Interactive Email: Don't Do It Just Because You Can(t)

In this webinar, Cyrill Gross (Mayoris) discusses how interactive email allows sellers to save money, showcase their products and services, reward customers, and give back to the community.
Leonard Linde
Keynote Speaker
Cyrill Gross
Partner, Mayoris
Areas We Will Cover
Interactive Email

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Interactive Email: Don't Do It Just Because You Can(t)

With the current level of technology and multimedia, standard, everyday emails are going the way of the dinosaurs. “We are nowadays far beyond the click driving machine that contains some pictures, some texts, and the link,” says Cyrill Gross, partner at Mayoris, a Swiss provider of services and solutions for sustainable email.

In this webinar, Cyrill discusses making email cool again by putting all those functionalities into a single email. He provides three walk-through examples: an event calendar, a small online shop running directly from its emails, and a restaurant menu system.

Benefits include engagement on both sides of the equation. Interactive email allows sellers to save money, to showcase their products and services, like menus for different locations and days of the week; reward customers with things like a sticker for each purchase to qualify for a prize drawing; or just to give back, like a community event calendar.

Customers benefit from fewer steps to completion. They can complete their purchases from within the email, browse a week’s worth of restaurant offerings at different locations, and the like in a more exciting, interactive experience.

Studies of NPS surveys by Mayoris show a 78% higher conversion rate with emails of this type when compared to control groups that receive a button to the survey.

But switching to an interactive email format comes with its own set of considerations. They include:

  • Do you have a large enough subscriber base to justify the change?
  • Will the boost in sales or savings from webpage maintenance justify the cost of switching?
  • Do you have the know-how, or can you reasonably get it?
  • Does interactive email provide the functionality you need to benefit?

Cyrill ends his presentation by discussing some up-and-coming functionality improvements in programs like Salesforce, Google Amp as an alternative, some exciting projects going on at Mayoris, and answering questions from the presenter.

  • What interactive email is [01:35]
  • Different types of interactive emails [02:01]
  • The benefits of interactive email [08:54]
  • Is interactive email right for you? [12:52]
  • Up-and-coming in the world of interactive email [19:40]
  • Answers to common questions [30:24]

[00:00:15] Hey, I just wanted to give a quick introduction here. I've got Cyrill Gross, who works for a company called Mayoris, and he's going to give us a presentation on interactive email. And, he's going to do some very interesting things that I'd never seen done in email before. And at the end, we'll probably ask a few questions, but without further ado, here's Cyrill.

[00:00:36] Hello, thank you. And welcome to my short speak about what can be done in email as of 2020. We are nowadays far beyond the click driving machine that contains some pictures, some texts, and the link. We are in an age where you can really put entire functionality into one single email.

[00:01:05] The interactivity is some feature that can make email cool again. We all know email is not very sexy. It's not very cool stuff to work with, but it really works well as in terms of return on investment. And if we do put some interactivity into it, we're going to make it cool again from a user's perspective. But let me start first. What makes an email interactive?

[00:01:35] Mark Robbins, one of the first guys to talk about the topic, once said it is an action performed in an email that triggers an action within the same email. So if I click something in the email, I won't go to the website, but something in the email will change. I will give you a show, a few examples, and then you will immediately know what I mean.

[00:02:01] The first one I want to talk about is a fully featured event calendar that runs directly from within the email. Let me show you it directly in an email client.

[00:02:12] You can see I have a nicely made email. I already hit here. I have a slider component, a carousel, where I see some contents running through. But the cool stuff is here in the center, you see in real-time, I have an event calendar with different days that contains different offers, different actions, and I can in the email client switch between the days.

[00:02:43] If I choose a day that is already over, I cannot participate. If I choose the current day, I can directly from within the email, participate in a prize draw to win a prize. I can type in my data, send it directly from within the email.

[00:03:02] The second one I like to show you is small online shop running directly in the email. Again, I like to show that out of email client that you see, I'm not faking it, but it's real.

[00:03:23] I choose the email. I can see I have a set of products. I actually can add the products directly into the basket that runs in the email, and I say, order it, and I can place the order right away.

[00:03:59] The third example is something that is connected with the purchasing process, and this one is a rather data integrated example. It is a sticker collecting album that is completely in the email. We had the, the issue that we could not save the data, the credit card related data on a web server where the Microsoft was planned to be hosted due to security reasons, but in the email application, we could have the data for the credit card transactions. So we decided to create the functionality completely within the email. Since then, we had to take it offline again after it was finished. For security reasons, I can only show you as a video.

