Fashion isn’t the only industry where everything old becomes new again. Ask any digital creative agency.

For proof, look no further than the revival of email marketing. (Although many would argue it never went away, it’s just been overshadowed by shiny new technologies like native apps, dynamic banner ad campaigns, interactive websites and more.)

How To Develop HTML Emails For The Pharmaceutical Market - FREE EBOOK

How To Develop HTML Emails For The Pharmaceutical Market – FREE EBOOK

And the new kid on the block, leading the charge? Interactive emails.

What exactly are interactive emails?

Look at the GIF below. Notice anything unusual?

Interactive emails

Interactive emails

It looks like a standard shopping cart experience, right?

Ok, look closer. Do you know where the experience is taking place?

If you guessed “the user’s inbox,” you’re correct.

The user can interact with their cart and place an order, all from within their email.

We’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Interactive emails are bringing the power of an interactive website or rich media banner ad to your target audience’s’ inbox.

It’s a simple, yet elegant and powerful touch that’s quietly revolutionizing email marketing. While the technology has been around for a few years, it’s been flying under the radar because most email clients weren’t ready for the advances. (More on that in a minute)

Interactive email

Interactive emails can include almost all the elements of an interactive website or rich media banner ad, such as:

  • Collapsible carousels and accordions (like in the animation above)
  • Integrated forms (think polls and requests for feedback)
  • Search in email (your customer can surf your store from their inbox)
  • Navigating a cart (placing or editing an order)
  • Customizing items (everything from clothing to food)
  • Counters (great for adding urgency to sale announcements)

Interactive emails leverage your most powerful asset

High Quality Banners. Credit: FreshInbox

High Quality Banners. Credit: FreshInbox

Savvy marketers are recognizing their most powerful asset isn’t a native app, social media platform or guerilla marketing campaign embedded with virtual reality. (Although each has its place in a strong marketing strategy.)

A brand’s most powerful asset is something that’s been around since the early days of the tech revolution: email lists.

On the surface, email marketing isn’t as sexy as dynamic banner ad campaigns, interactive websites or apps and their digital ads. But here’s the one thing email marketing has that other tools and platforms don’t: ownership.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook Chatbot, Snapchat, Instagram and beyond are great for building engagement but those platforms own your users and their data. They also own your profile and content. And what the platforms giveth, they can take away with the stroke of an algorithm change.

But email lists are yours. You own them.

And more importantly, users choose to opt into your email list, a decision which wields more commitment than a ‘like’ or ‘follow.’

So, what happens when you combine those assets with the power of interactive emails?  

You end up with a list that’s excited to check their inbox.

The many benefits of interactive emails

Best digital ads. Credit: FreshInbox

Best digital ads. Credit: FreshInbox

Interactive emails open a host of new possibilities for brands in every vertical.

  • Boost engagement

In a 2016 survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of marketers agreed that interactive content grabs attention better than static. (Which might be why respondents anticipated a 75% increase in use of interactive content the following year.) Interactive elements boost engagement, improve brand recall and increase click-through rates. That’s one reason interactive websites and banner ads are growing in popularity.

  • Give your audience what they want

What do your customer want more than anything? According to a study by Corporate Executive Board, it isn’t more information or communication. What your customers crave most is simplicity. They’re bombarded by advertising from all sides (most of it bad ads) and they’re tuning it out. Interactive emails enable customers to follow your campaign objective without leaving their inbox.

  • Say more with less

Look at the animation above. Interactive elements make it easy to pack more information into an email than you normally can. Tabs, search capabilities, behavioral triggers, expandable menus and more result in a microsite experience, all from within a user’s inbox. Don’t go overboard though. Keep the additional content useful, interesting and relevant.

  • Bypass the saturated app field

Remember when every brand jumped on the app bandwagon and the interwebs were flooded with “Download our app” calls to action? The market reached saturation point and consumers stopped engaging with apps. But, email is still very much alive, making it the perfect channel to connect with your audience. And asking your digital creative agency to build out an email campaign is easier than the development and upkeep of an app.

Are there any drawbacks to interactive emails?

Interactive emails face the same issue that plagues any new technology: the wait for other tools to catch up.

Right now, interactive emails don’t render across all screens and devices. They show up best on newer email clients and mobile.

Luckily, there’s a workaround: a fallback version of your email.

A fallback is a static alternative that renders for any subscribers with email clients that don’t support interactive emails, just like the example below.

creative interactive emails

creative interactive emails

While creating two versions of one email may seem like extra work, consider the payoff: higher open and click-through rates.

Just ask TicketMaster. Their departure from hard sell marketing emails to an interactive poll asking subscribers to pick their favorite music artist resulted in a 182% increase in open rate. Subscribers loved the interactive voting experience so much that 8-0% of those who voted returned to vote again.  

html5 ads - Ticketmaster

html5 ads – Ticketmaster

If you have data on your customers’ email clients, check out this chart from FreshInbox. It shows which email clients support interactive email elements. (Or ask your digital creative agency to check for you).

Next steps

Interactive emails are built via digital production, so if you’re already working with a digital production partner (like a digital creative agency or interactive agency), they can leverage your existing assets to build out high-impact emails. (Another way to repurpose your assets: micro-videos.)

Not sure how to choose the best digital creative agency? Check out our post on how to hire an awesome HTML5 banner ad developer. There are some great questions there to get you started!