AMP In Email And What It Means For The Future of Email Marketing
It is not often that something new comes along in the email space, much less something that has the potential to change email marketing as we know it. In case you missed it this week, Google announced plans for Gmail to support AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) across all Gmail clients. While it isn’t immediately available today, Google expects it to be available sometime later this year. For CMOs, Heads of Growth, or anyone interested in Growth or Email Marketing, here is a primer on what AMP in email could mean for you.
What is AMP in email?
For a couple years now, Google has been promoting AMP as a standard that websites can use to make fast and responsive mobile web pages. AMP is a variant of HTML that has a number of restrictions on things that can sometimes make websites slow. AMP also adds a number of new HTML elements for common interactive UI components.
For those who have been lucky enough to avoid ever having to write email HTML, I’ve heard it best described as writing HTML as if it was 1999. There are a huge number of different combinations of email clients, operating systems, email service providers, and browsers. There are a lot of quirks or bugs in different email rendering engines, which means you have to write HTML for the lowest common denominator. Slowly over the past decade, some of the worst clients have been aging out and there has been an increasing trend towards something called “Kinetic Email”. Kinetic Email, which has been fully supported on web for over a decade, takes advantage of some creative hacks of GIFs combined with some basic CSS animations to make emails a little bit more interactive.
AMP in email takes the trend of Kinetic Email and blows it out of the water by now allowing you to write fully functional (albeit simple) web applications in email. You can literally now deliver a simple interactive web application straight into people’s inboxes. To see an example, watch this video of what Pinterest was able to do with AMP in email.
What does this mean for Growth?
Growth people will need to be thoughtful with how they use this. Growth people often want to bring users back to the product since that is where you can make revenue (ad impressions, purchases, etc.) There are a few strategies you will need to think through for AMP in email:
1) Do you use AMP in email to improve the chances of someone coming back in the future? For Pinterest, activation is often about gathering signals from users, so getting them to give us signals about their interests can improve retention even if they stay within Gmail and don’t click through to the product.
2) Do you use AMP in email simply as a tool to boost your overall CTR rate by making the email more interactive and engaging?
3) If users can now engage in core features of the product in email (i.e. make bookings, purchases, etc.), do you start to think of email as another client in addition to Web, iOS, and Android? Do you start to count people who take actions through your AMP email as DAUs?
What are the challenges ahead?
1) AMP in email is an open specification, but we will have to see if this remains a Gmail specific feature or if other industry players (ESPs, marketing tools, WSIWYG design tools, etc) begin to adopt it. If it does remain a Gmail only feature, Gmail has such a large market share that it will still be worth adopting for any company that relies on email for re-engagement. Development time is on-par with traditional email development, even though the functionality is much richer; it shouldn’t need to be a huge investment for companies.
2) Security. Gmail has already put a lot of thought into security with regards to phishing attacks, etc. However, as companies start to adopt this and explore what is possible, you can be sure scammers will be quick to exploit any potential vulnerabilities in user behavior.
3) Consumer adoption. This opens up a whole new way of interacting with emails. While it may be easy for companies to experiment with interactive email, there will be a learning curve for consumers to really understand that they can now engage with emails beyond just clicking a CTA button. The impact that AMP in email can have will increase as more and more consumers start to comprehend that they can interact more deeply with email and start to become more comfortable with doing more complex interactions over time.
AMP in email is exciting and perhaps one of the biggest potential innovations in email in the past decade. TechCrunch took a surprisingly luddite view on why “AMP in Email is a Terrible Idea“. Like with anything new, there are challenges ahead, but this has the potential to make email a lot more functional and engaging communication channel. To get started with checking out what is possible with AMP in Email register for the developer preview.
Acknowledgements: Seth Weisfeld for co-authoring this post. Susan Su from Reforge for inspiring me to write this post.