[00:04:53] You see, after I sign up for the campaign, I can see my sticker campaign after I purchase in those shops. Paying with my credit card, loyalty credit card, I get the stickers. The stickers are shown in the email in real-time, and when I have my sticker album is full, I can send it and participate in a prize draw.

[00:05:18] And that is all running complete in the email with the data back end in the email application, connecting the date or the, the purchasing data from that user to the stickers displayed in the email.

[00:05:33] The third one is a menu plan newsletter we'd built for a company that runs restaurants and canteens throughout Switzerland. They run about 300 canteens all over the country for larger enterprises, and these canteens sent an email to their, to their visitors. If you sign up, you can choose whether you want to receive it daily or weekly with the menu plan of that week.

[00:06:12] So, today is Wednesday. I see the current day activated in my email in the inbox. I can see what's on the menu today. I can change to see what's on it for tomorrow or on Friday. And this week, Friday is a public holiday here, so we don't see a menu. We see the notification that is closed that day.

[00:06:42] If I'm a person that works in different locations, for example, a sales representative or a field technician, and I'm on different locations every day, I can as well sign up for the menu for different restaurants. And I can, in the email, switch between the restaurants. And because we have the Coronavirus crisis here, a lot is closed, so a lot of company restaurants are closed as well. But here we have another one that offers a menu. And when I choose the restaurant, the menu in this center part can change and show the at the, what's on the table today.

[00:07:30] The data for this email comes directly from the menu management ERP system. So the menu you can see here on the screen and the email is entered into the system by the chef of each single restaurant, there are about 300 in Switzerland. It is, the data is used for the entire supply chain, for the purchasing of the ingredients, to the delivery, to the restaurant, and for, to the cooking process.

[00:08:06] Plus, it is taken into the vat CMS backend, where we create an XML structure with all the menus in it for all the restaurants. And this structure is used to display the menu in the email to display it in the app this restaurant chain provides and on the website of each single restaurant.

[00:08:35] So we have a source in the restaurant from the chef, entered by the chef, transferred use for logistics for supply chain, transferred into a machine-readable format we can use on the web in the email and in the app.

[00:08:54] What's the potential in it? You saw already a bit what we can do, but why we do it. The first and upfront reason is to create a better user experience for the email users, not just the dry, rather boring list of links and images and texts, but really an interactive presentation of what we have on offer, including we saw it in the shop or in the sticker campaign that you can perform to actions with the data in the email.

[00:09:30] And these, because it's much easier, it's much more straightforward, has definitely positive impact on conversions. We know that from any study that is done wherever you, you name it, but we are as well tested some of the emails with it in AB tests, for example, this direct purchasing versions of emails where you can choose and pay directly in the email.

[00:09:55] We had an uplift of almost 15% in turnover. We did surveys as well in emails. I didn't show that example, but it's something we did as well. NPS survey or multi-step surveys.

[00:10:09] And there we have, we see up to 78% more conversion compared to a control group that received an email with a button "please take the survey," go to the survey page. It really showed impressive uplift in sent surveys by the recipients.

[00:10:30] And in the end you can save costs. We have done a larger project for a client here in Switzerland, to gather, appointments, for service appointments in buildings for customers. They could directly in the email, choose a day and the time, and request the meeting. And these prevent, with this we substitute a landing page, development of a landing page, and the client finally said they saved a five or six-digit sum on a project budget because we moved everything into the email and they didn't have to build the landing pages and maintain the landing pages with all the data interfaces required in the back.

[00:11:21] Because often in the email system, we have the data already available. For example, if you take Salesforce, you can directly load your data into a data extension through a manual import through the automation processes through data transformation services like MuleSoft or Datarama. You have everything ready in the system, but you usually don't have that.

[00:11:48] That deeply integrated data handling in web CMS. Or if you want to do it, it requires a lot of interfaces, and interfaces API calls near-time or real-time, we all know it, are, let's say, not the cheap. And that's a big potential in the email. And another thing is we can get around a lot of security issues because the email system already has to fulfill a high level of data security.

[00:12:22] If you take GDPR, we need to all be ready for it on that level, it's just another few fields of data in a system that is already made to host sensitive data. So the question is, why should I or when should I do an interactive email? Because that's a question that comes up very often. I started to build a decision tree based on what I want to achieve with my email.

[00:12:52] So is it an email that should boost my turnover? If it's a yes, I say yes, the next question is, is my audience big enough? If I have 500 recipients, maybe it won't, won't pay out unless I sell real estate or luxury cars with a, with a high price per item. But if I sell like iPhone cases, I need several tens of thousands of recipients that I have the chance that it pays off.

