dotmagazine meets…Mark Robbins: Interactive Email

dotmagazine meets…Mark Robbins: Interactive Email


Mark, it’s very exciting to meet you. Thank you very much for taking the time today to talk to us Thanks for having me here. about this cutting edge topic of interactive email. Perhaps if we could start by imagining somebody
who is new to the entire scene of interactive email; maybe if you could provide us with
a brief description and give a few examples. Yeah sure. The definition which I use is: It’s an action
taken in an email that triggers an event without leaving that email. So what that really means is, traditionally
in email marketing, you’re sending images – and that could be some text and some images
and well-written copy – and a link, with the main goal of getting a user to click on
that link and go to the landing page to complete an action. With interactive email, we’re trying to
get that action put back into the email. So, an example of that could be: Instead of
giving the user a link to fill out a review for a product they’ve just bought, you could
give them the review form directly in the email. Another option could be if you’re sending
information about new products: instead of linking them straight through, they could
have a look at a bit more, have an image gallery, have some drop downs with a bit more information,
so they make a more informed choice before clicking through to the landing page. So you’re breathing life really then into
the email. Yeah. So the idea is bringing the landing page into
the email. So email is taking a new form. Yeah. We won’t need websites anymore! And then how do you measure that interaction
that takes place within an email? A number of things are the same as you would
have traditionally: so you’re measuring your deliverability, your open rates, and on the other hand you’ve got your conversion. It’s the bit in between though – the main
thing people look at currently is looking at your click through rates – people clicking
on the email through to the websites. With interactive email, we can also track
every click that happens inside the email – so, every interaction the user makes,
every button they click on – we can track that as well. One of the interesting things that we have
seen is sometimes the actual click through rate might drop a little bit for an interactive email. But the conversion rates will be higher because
the user is getting more information out of the email. When they click through, they are more qualified
users so they convert higher – but maybe a few less might click through, but these
are people we would expect to drop off anyway. So the KPIs are evolving? They’re evolving slightly and it’s a case
of instead of looking at just your click through to websites, you’re looking at click through
to website plus your clicks and interactions. So you can combine those two statistics if
you want, or look at them individually too. What impact then do you see or do you predict
for customer relationships and for purchasing behavior? As a general statistic, we’ve seen people
converting higher, buying more stuff. But also one that was interesting particularly
with luxury brands is that we’re seeing users spend more money. The conversion rate might not change too much,
but the average spend is going up. Don’t know why! Perhaps the users are feeling a bit more engaged
with this new technology and the advancements that have been made. Well, speaking of conversion rates: if I was
a brand I think you would have converted me! So, if I was a brand and now choose to use
interactive email, what would be the infrastructure requirements that I would need to consider? First of all, you need to create the email. You can do that in-house, you can get an agency
to do it. But creating the interactive code is different
to creating regular HTML code. It’s quite a specialist area and it can
be very tricky. But you can build on that, train the team
up to work with that. Also there’s this new AMP for Email format
that’s come out, which is a bit of an easier way of coding the emails, but that has a little
bit less support currently. Then once you’ve got your code, you then
need an ESP that will support it as well. In terms of sending it, every time you upload
email code into an ESP: every ESP works slightly differently, but they will all change that
code a small amount. Some more than others. And some of them, in the ways they change
the code, will break the interactivity. Others don’t. So that’s something you’ll need to test
just to make sure that the ESP is supporting it as well. And with AMP for Email, that requires a separate
MIME type, which is a more complex thing that the ESP needs to support – that separate
MIME type. And have we come to the point yet – I think
you’ve partially answered this already – where all email clients are supporting interactive
email? The email client support for interactive is
a bit varied still. The way the email clients handle code is very
different with all of them, and we are seeing support growing. Recently Outlook.com made some changes so
now they’re supporting interactive email. And now with AMP coming in, that’s bringing
interactivity into Gmail where it wasn’t there before, and some more features into
Yahoo and at Outlook.com as well. But there are still a few where it’s not
working. The big one being Outlook desktop on Windows
– the Outlook desktop app on Mac is interactive, and the Outlook webmails are interactive,
but it’s the desktop Outlook on Windows, which is based off the Microsoft Word rendering,
and that doesn’t support interactivity still. What’s the resistance there? When is that leap forward going to happen? I don’t know. It was in 2007 that Outlook switched from
using HTML rendering to Word rendering, and since then people have been campaigning to
try and make them change back. By using that Word format, it’s causing
a lot of issues with design and layout and a lot of issues with accessibility as well. And not having interactive email is only a
small part. I think they need to address the other issues
first. Maybe to wrap up with a rather broad question:
What is your vision for interactive email? What do you think is next? Well there is so much that is currently possible
with interactive email that hasn’t been fully explored yet. This is a new take on the way we code emails. Actually, there has been support for interactive
email for quite a few years before anybody was doing it, and we’re only just discovering what’s possible now. So I think there is a huge, huge range of
possibility. It’s limited by your ideas really. If you can think of it, try it. And a lot of people are doing some very creative
things with it. I think we’ll see more brands embracing
it. A lot of the early interactive email things
– particularly things that I worked on and people I know have worked on – are more
fun things, more like seeing what’s possible and it’s not so much a campaign, it’s
just an experiment. But now we’re starting to see more brands
using it properly and I think as brands start to embrace it more, we’ll see more email
developers getting into the area, and that brings more ideas, which then leads to more
possibilities. So a new lease of life for email awaits us. Indeed yes. Thank you very much for some really good insights. I think there’s very exciting times ahead
of us. Thanks a lot. Thank you.

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