Is Interactive Email Ready for Its Time in the Marketing Spotlight?

By John Egan

Is 2017 the Year of Interactive Email? Some observers think so.

Writing on, tech entrepreneur David Bailey says interactive email is a “technical breakthrough” that’s getting little attention. But he and other experts believe 2017 is the breakthrough year for interactive email.

“Having too much email isn’t a problem. The problem is that we get too much bad email,” Bailey writes. “And there are massive opportunities to create great email that can make life better.”

One of those opportunities, he says, is interactive email.

At DMA’s Email Evolution Conference 2017, experts from FreshInbox, Nest and Shutterstock will discuss the future of interactive email during a session titled “Interactive Email: Are the Rewards Worth the Investment?”

Boomtrain, which provides a machine-learning platform for marketers, says interactive email takes hold when marketers notice a drop in customer retention from apps, websites and e-commerce platforms. “They go to the one place the average customer has spent time almost everyday for the past decade and continues to do so: the email inbox,” Boomtrain says.

However, with interactive email, marketers are going beyond traditional email to create “engaging” and “innovative” messages, according to Boomtrain. Among the examples cited by Boomtrain are:

  • “Scratch and win” emails. Interactive email transfers the excitement of traditional scratch-and-win campaigns to interactive email via mouse rollovers and clicks.
  • “Build it yourself” emails. Through an interactive email, a customer can virtually put together a puzzle to assemble a piece of furniture or build a salad through an online ordering system, according to Boomtrain. “Customers will never want to navigate away from your email,” Boomtrain says.
  • Advanced GIF– and video-equipped emails. Boomtrain points out that while GIFs and video have been featured in email for some time, marketers will take them to the next level “by giving the customer more control over the content in the emails and how they want to view it.”
  • Microsite-embedded emails. Including microsites in emails amps up their effect, according to Boomtrain. “With the right segmentation, they can be increasingly focused and deliver all the information to a customer without requiring them to move out of the inbox,” Boomtrain says.

FreshInbox says one brand that has effectively used interactive email is high-end clothier Burberry. In 2015, Burberry rolled out an email introducing an interactive scarf personalizer. To that point, the Burberry scarf personalizer was one of the most sophisticated interactive emails out there, according to FreshInbox.

Jon Carey, head of development at British digital agency bigdog, says one of the keys to producing interactive emails (like the scarf email from Burberry) is dabbling in experimentation, supported by not being afraid of failure.

“Revisit all of your preconceptions, and try to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. It’s that ethos that has been the driving force behind the emails we’ve developed,” Carey said in 2015.

At least from a technical perspective, interactive email is doable, as 70 percent of email clients support interactivity, according to Veda Kumarjiguda, client success director at Rebelmail, which specializes in interactive email marketing.

Kumarjiguda says interactivity is a great option for educating subscribers about a product or feature, collecting information from a subscriber, letting a subscriber make a choice within an email or reducing friction in the conversion funnel.

“As corny as it sounds, you just have to open your mind to the power of interactivity,” she says.

Kumarjiguda says email remains the most effective online marketing tool, yet it’s important to improve that experience for recipients through such innovations as interactivity.

“Traditionally, email has been about taking the subscriber from the email to the website,” she says. “Interactive email keeps the subscriber in the email, which may reduce [the] click-through rate – a scary thought to some marketers. However, forward-looking marketers will see interactivity as a way to enhance email and gather unique data.”

This article is brought to you by the DMA. Click here to register for Email Evolution Conference, May 1-3, 2017, in New Orleans.