[00:13:24] So if I have to decide my, my recipient is not that big, I may be better invest, invest my money in the growth of my subscriber list. But if I have a big audience, a hundred thousand, for example, I have to ask myself what email clients are, are the recipients using? If I'm in a B to B environment where I still have like 60-70% Outlook, I maybe should think twice whether I want to do interactive email because Outlook, we all know, is one of the nasty fossil clients that don't really move.

[00:14:02] But if I'm in a B to C environment where I have a lot of iPhones, a lot of mobiles, iPads, Apple mail, newer Android devices, like the current Samsungs, where the stuff is supported, then I'm, I'm good to go.

[00:14:22] Then the next thing is how much turnover can I gain through the interactive email? Is it, can I just get a few more dollars? If I have an uplift of 10%, I have low price items, and I can just sell another 100 with $1 more, $1 profit per item, it maybe won't pay out. But if I, if I make a one 50-100,000 turnover per email, I can increase the turnover by 10% from the email or 15%, then it's most, it most likely can pay out.

[00:15:08] And because for sure I want to have my development cost covered, either directly or over a certain period if I implemented as a, as a recurring feature, or another question is, can I sell save money elsewhere? We saw it before when I can substitute the development of landing pages, I might save enough money that it pays off to put everything into the email.

[00:15:37] If I finally go through the entire tree with yes and no answers, we are ready to go. If it's not about a turnover boost, I have a, it can be that I want to do a lighthouse campaign. For branding, for positioning my company as an innovator, or making something cool, or giving something back to my client, to my audience like we did with event calendar.

[00:16:06] That event calendar, the reason is not to sell more. The reason is to give back to the, to the clients, to our clients. That's why you can win an iPhone. You could win a trip from Zurich to Helsinki, stuff like that. It's really about giving back. And there it's as well worth to invest something to provide a good user experience.

[00:16:29] Then I have to ask myself, is this functionality I have in the inbox sufficient? There are some things we still can't do. We cannot calculate in real-time. We cannot randomize certain events in the client. We can randomize it up from, there are some tricks around it, but there is still some limitations compared to a fully-featured micro-site.

[00:16:53] Then, they are luckily getting less, but there are still some design limitations from the space I have. I cannot depend on widescreen. I have to focus on more or less six, 700 pixels with more in a, in a, portrait mode. Can I live with that design limitations I have? If I can convince my designer that it's still cool, although maybe some shadows and, and around corners must be a bit streamlined, then we are definitely good to go to build an interactive email to present ourselves as an innovative and a user experience focused company.

[00:17:46] But what are the challenges? Nothing comes for free. We all know that. From a marketeer's perspective, for sure, it's the cost. It's not for free. It's more effort to build an interactive email than to just fill in the data into your template and signed it off out of your current ESP system.

[00:18:10] The acceptance of the client email clients. I was touching that topic before already, and to customers itself because the people out there are not yet used that you can interact with an email. So you have to teach them how to use the email.] But on the other hand side, if the user experience gets better and you do it the right way, people will fill a candidate very quickly. And then we really have to calculate, do we have a positive return on invest? If yes, and we are definitely good to go.

[00:18:51] From an agency's perspective, from a Salesforce-age partner, from a marketing agency, we need to ask ourselves, do we have the know-how? Do we know what can be done on a conceptual level, on a technical level? Do we have to know how the experience, or do we know where to get the know-how? Because you always, it's always a make or buy question.

[00:19:17] Then how can we convince our client to invest into the topic? What's the arguments why to do an interactive email? We saw it in the decision tree before. And a third point is, do we have the technology available? Is it available, and can we master that technology?

[00:19:40] Salesforce just released some interactive features into marketing cloud. Do we know how to use it? Do we know how we can benefit really from what can be done on the platform? And from a developer's perspective, it is a complete paradigm shift in how I structure and how I write my email code. Everyone remembers those big table dinosaurs we need to write, if we, if we want to create HTML email.

[00:20:13] I mean, those who had have to have to do HTML for email as like a flashback into the browser war times. You create your nest tables over tables in each other. These you have to overcome a bit. And you have to use a lot of CSS and HTML. But you can't use Javascript. All the logic, all the functionality you build in the email is done simply by HTML and CSS 3, using checkboxes, radio buttons, and the CSS selectors for active and checked.

[00:20:53] It's a bit of a topic to get into it, but if you really get the system out, it's cool what you can do.

