supported by Google’s AMP framework that work in Gmail will also work when using either of our applications.



Kristina Knight-1
Kristina Knight, Journalist , BA
Content Writer & Editor
Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with, NBC News,, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.