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Create Interactive Email Content

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe interactive email.
  • Explain how interactive email can improve your marketing strategies.
  • Get started with interactivity by answering some key questions.

What Is Interactive Email?

Interactive email allows subscribers to take action directly in their inbox with web-like functionality in an email. Examples range from basic concepts—like hover effects and hide-reveal states—to more complex experiences, such as galleries and in-email product review forms. 

In this example, you can navigate the interactive gallery by selecting the thumbnail images and also click “Show details” to reveal the product details below. 

Sample email with an interactive gallery and hide-reveal product details.

Here’s what it looks like when you select the second thumbnail image in the gallery and reveal the product details below. Notice that you can now click to “Hide details” if you no longer want to see this information.

Sample email with an interactive gallery and product details revealed.

Make It Easy for Customers to Engage with Your Emails

As a digital marketer, one of your key goals is to get customers to take action on your messages. While the desired action can change from campaign to campaign, one thing remains the same: The easier it is for customers to take action, the more likely they are to do it. So, how do you make it easy to engage with your emails? Interactive content is one way to reduce friction and increase the chances that your customer will interact. For example, instead of clicking to a web or mobile site to complete a review, interactive email lets customers do it all right in their email client—allowing them to give feedback quickly and seamlessly. 

If more customers are willing to take action, it boosts engagement for your campaign and gives you more data about your subscribers. And that data can be used to personalize future campaigns, kick off customer journeys, provide analysis, or simply be stored for another use. In other words, interactive email gives your customers a better experience and gives you better data. But, as with any new content type, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Let’s review.

Email Clients Play an Important Role

We mentioned that interactive email lets customers take action right in their email client instead of being directed to another page. Email clients determine what content in your email is displayed (more on that in a minute), so it’s important to understand what we mean by email client and how it’s different than an email address. 

An email client is the application being used to render the email. (Think: Outlook for Desktop, Gmail Web, or Apple Mail.) Seems straightforward, right? But what’s important to note is that a customer’s email address does not determine if they can view an interactive experience—that depends on their email client. For example, a user with a gmail.com email address will not see interactive content if they are using Outlook for Desktop, but they will if they are using Apple Mail. Same email address, different email client.

Create the Best Inbox Experience

Interactivity brings some exciting innovation to email, but it’s important to keep in mind which interactive experiences will work best for your audience. Especially because email clients have varying degrees of support for the HTML and CSS code that is used to create the interactive experience. The most widely supported type of interaction is in-email forms, like an in-email product review form. On average, about 80% of openers would be able to view an interactive form. Interactivity like galleries, hover states, hide-reveals states, and hotspots have less compatibility with email clients, with about 50–60% of openers being able to see the interactive content. 

The good news is, you don’t have to wait to start using interactive email—you just need to have a thoughtful alternative for customers unable to see the interactive experience. The best way to handle this is to display fallback static content when the interactive content isn’t supported. This ensures that the customer has the best experience, regardless of their email client. 

So, a customer in a compatible email client would see this interactive in-email review form.

Example of interactive in-email review

In this example, a product review is being completed within the email itself, instead of on a web or mobile landing page. The customer has selected a star rating, entered a title for the review, and is writing the full review.

But what if a customer is opening in a non-compatible email client? They would see this fallback content:

Example of static fallback in-email review with Write a Review call to action.

Get Started with Interactive Email

There are so many opportunities for interactivity—where do you start? Here are some questions you can ask as you consider creating an interactive experience.

  • Which of your email campaigns would benefit from interactivity? While interactive emails are flashy, remember that the goal is to get better results and improve the customer experience. Don’t inundate your customer with interactivity for the sake of it. Instead consider which campaigns can truly be improved with an interactive experience. For example, can you make it easier for your customer to complete their profile or give feedback?
  • How can you make it clear that the email is interactive? For decades, emails have been static. To take an action, the customer had to leave the inbox and go to an app, web, or mobile web. Think about helper text and visual elements that guide the customer through the interactive experience.
  • What does success look like? Interactivity means thinking about results in a different way, beyond the open and click. Consider the goal of your campaign—for example, if you are making your product reviews interactive, the important metric is the number of reviews collected versus the clicks.
  • How will you use the data? Interactive email enables customers to provide information with much less friction. Now that you have it, what will you do with it? Personalize campaigns, kick off relevant journeys, or move it to the appropriate place? No matter what you choose, make a plan.

There’s a lot to consider, but a well-executed interactive experience makes it all worth it. Interactivity takes email engagement to new heights, by allowing web-like functionality in the inbox and serving up more engaging content.