[00:21:02] And then you still have those old-fashioned clients. I mentioned Outlook already a few times before. I mean, the good and the bad thing about fossils is that they don't move. So we really, we know quite well how to get around it. And I will touch that topic a bit more in detail just in a minute.

[00:21:21] We have the minefield of the email clients, the support for interactivity is getting better. We see, currently, when we do tests, when we do surveys, for example, or have forums in emails, we always measure where the feedback comes from. Was it sent directly from within the email client? Was it sent through the fallback version? Or was it sent through the online view of the email? And what we can see is we have always about the 2-3% online view. This is in any email statistics. If you check who clicks where you will see between one and 3% of the people that always click on this online view button at the top of the email.

[00:22:05] They are trained on this like a Pavlov dog. But apart from that, we see between 55 and 67% of the surveys or forms being submitted, coming directly from the email client showing that between half and two-thirds of all of our recipients can benefit from the increased user experience of the interactive email.

[00:22:33] And that for me is a big motivation to really push it further because I know I can for a good share of my recipients, I can make the email experience better. So we need to know what works where, but we should not postpone innovation because we think we still have 10% outlook in our subscriber base.

[00:22:55] That's the next question. Some people say, yeah, but if Outlook doesn't support it, it's not worth it, it's born dead. I would say no. Because it's not rocket science. It's neither from a developer perspective nor from a client or user perspective. It's really difficult. It's sometimes a bit annoying. You really have to stick into the topic, but on the other hand side, it's definitely worth it, and if you measure it, it pays out because it shows better results.

[00:23:30] So then, where to start if I want to do an interactive email as a marketeer or developer. The first step is, I have to get some inspiration. There is, for example, the page, reallygoodemails.com. There are a few guys collecting good emails they find somewhere out in the market and put it together in a nice list that is really good inspiration if you want to make cool, emails.

[00:24:02] Then check tutorials. There are not too many, but there are a few tutorials out there, how you can start, with some basic interactivity in emails. Trailhead has as well some new trails that shows what you can do with inter— what interactivity you can do directly in the Salesforce marketing cloud. Go to Trailhead and check it out.

[00:24:29] Then there are other resources, pages where you can build some features, like the carousel generator from fresh inbox. If you want to add the carousel of a few pictures, you can go there and create your HTML code, paste it into your email, and send it out to your clients.

[00:24:48] And the last one? That's the way how I get really deep into the topic. It's just trial and error. Try it out, fail fast, fail often, but don't give up. I always tell myself I want a smart out Google and Microsoft to make it running in their clients, even if they limit support for CSS and HTML in their, in their programs. And that's a good motivation to go forward or go the extra mile to make something cool.

[00:25:17] Then one of the most important topics, in my opinion, is a decent fall back for all those clients who don't support it out of the box. I always approach it, the interactivity as a progressive enhancement into an email. So the basic structure of the email is optimized to be shown perfectly on an Outlook on a, on an old Gmail, or on a not so well known app, wherever, wherever it comes from.

[00:25:52] Then I use the browser version of the email, the online view version of the email, as a fallback. So in the, in the, in the fallback email version, I see everything that I see in the interactive version as well. But then a static way. If I click on the interactive feature, the email loads in the browser with that interactive feature already triggered.

[00:26:25] In the example of the menu newsletter, if I open it on Wednesday and I want to see the menu for a Thursday, if I click on the Thursday button here in the, in the email, the email opens in the browser with Thursday already activated. So I have, from a, from a process perspective, I have the same user experience as in the email client that supports interactivity, I just have the loading sequence of the browser in between, which is not optimal, but still better than just a button in the email, say, check out the menu today.

[00:27:09] The way how I can make sure that the fall back into interactive versions are properly displayed on the different clients is that I use the technology that makes the email interactive to hide the fallback version and show the interactive version in the clients that should support it. With this approach, I have inherent reliability that I can, that I can see the interactive element only where it is supported.

[00:27:39] So interactive email. Get some buzz, get some topic. It was named as a common trend by a few email experts in this year and last year. It actually is around already since like four years. I made my first interactive email late in 2015, so it's already quite a while ago. But it always is innovation topics need a bit time to really get off-ground, but there are things coming.

[00:28:12] One thing is that you will see interactive features integrated into the ESP systems, like Salesforce marketing cloud that just recently released some first interactivity, interactive elements that you can place in your emails.

[00:28:29] Then another big topic that starts pick up speed now is Amp for email, released by Google. That allows you to bring all the interactivity into the Gmail platforms and Microsoft with Outlook app and Outlook.com webmail client will support it as well, so you can as well. You can send interactive emails as well on those clients. And last but not least, there are a few API based systems where you can create your interactive email HTML code.

[00:29:11] We at Mayoris are currently working on a platform like this. We have it already running in a better version. You create a JSON string that configures what you want to do, what you want to show in the email, send it through the API, and you receive, send, read the HTML code, which you can just Place into your, email system and send that.

[00:29:37] We're going to launch that in the next few weeks, with some first public, public features available. That's all for me now. Just one last thing. You can access this presentation from mayoris.com/xforce2020 and, on this last slide, if you click on this email icon on the top right, you can enter your first name, your last name, your email address, and send the presentation directly to your inbox because this presentation you just saw is an interactive email itself. Thank you for watching.

[00:30:24] That's a very interesting presentation, and it's interesting technology. I have a couple of questions. First off, I'm going to sign up and get that email in my inbox and take a look at it. Where the technology stands right now, it looks to me like a developer is really needed to do some of these very more complex interactive emails like, like that menu one that you showed us.

[00:30:57] Do you think that the, the, in addition to whatever Salesforce is using and what your company is using, how far are out do you think is, is it for, what you see is what you get type editing client that, that anybody with a little bit of design ability or has done HTML would be able to create interactive emails. Do you think that's coming soon, or do you think they're just going to be conflict complex for a while?

[00:31:20] We are at the brink of these kinds of features getting commoditized like that you have the, the, the, the widgets to create certain interactivity. Is like the carousel is a sort of a no brainer nowadays.

[00:31:37] The forums that Salesforce, going to, Salesforce recently launched, that's definitely the features you will see out of the box in email systems. Then on the, on the other hand side, the, this kind of menu newsletter that requires such a specific data-binding and development, that's something I guess you hardly will see as a pre-created functionality because it all relies on what the restaurants you have subscribed for, you're subscribed for.

[00:32:13] Is there data available and such. But on the other hand side, the micro shop in the email, that's something we are currently working on fully, fully automize it in a way that you get the WYSIWYG editor as you get an editor, or you can choose a product number, type the price, type the discount, and then we load all the rest from a Google shopping feed, which is a structured XML feed.

[00:32:42] And these kinds of use cases, we will definitely see integrated in email systems. It's going to be far too expensive and far too much in a niche to really break out

[00:32:55] Now that Gmail and Outlook are going to Amp, are you expecting that, that minefield you're showed or have more green on it, that you can support more things if you use Amp in those clients?

[00:33:06] Yeah, for sure. I mean the with, with Amp and the interactivity as well. I showed it here. You can, we will be able to cover something between 70, 65-80, maybe 90%. Outlook, it will not support it in the desktop app. At least Microsoft didn't announce that yet, but on the web client and the mobile apps.

[00:33:36] The disadvantage of Amp is that, in one first that your ESP system need to be able to send out Amp. It's a bit trickier to create an Amp version and send it out. And the second is you need, you need to get the verification from Google that you are eligible to send Amp, which can be sort of a hassle.

[00:34:00] That's current disadvantage of Amp, but together with what we are doing that is supported on all the Apple platform, and some Androids can reach up to 80% plus of your audience.

[00:34:13] So, so Google has to waitlist you to, to send Amp to Gmail.

[00:34:19] You need to, to first create an example mail in Amp, send it to them for verification, and they will see whether you are a good sender that regularly sends emails to your clients and don't have too much spam compliance and those stuff. And if Google says, "Yes, It's okay. You are, you're a, you're a good guy, and the email you showed us is good," then they will, they will allow you to send them.

[00:34:50] Maybe we should just define Amp briefly for people who've never heard of it.

[00:34:54] Amp is an effort of Google originally comes from the mobile web to make mobile pages faster in terms of loading and in terms of user usability. It's a subset, it's a set of components written in JavaScript and HTML that allows you to transfer a reduced amount of HTML and data. And, and, like, separate data and presentation up to a certain point. That was created for the, for the mobile web world or mainly on Android. Now, they try to move it into the email world with a subset of the of the components you have in the, for mobile apps.

[00:35:50] But still you can do a lot of things, like do the appointment scheduling service has have put their entire calendar into it. It offers quite a wide range. I recently made a five-star rating with form fields in Amp that works pretty straightforward.

[00:36:10] Well, thanks again for the presentation. It was very interesting, and thanks for introducing us to the world of interactive email. We appreciate your time, and we look forward to seeing what you come up with next.

[00:36:23] Thank you for the opportunity to speak here, to speak here, and I'm most really pleasure to present the topic.

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